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High schooler Andres Virola has been taking private lessons with me for the past three years, and he’s come a long way. His school orchestra recently performed a piece that he composed electronically, adapted for strings, trumpet, piano and percussion, “Doomed Paladin.”

In his spoken introduction, Andres explains that the programmatic piece details a knight’s final fight with vigor and pride, rather than defeat. We can hear a careful balance in the piece between the groups, which often shift in and out of the foreground, and alternate between giving each other space in a patchwork texture, and working homogeneously for the piece’s most triumphant moments. Ascending motifs in the higher strings create an atmosphere of anticipation and determination, while the lower strings play a more mysterious melody. Seizing the melody, the trumpets and militant polyrhythmic drums create an imperial setting for the knight’s emotional battle. The piano emerges from time to time playing rhythmic chords and providing hopeful momentum. The piece ends as austerely as it began, resolving in a peaceful swell of strings.

“Doomed Paladin” is a piece that takes pride to write and execute, and Andres did well arranging it for orchestra. Playing it live with other musicians for an audience gives the knight’s triumph the weight of a supportive community, and highlights the emotional theatricality of a medieval legend. In his speech, Andres also takes a moment to thank those who made the piece possible, encouraging me once again that our support for our students, peers and friends makes all the difference.

[Photo by Ricardo Cruz via Unsplash.]

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