Composer draws inspiration for "Dreams and Realities"
PLAINVIEW -- Wayland Baptist University Professor of Piano Pedagogy and Composition Dr. Gary Belshaw witnessed two years of work culminate in a joint choir concert at Wayland Baptist University on Thursday night, featuring the “Dreams and Realities” centennial anthem commissioned by the school in honor of its 100-year history.
The crowd was quick to acknowledge Belshaw’s work and the choir’s performance with a standing ovation after listening to the composition that included several different styles of music that Belshaw worked into an anthem with a singular focus on dreams.
Dean of the School of Music, Dr. Ann Stutes, introduced the anthem saying it was an honor to have a composer like Belshaw among the school’s faculty.
“Most schools would have to commission an outside composer to come in and compose a piece like this,” Stutes said. She said witnessing the process first hand was impressive for both the faculty and the students of the School of Music.
Belshaw spent countless hours poring over lyrics and music to fit his vision of what he was asked to accomplish. This vision transformed into seven individual musical pieces for choir and accompaniment that when combined create an eclectic musical set encompassing many aspects of dreams. Dr. Belshaw said it was impossible to deal with the subject in just one piece.
“I think the university was asking for just one piece that we could sing all the time, like the National Anthem, but they picked a topic that I just couldn’t cover with one piece,” Belshaw said.
Each piece has a different feel and “texture” to it that enables them to be used in different setting for different things. Belshaw drew inspiration from various sources including scripture, poetry and famous quotes.
While searching for quotes about dreams, Dr. Belshaw came across a quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German author and dramatist, who once said, “Dream no small dreams; for they have no power to move the hearts of men.” In his conversations with university historian Dr. Estelle Owens, Belshaw discovered that former Wayland President Dr. A. Hope Owen often used this quote.
As a result, Belshaw used this quote as inspiration for one piece. He also used poems by Longfellow, Sam Walter Foss and Christina Rossetti, as well as scripture verses dealing with dreams.
Belshaw fastened the lyrics for the opening number from the Goethe quote and envisioned a “Disney-esque” feel of grandeur to the song. His first attempt at a melody to fit the lyrics didn’t seem to work, however, and Belshaw wrote an alternate, more driving, rhythm to fit the piece. He wasn’t sure he liked his second attempt, so he tried a third that he said definitely didn’t work. As he continued to play with the music he realized that the driving rhythm fit the theme and lyrics perfectly and the piece grew from that realization.
Belshaw explained that composing music is an experiment in trial and error and determining what works by playing with chords, rhythms, melodies, bass lines and other aspects of the music. He explained that once he picked a text for a particular piece, he would sit at the piano and try to find music that fit the lyrics.
“Some things you write down and others you think you’ll play with for a while before you write them down,” Belshaw said. “Some of these things I process in my head over a long period of time. I might come up with a tune then I’ll walk around and hum it and play it in different contexts and see if it changes.”
Belshaw is hoping to self-publish is composition, offering different pieces for different uses. He said several of the religious-based songs can be used in church choirs, while other more secular pieces could find their way into public school, college and university usage. He is hoping to have a couple of pieces considered for the Texas state UIL choir performance list which could lead to the songs being performed across the country.
Souvenir scores of the composition are available. However, order must be placed by Monday, Oct. 27 in the music office. Contact Linda Grover at 291-1076. The cost is $15, plus $1.50 for shipping.