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String Quartets | STACY GARROP


a composer with a story to tell

a composer with a story to tell



    Rabia Brooke and members of Fifth House Ensemble


    Michele and Rafiq Mohammadi for their daughter, Rabia


    Theodore Presser Company

    In Greek mythology, Athena was the goddess of war, wisdom, justice, and the arts. She was born out of the head of her father, Zeus, wearing a helmet and carrying a shield. More interested in strategy than bloodshed, Athena led armies that only fought for just causes. In times of peace, Greek artisans prayed to her for guidance in their artistic endeavors. Athena Triumphant portrays Athena as she marches into battle and emerges victorious.
  • FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS • 28’ • with female narrator/singer

    Julia Bentley, narrator/vocalist; Avalon String Quartet

    Jerre Dye



    SDG Music Foundation

    Theodore Presser Company

    I. Vashti is banished
    II. Esther is chosen
    III. Mordecai’s warning
    IV. Haman casts lots
    V. Mordecai sends word
    VI. