Composed in June 1973, The Headless Horseman was first performed
in July 1973 by the Manasquan (New Jersey) Summer School Concert Band.
The score was subsequently revised and engraved in 1980 under the personal
supervision of Mr. John D. Forbes, master engraver and editor.
This short piece compresses a fair amount of material into a brief
time span. The nine-bar introduction, Adagio misterioso, sets the
stage for the entry of Washington Irving's Headless Horseman, described
so vividly in the classic short story, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,"
and given further life in classic animated films by Walt Disney and Ub
Iwerks. [Now on DVD: The Headless Horseman, Chapter 18 from "Cartoons
That Time Forgot - The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2," from the Blackhawk
Films Collection / Image Entertainment ID4680DSDVD - Ed.]
The dissonant "howl" in bars 8-9 may be the fearsome whinnying
of the stallion on which the Horseman rides forth to snatch the souls of
the unsuspecting. From measure 10, the frightening ride is under way. "Beware,
beware!" warn the low brass in bars 14 and 15. The miniature chorale
in bars 26-32 pleads desperately for salvation, but there is no hope. The
Horseman resumes his charge in bar 33, gathers up his harvest of souls
in bars 36-38, and rides off into the night.
The opening Adagio misterioso should be slow and fearsome, even
slower than quarter note equals 60, if possible. The lung power of the
trombone section will most likely be the determining factor here. The Allegro
should not rush: the eighth notes in bar 10 must be precisely articulated,
with complete ensemble unanimity. Care must be taken that the pitches in
bars 14 and 15 are in tune, and that the intervals are carefully judged.
If available, temple blocks may be substituted for the woodblock in bars
42-45. Please observe passages marked "solo" -- one player only,
Some younger players (and some audience members) have been frightened
by the opening bars -- Good! There is drama and excitement in this brief
musical ride, so let the faint-hearted pass it by.