Chroma the Great                                          




Fl-2(2-pic), Ob-2(2-eh)

Cl-2(2-bcl), Bn-2(2-cbn) /

Hn-4, Tp-2, Tbn-2, Btbn, Tba / timp, 2-perc / hp strings


8 mins


October 2014

Brighton, MA


November 14th, 2014

Boston Conservatory Composer's Orchestra,

Eric Hewitt conductor.


I have always loved Norton Juster's children's novel, The Phantom Tollbooth, for its incredible allegories and fun with the English language. Having re-read the story recently, I was struck by a chapter in the middle of the middle of the book, in which the main character, Milo, comes across an orchestra in the woods. Its conductor, Chroma the Great, directs the orchestra in creating color for their world. Certain instruments create certain shades of blue or green. The sunset and the sunrise are both pieces that are performed every day.

I loved this idea of conducting the sunrise, of playing the color of the sky, clouds and dayscapes. I based my tone poem on what I imangined the sound of Chroma the Great and his orchestra would be. From sunrise to the full height of day, to clouds and storm, and finally from sunset to nightfall, where Juster's words put it best: "The last colors slowly faded from the western sky, and, as they did, one by one the instruments stopped, until only the bass fiddles, in their somber slow movement, were left to play the night and a single set of silver bells, brightened the constellations. The conductor let his arms fall imply at his sides and stood quite still as darkness claimed the forest."

Copyright David Vess, All Rights Reserved

BMI Affiliated Composer