Although this work is clearly the descendant of a long history of antiphonal brass pieces, it has little in common with Gabrieli. First, rather than positioning themselves into two or three antiphonal groups, the performers are isolated both spatially and musically. The work begins and ends with long solo by the principal trumpet. Rather like the sorcerer’s apprentice, the soloist whips the other players into an flurry of activity before gradually losing all control. Gestures are passed around from player to player. Every member of the ensemble must take part in conducting duties, cuing each other from across the space.
The title “Invocation” does not refer to an opening prayer, but rather to an invocation of the trumpet fanfare from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. The soloist plays a near-quotation at the beginning and end of the work, and it is used as a generative motive throughout.
Composer Justin Merritt was the youngest-ever winner of the ASCAP Foundation Rudolph Nissim Award. He is also the winner of a host of other awards including the McKnight Fellowship, the Copland Award, and the Polyphonos Prize. His music has been played by the Minnesota Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, and on A Prairie Home Companion.
His evening length cantata, The Path, was premiered at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis in April 2018. The work is a setting of a collection of Buddhist Pali scriptures translated by the composer and set for multiple choirs, soloists, and large orchestra.
He received his Bachelors from Trinity University and his Masters and Doctorate from Indiana University. He studied composition with Samuel Adler, Sven-David Sandstrom, Claude Baker, Timothy Kramer, Don Freund, and electronic and computer music with Jeffrey Hass. He is currently Professor and Chair of Music at St. Olaf College. He resides in Northfield, Minnesota with his wife Faye and their children Cullen Fang Ouxiang and Molly Fang Qinghe.