List of Works » Orchestral » Night Parade

Night Parade by DAVID BRUCE


Many of the things we find most fun and exciting are also a bit dangerous. Indeed whether it's the rollercoaster, the hi-wire act at the circus, bungee-jumping, or any number of sports, it’s the danger itself that gives us the 'thrill'. When I was asked to write an orchestral showpiece for San Diego Symphony, I thought about this, and how similarly, many of the orchestral pieces I find most exciting and fun do also contain - to a greater or lesser extent - hints of darkness and danger mixed in. Think, for example, of the way the waltzes at the start of Ravel's La Valse gradually spin out of control to its violent thud of an ending.

There can be something inherently scary at some primal or subconscious level about a hundred or so people making a big noise together as they do in an orchestra - indeed, several instruments in the orchestral percussion owe their origins to the desire to awaken just such anxieties in the Turkish Janisary bands. So this was my starting point here - to write something that was full of thrills, but thrills that constantly threaten to spill over into something darker.

The idea of the 'night parade' pervades the piece in several quite specific ways. In as much as the piece is a 'night' piece, it is very much a city night - with the kind of weird shadows that you see under neon light. I became obsessed by the idea of musical shadows and throughout the piece you will hear an object followed by a darker copy of itself, or sometimes multiple fading versions of the original object in quick succession. The modern city can also be felt in other ways - a certain industrial colour and texture, full of clanking and honking; and also perhaps in the filmic 'cuts' that sometimes happen in the music.

Aside from these cuts however, the 'parade' is a useful new metaphor I have found for how my music progresses - you could call it 'parade form'. I have always enjoyed the kinds of pieces where we feel like we are flying over an ever-changing landscape that roles beneath us, never looking back. But my own music usually has too much rhythmic emphasis for that metaphor, it's roots are in dance. As such a parade seems much a much closer and better analogy for the way my music moves. There is a sense of a succession of ideas, dances or displays, but in some way they are all moving 'along the same road'.

David Bruce, June 2013

Press / Latest Reviews

San Diego Story -2013 Bravos / Jan 2014
Ken Herman

When the San Diego Symphony was planning its Carnegie Hall debut and tour of China in the fall of 2013, someone wisely decided that a new work would make an excellent calling card. “Night Parade,” David Bruce’s 14-minute tone poem of nocturnal city happenings, filled that bill nicely. His orchestration craftily engaged the orchestra’s strengths—skilled wind principals and a crack percussion team—and he unleashed a stream of consistently engaging themes. A commission is always a bit of a gamble, and this one paid off. / Nov 2013
Melanie Wong

The 82-member orchestra opened with the New York premiere of David Bruce's Night Parade. Perfectly timed for Halloween, Bruce has accurately related his orchestral showpiece to "a city night—with the kind of weird shadows that you see under a neon light." With wailing clarinet solos and spontaneous honking, sneaking quiets that led to screaming trumpets, and a funky groove that made the whole thing sound like some sort of demented dance, Night Parade took the audience on a trip through an excitingly dark version of Wonderland or Oz...overall the orchestra expertly tackled tricky metric changes and mood shifts, resulting in constant anticipation of what could be lurking around the next corner.

New York Times / Oct 2013
Anthony Thommasini

It was a statement of purpose to open the program with the New York premiere of a new commissioned work, the British-American composer David Bruce’s "Night Parade." In a rare instance of overlap, while the San Diego Symphony was presenting "Night Parade" in Stern Auditorium, a recital was taking place downstairs in Zankel Hall at which the mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor, with the pianist Robert Spano, gave the New York premiere of Mr. Bruce's vocal work "That Time With You," a Carnegie Hall co-commission.

The orchestra asked Mr. Bruce for a showpiece, and he certainly gave it one. For most of its 15-minute length, "Night Parade" is smart and engaging. Mr. Bruce describes the score as a "night" piece of an urban, restless sort with shifting moods with dark intimations. It opens with subdued riffs that percolate as fragments of jazzy tunes unfold spiked by chattering woodwinds. The essentially tonal harmonic language is enlivened with pungent chords and sour blasts. The abrupt shifts of mood (Mr. Bruce calls them filmic cuts) from murmuring figures to clanking eruptions become a little glib. Still, the piece ends intriguingly: It trails off in delicate music, touched, it seems, with evocations of Chinese instruments.

San Diego Union Tribune / Oct 2013
Jim Chute

..a swaggering, energizing orchestral showcase. Who knew the orchestra had such a muscular lower brass section? Bruce uses them almost like a rock composer might use a bass guitar

San Diego Story / Oct 2013
Ken Herman

Friday's program opened with the world premiere of David Bruce's "Night Parade," a work commissioned by the orchestra especially for the tour. A bustling urban tone poem that evokes a city with a more teeming, colorful night landscape than we know in San Diego, Bruce's 14-minute work engaged the full resources of the orchestra, although myriad flamboyant solos in the wind and percussion sections dominated its dense texture, keeping the strings in a more accompanimental role.

