Three Visions – II. Summerland
William Grant Still wrote Three Visions to represent three stages of spiritual life. The first part, called Dark Horsemen, represents “an image of death and divine judgment”. Summerland is the second part, and it was written to represent “Heaven of life-after-death.” The final part, Radiant Pinnacle, represents reincarnation. For some souls, this means reincarnation happens over and over, allowing the soul to slowly achieve godly perfection.
I enjoyed learning and performing Summerland, the second part of this suite. It stands out to me because of its simple, expressive melody and harmony, as well as its astonishing originality. The piece has a sort of meditative motion, and for some people, Summerland is used as a kind of music therapy. According to Still’s daughter, he would play this piece as a way to calm down or relieve stress.
Summerland is William Grant Still’s most famous piece. It is the only one of the Visions that he wrote in different instrumental combinations. He wrote nine other versions of Summerland including an ensemble of wind instruments and harp. An interesting fact about Summerland is that it was originally written in G flat major, but changed to G major to make it easier for pianists to play. The wind and harp version however was put back in the original key of G flat.