Moment At Dawn - Charles Denler Live in Concert Album

Sound of solace

Music | Charles Denler’s latest album is a landscape of beauty and hope

by Arsenio Orteza

Vol. 31, No. 15 – July 23, 2016
Posted on Friday, July 8, 2016, at 1:00 am

The Colorado-based composer Charles Denler writes music for soundtracks. As such, he belongs to what one might call the music industry’s “invisible” ranks.

As invisible careers go, however, Denler’s has been prolific and successful. His music has accompanied more than 50 films, documentaries, programs, and commercials and won numerous accolades, two Emmy Awards among them.

His latest project is a recording of his 36-minute suite, Moment at Dawn.

“People often feel that composers need to be categorized,” Denler told me. “Classical composers, film composers, modern composers, etc. I am just a composer. All that matters to me is that I am reaching my audience. Where they happen to be sitting is of no importance.”

His audience has at times been seated in pews (Denler spent 14 years as a “worship pastor” at various churches before composing soundtracks), at other times in classrooms (he teaches at a branch of Colorado Christian University). But with Moment at Dawn, Denler has aimed more broadly.

The album is, simply put, beautiful. Executed by the Colorado Symphony orchestra, the Colorado Symphony Chorus, and, on one track, The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, its 14 pieces evoke expansive vistas. Trumpet and violin lines emerge shaftlike through clouds of strings. Piano parts (played by Denler himself) sparkle like dewdrops. Vast stretches of euphony shimmer in slow motion.

Moment at Dawn sounds, in other words, like just the sort of music one would compose if, like Denler, he lived in the foothills of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains with a back-porch view of the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

The album began as a series of excerpts from Denler’s 10-movement Portraits of Colorado. Subtitled An American Symphony No. 1, it had accompanied tourism-soliciting TV commercials that emphasized Colorado’s scenic wonders.

But Denler believed the music had greater potential. Last fall he embellished and mixed recordings from the symphony’s live premier, eventually arriving at Moment at Dawn. He said his goal was “to present an image of hope.”

One way to appreciate his achievement is to juxtapose Moment at Dawn with the music Denler composed for Teenage Witness: The Fanya Heller Story. A 2010 PBS documentary about a Ukrainian Holocaust survivor, it required Denler to create much more somber moods.

Yet, somber though it was, it ended happily. Because it did, the new album could almost be heard as a sigh-of-relief sequel.

“Moment at Dawn,” said Denler, “is that moment when you suddenly realize that you have made it through to the other side—and you’re going to be OK.”

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