Brian Balmages (b. 1975) is a prolific, award-winning American composer with several new works making their way into the repertoire at all levels, from elementary school bands to professional orchestras. His music has been performed at concerts and conferences all over the world. He is also an active guest conductor and clinician. He currently serves as Director of Instrumental Publications for FJH Music.
Rippling Watercolors (2015) is a technically easy work full of mature musical moments. Balmages provides the following program note in the score:
Many often underestimate the extensive colors, harmonies, and emotional range that are often achievable in younger ensembles. It is in this spirit that the musical lines of Rippling Watercolors were born. This was not meant to be a lyrical piece for younger ensembles; rather, it was written as a fully expressive lyrical work that happens to be playable by younger ensembles. I believe there is a significant difference. No phrases were truncated, no ranges were “limited,” and no rhythms were watered down for the sake of playability. This piece just happens to be attainable by younger groups, yet the music exists exactly as it would even if I had written this for a college group.
The title comes from a range of inspiration. I often get asked about my last name. As most can imagine, there are very few of us left in the world. At present, my wife and I are one of only two couples in the United States that can carry on our family name. My cousins Ben and Carrie on the west coast are the other couple, and they now have two beautiful girls. We all share a lot of beliefs – we encourage our children to be creative, spontaneous, and we enjoy watching where their imaginations take them. The idea for this piece came from a simple set of watercolors. When children get hold of these and use their imagination, the most amazing things can happen. Children can see things that adults never see. They open our minds while we help them grow and learn. With a little imagination, these watercolors can become a magnificent sunrise or sunset over the ocean, a gorgeous view from a mountaintop, or an image of a supernova in space. The smallest drop can change the pattern and create something entirely new, either with a brush or entirely within nature. It is my hope that Lily and Charlotte grow up with an infinite palette of watercolors, and that every drop creates a new, fantastic world.
Rippling Watercolors was commissioned by the Springer Middle School Bands in Wilmington, Delaware; Robert J. Baronio, Director. It is dedicated to my cousins Lily and Charlotte Balmages, who combined with my two boys, form the next generation of the Balmages name in the United States.
The Austin Symphonic Band performs Rippling Watercolors:
Brian Balmages’s website, including bio and extensive works list with many recordings.
Brian Balmages profile at James Madison University, his alma mater (class of 1998).
A moving Baltimore Sun piece on a middle school concert in which Balmages was commissioned to write a piece in memory of slain band members.