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for wind ensemble

When Ivan Wansley, the Artistic Director of the Hollingsworth Winds contacted me about composing a piece in memory of his late mother, I began thinking of different ways I could capture her spirit. For a long list of reasons, it was clear to me that Clara Vann Wansley was a force. Ivan told anecdote after anecdote that outlined her strong will and sense of wonder. I believe it were these characteristics that made her passing even harder on Ivan, who tragically lost multiple relatives in a span of just seven months. I have always been intrigued by the symbolism of cardinal representing a carrier of the soul and spiritual messenger from Heaven. The title of the piece is inspired by a poem of the same name by Lori Blair:


When you’re lost or feeling down,

Don’t despair, just look around.

God made me red so you would see,

I still exist outside your memory.

I make my visits in bright daylight.

You’ll hear my song in distant flight.

My cardinal song is a call to you,

To tell you that I miss you too.

I am everywhere and finally free,

Like love you cannot touch or see.

You’ll see me in the trees and skies,

I didn’t leave, love never dies.


Red Feathered Soul honors the memory of Clara Vann Wansley in multiple ways. For instance, the world percussion that is incorporated into the music symbolizes her passion for traveling as she traveled to numerous other countries including South America, Mexico, Russia and more. She was also a devout Baptist who always enjoyed singing hymns on Sundays, including Amazing Grace, which plays a prominent role in the composition. The piece opens with a series of woodwind runs which is meant to depict the image of cardinals taking flight and this motif is featured multiple times in the composition, as is the idea of birds singing during a chorale of Amazing Grace beginning at measure 142. These motifs along with the noble, uplifting melodies memorialize the incredible woman that Clara Vann Wansley was.

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