Ellen's Alley


William Copper


Chamber Orchestra (1111 1110 Sax 2 Perc Strings)


Popular programmatic suite with a movement for woodwind quintet, a movement for string orchestra, a movement for brass and percussion. First and last of the five movements are for the full chamber orchestra. Inspired by a friend in Washington, DC, who lived near DuPont Circle with a nameless but richly populated alley, and who laid out the story of the work.

Headed by a quote from Socrates, in Plato's Phaedrus: "there are ways to and fro along which the happy gods are passing".

Part 1, "A.M.", is the morning in Ellen's Alley, where the Elm tree sings in sempiternal harmony (inspired by the hills --and the cows-- at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, where this work was begun). The beauty of the morning is interrupted by a city garbage truck, bumping and bruising Ellen's Elm. Elliot Carter's favorite cross rhythm, 5 against 3, is used in a slow dance.

Part 2, "Catch", is a fugue. Ellen's cat is chased by the alley cats, but, despite the title, never caught. The clarinet is Ellen's cat, with Bassoon, Horn, Oboe, and Flute the alley cats, in a constant stretto of invention for woodwind quintet.

Part 3, "Elm's Lullaby", is a visit by the tree doctor, with some soothing plant care. Original title of this movement, Vegemedic; for string orchestra.

Part 4, "Rush Hour", for trumpet, saxophone, trombone, and percussion, is a bang of an interlude before evening. Visual music, golden ratio proportions, and effect inspired by Mozart's initials : WAM!

Part 5, "Echoes of Ellen's Evening", takes Ellen and the alley home again along a very romantic path, from EEE to OOO. By the end, even Ellen's Elm is rocking, though the elm tree has a limited emotional range, only tonic and supertonic (like an ent).

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