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Of Sailors and Whales

W. Francis McBeth

Of Sailors and Whales is a five-movement work based on scenes from the literary masterpiece Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. Written in 1851, the book recounts the adventures of narrator Ishmael as he sails on the whaling ship Pequod under monomaniacal Captain Ahab. The composer offered these notes regarding the five musical movements:

  1. Ishmael - "I go to sea as a simple sailor."
  2. Queequeg - "It was quite plain that he must be some abominable savage, but Queequeg was a creature in the transitory state - neither caterpillar nor butterfly."
  3. Father Mapple - "This ended, in prolonged solemn tones, like the continual tolling of a bell in a ship that is floundering at sea in a fog - in such tones he commenced reading the following hymn; but changing his manner towards the concluding stanzas, burst forth with a pealing exultation and joy."
  4. Ahab - "So powerfully did the whole grim aspect of Ahab affect me that for the first few moments I hardly noted the barbaric white leg upon which he partly stood."
  5. The White Whale - "Moby Dick seemed combinedly possessed by all the angels that fell from heaven. The birds! - the birds! They mark the spot."

W. Francis McBeth (1933–2012) studied at Hardin-Simmons University, University of Texas and the Eastman School of Music. He was Professor of Music at Ouachita University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas and a past president of the American Bandmasters Association. McBeth’s interest in the wind symphony was a shaping force in its literature.

Last updated on November 17, 2017 by Palatine Concert Band