The Path Ascending

The Path Ascending (2002) was commissioned by the students and parents of John B. Connally High School Band, Austin, Texas (Chico Portillo, Director) and musically depicts the life of Anna Cecilia Portillo-Johnston, a woman who had a tremendous passion for life, an extraordinary faith, and the ability to enlighten everyone she was acquainted with. Tragically, her life was cut short by a brain tumor and she passed away in September of 2001. Anna’s happy childhood was spent in a Texas border-town, and so a theme that calls to mind the upbeat and optimistic music of mariachi bands, a prominent element of Tex-Mex culture, is used in the first part of the work.  Later, this theme is presented in a more disjunct and sinister way to portray Anna’s struggle with her illness. Her strong faith is represented by a deeply moving chorale-like theme that anchors the work, much as her faith anchored her life.  This theme returns in the horns, trombones and euphoniums at the most chaotic moment of the music that represents her illness, and, like her faith that persevered and supported her though hard times, it quickly and assuredly spreads throughout the performers until it is being played by entire ensemble.  An offstage fragment of the mariachi theme occurs in the trumpets over an unresolved chord at the very end of the work, thus symbolizing Anna’s firm belief that our spirits will continue to live on after our passing.

PURCHASE (Boosey & Hawkes)

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