A much sought-after composer for commissions, Bruce is no more afraid of tonality than was Barber when he wrote his Violin Concerto in 1941, although Bruce does not indulge in the soaring, emotional melodies that Barber loved and wrote so well. In "Night Parade," as well as in the Bruce chamber works I have heard, his abundant themes were short, concise, and he moved from one idea to the next with the agility of an Olympic sprinter. During the performance of "Night Parade," I heard echoes of the traffic noises in Gershwin's "An American in Paris" and was reminded of some of the edgy, film noir shadows of John Adams' 2009 "City Noir" championed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

"Night Parade" proved to be quite audience friendly, and the composer was called back to the stage several times after its first performance. Since Bruce has been named the orchestra's Associate Composer and more commissions from him are forthcoming, I hope we can hear this work again soon. It could certainly engage a summer audience on a more classicaly-oriented program, and there is no reason we should not hear it again next season.

San Diego Reader / Oct 2013
Garrett Harris

When I saw the size of the orchestra on the stage at Symphony Hall for David Bruce's Night Parade, I knew we were in for a rumpus. I love, love, loved, this piece of music and even brought myself to shout out a rare "Bravo!" when the composer took the stage with maestro Ling.

The music came at us with all the energy of New Orleans during Mardi Gras, New York on New Year's Eve, Chicago on St. Patrick's Day, and LA during the film awards season.

Bruce's music felt like an event in and of itself.

San Diego Union Tribune / Oct 2013
Jim Chute appealing, propulsive orchestral showcase that at time sounds like Philip Glass meets Quincy Jones in its repetitive figurations and its occasional jazz licks...The composer likens it to a thrill ride at an amusement park, where there’s always a sense of danger but nobody gets hurt.

San Diego Union Tribune Preview Article / Oct 2013
Jim Chute

For some musicians, the question is: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

For composer David Bruce, he’s wondering: “Once at Carnegie Hall, which concert do I attend?”

On Oct. 29 in Carnegie’s primary space, the legendary Stern Auditorium, the San Diego Symphony will perform Bruce’s “Night Parade,” a work the ensemble commissioned and will premiere in its season-opening concerts this weekend at Copley Symphony Hall.

On Oct. 29 in Carnegie’s more intimate Zankel Hall, mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor will premiere Bruce’s “That Time With You.”

“Really, it’s the reception afterward I’m worried about,” deadpanned the British-based composer during a visit to San Diego earlier this year.

Somehow, he’ll figure out how to hear both, as he wouldn’t miss a moment of “Night Parade.”

...Expect the 12-minute work to be energetic, rhythmic and accessible, as Bruce is primarily a tonal composer. But that doesn’t mean he’s playing it safe.

“Some of the pieces I enjoy in that (showpiece) mode have a kind of inner danger to them,” Bruce said. “It’s going to be kind of an exciting ride with a sense of danger, like (Ravel’s) ‘La Valse.’ ”

Or, like playing Carnegie Hall.


for Symphony Orchestra

3(II,III=picc, III=alto)
3cl in Bb(I=Ebcl;III=bass cl)
4 horns
3tp in C(1=pic trp)
3 trb
1 tuba

Percussion: (4 Players + Timp) Chime (tubular bells) F#, Large orch. Bass Drum with orchestral clash cymbal attached to the side, separate clash cymbals (optional), Bag full of metal knives and forks (struck flat), 2 large tins, "high" and low" of approximately 12-18cm (eg paint tins), Caxixi, Snare Drum, Claves, Triangle, Tambourine, 10" splash cym., 8" splash cym., Glockenspiel, 2 ride cymbals, Timbales, Xylophone, Crotales - C5, Large saucepan (suspended), Tam Tam, Large guiro, Pair of bongos, Hi hat, Maracas, Tuned cowbells (almglocken) on F4 Eb4 and C4

Duration c.12mins
Composed Jan-July 2013
First performance Copley Symphony Hall, San Diego, 4th Oct 2013, Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, 29th Oct 2013
Commissioned by San Diego Symphony

Past Performances

  • Oct 4 2013
    Copley Symphony Hall, San Diego (San Diego Symphony Orchestra) (world premiere)

  • Oct 5 2013
    Copley Symphony Hall, San Diego (San Diego Symphony Orchestra)

  • Oct 6 2013
    Copley Symphony Hall, San Diego (San Diego Symphony Orchestra)

  • Oct 25 2013
    Copley Symphony Hall, San Diego (San Diego Symphony) (free concert)

  • Oct 29 2013
    Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall (San Diego Symphony Orchestra)

  • Nov 8 2013
    National Center for the Performing Arts, Beijing, China (San Diego Symphony Orchestra)

Related Posts

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 • Fragile Light Premiere (12/17/2014)
 • Passion and laughter (10/19/2013)
 • The townships of my mind (9/16/2013)
 • Good times in San Diego (5/24/2013)


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