(Audio version available below) 

The annual All-City Bands Concert is always an event to enjoy, but this year was a bit more special. In the mist of melodies ringing throughout the auditorium, one tune in particular became the highlight of the evening…

Where the Waters Meet, composed by Carol Brittan Chambers

If the title doesn’t sound familiar, it’s because this piece of music made its world premiere on December 14, as a tribute to renown band director Lee South. In his honor, the Irving ISD fine arts department commissioned the piece, soliciting the genius of composer Carol Brittan Chambers.

Where the Waters Meet is based on the British Isles folk tune, Waly, Waly. The idea for the song came from South’s own two loves – teaching and nature. When he wasn’t educating the next generation of musicians, he spent his time in the mountains and at his lake home on Lake Fort. It’s been said that the basis for South’s teaching was the belief that if students don’t know you love them, you won’t be able to reach them.

“I decided to use the imagery of water to portray this particular sentiment,” wrote Chambers. “Loving students, then truly being able to reach them. One set of waters – a river – meets a larger body – a lake. The river is the teacher, and the lake is the body of students.”

A trombone, which was South’s principal instrument, leads listeners into the song with a solo for what Chamber calls, “the river’s opening statement.”

The performance was in many ways the culmination of a 43-year career whose impact has reached thousands of students in Irving ISD and beyond. South’s ties to Irving first began in 1970 when he became Director of Bands at Irving High School. After ten years, his career moved him onto Tarleton State University but later returned him to Tiger Nation in 1987. Seven years later, South went on to teach strings at Travis and Lamar middle schools, then beginning bass classes at various Irving middle schools. In 2014, after several years of retirement, South was inducted into the prestigious Phi Beta Mu Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame.

Now, his legacy is being shared with a new generation as this year’s All-City ensemble, made up of top student musicians from Irving ISD high schools, performed the commissioned piece for the very first time. The conductor at the helm was none other than South’s own son and Irving High alum James South. In the audience, sat South’s wife and family as well as former colleagues, students and friends.

To hear Where the Waters Meet brought to life by musicians is a special moment that is now a part of South’s legacy. A legacy that will continue to live on in memory, and now in song.

To download the audio version of the debut performance of Where the Waters Meet, click here.

Pictured: Composer Carol Brittan Chambers and conductor James South.