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Mountain Spirits (2007) 

for clarinet, 2 trumpets, horn, trombone, and tuba 

Smoky Mountain Brass Quintet

I wrote Mountain Spirits as a vehicle to play with my friends of the Smoky Mountain Brass Quintet, my colleagues at Western Carolina University. Since chamber music for clarinet and brass instruments is scarce, I decided to spend some of my summer break creating my own music for clarinet and brass quintet.

Mountain Spirits is a set of dances based on the folk music of Southern Appalachia as I have experienced it during the decade I have called Cullowhee, North Carolina my home. 

The first movement is named for the fine German beer of our local brewery, Dieter Kuhn's Heinzelmännchen Brewery of Sylva. Heinzelmännchen beer is a staple of our yearly Oktoberfest performances. The obscure "Jenny Lind Polka", named after the famous 19th century singer, serves as the main melody of my polka and its variations. You may hear a few bars from a more popular polka, “The Chicken Dance,” in one of the variations. 

The second movement features the trombone in an original melody using the harmonies of the old standard “Wednesday Night Waltz.” The clarinet and trumpet imitate bluegrass violins in their duet.

Five traditional bluegrass breakdowns, along with original melodic material, are strung together in the third movement. A breakdown is the American name for what is known in Ireland or Scotland as a reel. Breakdowns used in this movement include “Blackberry Blossom,” “Paddy on the Turnpike,” “Cattle in the Cane,” “Katy Hill,” and “Devil's Dream.” 

UPDATE, I did a complete revision of this piece for a performance we did on April 10, 2012. I added a slow movement "Elixir of Life" Ballad, and reworked the piece so that it was more performance friendly to the brass. I am in the process of preparing this for publication. (Summer 2012)


2007 Performance by Shannon Thompson, clarinet; Brad Ulrich and David Ginn, trumpets; Travis Bennett, horn; Dan Cherry, trombone; and Mike Schallock, tuba:


1. Heinzelmännchen Polka

Heinzelmännchen Polka

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2. Whiskey Waltz

Whiskey Waltz

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3. White Lightnin' Breakdown

White Lightnin' Breakdown

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Hannukkah Music: Baruch ata Atonai, S’vivon, and Ma’oz Tsur (revised and expanded © 2010) by Shannon Thompson

for Clarinet Choir (eb cl, 4 cl, bc (divided) eb contra)

(there is also a version for woodwind quintet)


This performance is by members of the WCU Clarinet Studio conducted by Shannon Thompson in the Sounds of the Season Concert by the WCU School of Music, December 5, 2010 (This was recorded with a from behind a post on the other side of the hall, so... it isn't ideal!):

Hanukkah Music

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