Angels with Red Tails
commissioned by Langley Winds (USAF)
dedicated to the memory of
Lt. Col. Charles W. Dryden USAF
1. They Dreamt Upon Wings in the Sky
2. Training Daze: Tuskegee, Alabama
3. "Press On Regardless"
4. Into Battle...for Their Country
5. Spirit of the Angels
(dur. 25 minutes)
World Premiere: February 10, 2013
Langley Winds (USAF)
American Theater - Hampton, VA
Angels with Red Tails pays tribute to the history, sacrifice and perseverance of the Tuskegee Airmen - the first African-American fighter pilots to serve in the United States Air-Force. This work captures some of the emotions and moments that comprise their truly remarkable story. They Dreamt Upon Wings in the Sky portrays the hopes and dreams of the Airmen. Many of the men had civilian pilot licenses before Tuskegee, but the desire to fly in the U.S. Air Force was, at the time, the impossible dream. They all possessed an indefatigable passion to follow their calling, despite the overwhelming odds against them. The bluesy opening of Training Daze: Tuskegee, Alabama sets the stage in the steamy heat of an Alabama summer in 1941. The march that follows utilizes the familiar rhythmic drill of "left, left, left right left." Though the training was difficult and exhausting, it was still a time of camaraderie, personal accomplishment and new beginnings. "Press On Regardless" is a Jamaican adage, which promotes fortitude, hard work and sacrifice. This movement metaphorically addresses the realities of segregation and alienation that all the Tuskegee Airmen experienced throughout their training and military service. Tuskegee was officially “an experiment” with the shared belief that they were expected to fail. The music reveals that they not only succeeded, but eventually triumphed. Into Battle…for Their Country opens as the P-51s start their engines, represented by layered trills in all the instruments. The music then follows the pilots over the skies of Italy as they dogfight with the Germans while escorting and protecting B-52 bomber raids. Spirit of the Angels captures a sense of honor, patriotism and joyous celebration. After a stately opening the clarinet, calling out like a clarion, signals the end of wartime, the return of our heroes and the triumphant glory of the Tuskegee Airmen.