Sequoia, A Tone
Sequoia is a very popular piece of music often performed
by high-school bands. I think what makes the music so
popular is that it conveys a message that really resonates with
one's inner feelings about Nature. The music is
beautiful and it is always a pleasure to hear it again. But
alas, I know of no commercial recording of the work although I am
sure countless school and private recordings exist. Many
people search for a recording and search engines such as Google
find my web site because I mention Sequoia . Thus,
I receive a number of emails about where to find a
recording. I too, wish I had a recording. Owning a
copy of the condensed score and an orchestral synthesizer I have
the ability to make such a recording. I have wanted to for
some time but I have so many other activities that have prevented
me from doing that. After receiving another email request I
finally decided to cease some other activities for a while and
smell the proverbial roses and make the recording which is posted
here. So without further ado, here it is:
by Homer C.
Kenneth A. Kuhn
on an orchestral synthesizer
November 28, 2013
sequoia.mp3 First recorded March
25, 2007. Performance length: about 8:50. File size:
about 8.3 Mbytes. The revised version here
was completed on May 11, 2009 and has
a extensive improvements in dynamics and
expression. There is a very emotional moment as the
recapitulation of the main theme leads to the coda where I
briefly slow the tempo (measures 140 and 141) to capture the
yearning and sonority of the woodwinds before the brass takes
over. That moment in the music is a real highlight that
probably goes unnoticed by many. I added a subtle tenuto on
the high note of the last hearing of the main theme in measure
169 near the end and have added more ritardando in
subsequent measures to the close. This has great effect and
makes for a very memorable and unrushed ending.
This performance is how I would conduct Sequoia were I a
conductor. Sequoia is a very dramatic and
expressive piece and there is considerable room for individual
interpretation. In 1971, the high-school band in which I
played the clarinet performed Sequoia and I fell in
love with it. In 1973 I bought a copy of the condensed
conductor's score and made a piano transcription which I have
played countless hundreds of times since. Over the years I
experimented with tempo and dynamics and this performance is the
accumulation of what I think is the best of the best. The
score is marked, Lento e con molto espressione and with
an initial tempo of 72 beats per minute and is in the key of Eb
and has 174 measures. That tempo seems turbo fast to me and
my opening tempo is a more sedate 54 beats per minute which
allows for much greater sonority and expression.
Sequoia was not meant to be performed with static tempo
and I make extensive use of dynamics in volume and tempo to
create as the subtitle says, A Tone Painting. I am
unashamed to say that I carried the dramatics to the maximum and
the result is very powerful. I am very pleased with the
performance and will be listening to it often. I wish
I had done this years ago.
I had to make some adaptations to some of the notes to operate
within the constraints of my ancient 1992 Korg synthesizer.
The orchestration is based on my statistical orchestra program
which includes concert hall acoustics and often produces the
right instruments but sometimes that is not possible. For
Sequoia the result is as true to the original scoring as
is possible but even though there are significant differences the
sound is good and consistent. The optional harp/piano part
in sections 4 and 6 has been omitted as I do not have a way to
include that now. In other instances I added notes in
octaves to add audibility to some parts. Many might not
even notice that the orchestration is different in some places if
I had not pointed this out. Purists might have some issues
but if you are listening for enjoyment (as you should) then there
should be no issue at all. Listen to the music and do not
judge the technicals.
The condensed score that I have shows an Ab at the opening phrase
at measure 37 that I have changed to an A natural because the
flat, although workable, detracts from the crescendo and the
natural adds excitement. I did the same for the piano
transcription because I recall the band performance being an A
natural too. But I could be wrong. If anyone has more
information then please let me know.
Here is a piano transcription of Sequoia that I did in
1973. It plays very well on piano if one uses an orchestral
style of playing. It takes big hands with wide
A reader of this web site sent me the following link to a
recording of Sequoia: http://mp3skull.com/mp3/sequoia_a_tone_painting.html .
