"Handprints" by Steven Amundson (2013)

Will you soon be celebrating an anniversary for your orchestra? Handprints would be an excellent choice to honor all the many hands (handprints) - musicians, conductors, board members and those in the audience - who have supported and continue to support and nurture your orchestra. Handprints was a finalist in the American Prize for orchestral composition.

Amundson's notes for the piece:

Handprints was commissioned by the Bloomington (MN) Symphony Orchestra in celebration of their 50th anniversary season. As the former music director of the BSO in the 80s and 90s, I was delighted to help the orchestra celebrate this milestone event. Handprints received its premiere performance in February, 2013. The idea for this title came from an article I read in Time Magazine. I was immediately drawn to the word 'handprints,' which seemed to be a perfect image for what I had hoped to convey musically. With this piece, I honor those individuals who have made indelible impressions on the lives of others and who have lifted up people and organizations in special ways. The music pays tribute to the handprints of those who have had unique and sustainable visions in support of endeavors aimed at the greater good. In particular, with Handprints, I celebrate the symphony orchestra, which I believe is one of the best models of community endeavors that exists in modern culture. Musicians coming together to share their talents with all who listen, give us the opportunity to affirm our humanity and be inspired to be and do our best. One can't deny the emotional lift, the joy and inspiration we receive, not only from the music itself, but from the vibrant community we see on stage. With all those bows moving together, we observe an intense and potent community in action. In music, as in life, the cooperation of many good hands lifts us up, and so with Handprints, I also celebrate community, in the very best sense of that word.

When one relates the human hand to music, the interval of a fifth comes to mind because of its five fingers. Handprints begins softly with a layering of fifths in the string sections. The interval of a fifth is prominent throughout the piece in much of the melodic construction. The extended introduction grows and builds into a culminating fortissimo chord in the full orchestra, suddenly giving way to the second main section of the piece. Once again, intervals of fifths are layered, this time as a backdrop for solo strings and winds. After a short transition and a brief accelerando, the main allegro portion of the work ensues. Accents and syncopation abound providing an energetic texture. The music ramps up in intensity before the strings play a new melodic figure built on triplets. The meter shifts from 4/4 to 3/4 and, following a long diminuendo, leads to a slow, reflective section built on the primary melodic idea from the allegro. A piano solo emerges before a return to the quiet layering of fifths in strings. The abbreviated recapitulation proceeds to a strong and passionate rendering of broad lyricism. A short coda brings the full force of the orchestra to a climactic, celebratory conclusion.


Wilson School District, Jan. 20, 2019

Florida All-State, Nov. 12, 2018

Central York High School, Jan. 28, 2017

Lebanon Valley College, Apr. 17, 2017

York Youth Symphony, Mar. 1, 2015

Metropolitan Symphony, May 17, 2015

University of Portland, April, 2015

Vero Beach High School, Feb. 9, 2015

Music Association of Minnetonka, April 14, 2014

St. Olaf Orchestra, 8 perf. Oct. 12 - 20, 2013

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