World Premiere of "Mountain Songs" by Jack Wilds

Marina McLerran

Editor, McLerran Journal

Assistant Band Director, Center ISD, TX


etcw jan 2019 4.jpg
etcw jan 2019.jpg

Who is Jack Wilds?

Originally from Temple, TX, Jack Wilds is an American composer, clinician, and educator. Only in his thirties, he has already achieved international recognition for his compositions, several of which have been performed at state educators’ conferences around the United States, at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic (Chicago, IL), the International Trombone Festival, and the Slider Asia Clinic in Hong Kong. Wilds holds a Bachelor of Music Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Music Composition from Texas State University in San Marcos, where he is currently a Lecturer for music theory. He also serves as the Director of Music for the First Presbyterian Church in San Marcos and publishes his music with the FJH Music Company. Previously, Wilds was the Assistant Band Director for both Kealing Middle School (Austin ISD) and Hays High School (Hays ISD). 

Learn more about Jack Wilds at his website.

Who are the East Texas Chamber Winds?

Mountain Songs was commissioned in 2017 by the East Texas Chamber Winds (ETCW), based out of Nacogdoches, TX. The ETCW’s premiere concert took place in San Augustine, TX at the First United Methodist Church in the summer of 2016, conducted by Roy McLerran. Members of the ETCW are all either current students or recent graduates of the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Music in Nacogdoches, TX. Since its premiere concert, the ETCW have returned to the First United Methodist Church twice more, performed four concerts at the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Music, participated in the 2018 Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) Music Showcase series in San Antonio, TX, and provided the musical entertainment for the 2018 Gilbert I. Low Excellence in Education Awards Gala in San Augustine, TX.  

Learn more about the ETCW at their website.

Mountain Songs (2018)

Wilds decided to title the piece Mountain Songs after the origin of its melodies; Appalachia. Both movements, Pretty Saro and Variations on the Jackfish, are taken from a collection of folk songs collected by Cecil Sharp.The first folk song, Pretty Saro, is a sorrow-filled ballad sung by a penniless man who is saying goodbye to his love. The lyrics tell the story of a woman who leaves her uneducated love to instead marry into money; My love she won’t have me, so I understand, she wants a free holder who owns house and land […] If I were a merchant and could write a fine hand, I’d write my love a letter that she’d understand. The poetry follows a simple AB rhyming pattern with the repeated phrase I’ll dream of pretty Saro wherever I go. Wilds perfectly captures the singer’s sadness with a mournful melody that constantly rises and falls like heartbroken sobs. In sharp contrast to the initial feel of the piece, the second movement is based on a traditional Appalachian dance, The Jackfish. This folk song consists of a simple and repetitive melody with lyrics that tell about catching the elusive and vindictive jackfish. After the fish bites the singer, and his father, it is finally “grabbed by the snout” and turned inside out. “The second movement,” Wilds shared, “is more tonally adventurous than the first” and concludes with a recapitulation of the main theme from Pretty Saro.

The East Texas Chamber Winds (ETCW) performed the world premiere of this piece in historic Mast Hall in downtown Nacogdoches, TX on Saturday, January 5, 2019. Keeping to the mission of the ETCW, the concert was provided free to the public and funded purely by donations. Members of the chamber winds travel and perform on a completely volunteer basis in the spirit of “music for the sake of music.” The concert repertoire, which also included Nocturno, Op.24 by Mendelssohn and Octet-Partita, Op. 57 by Krommer, was learned individually over the course of the fall semester and rehearsed at the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Music the week prior to the performance. Audience members had the opportunity to sample local wines from Naca Valley Vineyards, explore the historic “red brick” district, and were delighted to meet Jack Wilds in person.