Here are some YouTube links of performances: Sequoia, 1962 state contest performance by the FBHS band. Here is another link: Sequoia performed by the 1961-62 Wickliffe (Ohio) High School Concert Band. I am inspired to enter the full score into the program,
Finale, to make a true performance of the above reduced version
sequoia.mp3. Perhaps this will be up in 2014 along with
mp3s of the two other works by LaGassey.
I am doing research and I hope to be able to add interesting
biographical information about the composer as people want to
know something about the composer of the music they love.
Very little is known beyond that he taught music and directed a
high school band in a Detroit high school. The following
are the few biographical items I have found. Homer C.
LaGassey Sr. (1902 - ???? -- I am trying
to determine the date -- I thought I had information that it was
in the 1990s although I recently found a tidbit that it may have
been 1982. I do have information that Sequoia was performed
at his memorial service.) who wrote
Sequoia had a son, Homer C. LaGassey Jr. (1924
- ) who had a very distinguished career as an
auto designer in Detroit. See some of the references
below. Note that some sources omit the 'y' as in
LaGasse. Sometimes the spelling is Lagassey without the
capital G. In other instances I have found La Gassey with a
space that I doubt is correct.
The following is some information relayed to me by Homer C.
LaGassey Jr. by an acquaintance at a birthday party for him in
May of 2009. She confirmed that the correct spelling is
LaGassey. "Homer's uncle Oscar played (horns) for the
Detroit Symphony for 40 years -- he and Homer Sr in the summers would sometimes travel Europe
and play in nice small venues with a trio or
so. Homer Sr was in charge of all the Detroit School Area
music teachers and music programs for 30 years or so -- 1000s of
teachers and programs Homer Jr
said. He played many instruments but mainly
was a pianist -- played a lot of jazz and played with Tommy
Dorsey's band often. Homer Jr's sister, Mary Jane, played classical
piano also for the Detroit Symphony but had a nervous tick so she
couldn't play solos. Homer Jr
said it was just awful she played so beautifully but would just
freeze when people came in.
Homer Jr. himself played horns also but art was his
true calling. He thinks it came from an uncle who could
paint horses but alcohol ruined the uncle's art
The three works of Homer C. LaGassey that I am aware of
Sequoia, A Tone Painting . The
copy of the condensed score I have is marked copyright 1941 by
Kjos Music Co.
Sea Portrait, A Tone Painting .
Sometimes referred to as A Sea Portrait . The
score I have is dated 1956 and published by Kjos Music Co. There
is a record on the U.S. Copyright office web site that shows
this work was registered on Nov. 30, 1956. The following are two links to recordings posted on YouTube.
Sea Portrait on YouTube (1) and
Sea Portrait on YouTube (2).
Boca Toccata . The score I have
is copyright 1967 and published by the Kjos Music Co.
I am planning to make recordings of Sea
Portrait and Boca Toccata on my orchestral synthesizer and post
these here sometime in the future -- perhaps sometime in
The following links are about all that I have ever found related
to the composer:
There is probably nothing of interest here other than buried in
this long list is a reference to Homer C. LaGassey (the son) who
was a pilot in 1944 and was involved in a minor incident.
This is a short article about Homer C. LaGassey (the son) who had
a career as an auto designer.
(Note: this link is currently dead -- perhaps it moved -- I
will try to find it again .) This is the original
article of the above link and includes a picture.
This is some information about Homer Jr.
This is a list of people in the class of 1944 of Detroit
Northeastern High School and lists Homer C. LaGassey in the
band. I presume this is the son although the age would be
19 or 20. Perhaps this refers to Sr. -- more info to
This link mentions the brother, Oscar, of Homer Sr.
who played the tuba for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The
spelling seems to be Oscar Lagasse. This link has the most
information concerning music.
information Feel free to email me anytime
especially if you have additional information.
You are invited to visit my main web page at http://www.kennethkuhn.com . There is a variety
of material there - mostly information for my electrical
engineering students, Hewlett-Packard museum, pictures and
stories of my cats, other music including mp3 files of my
compositions, among other items.
You can find other recordings I have done of popular high school
band works at http://www.kennethkuhn.com/music . I
am also a composer and you can find recordings of my music at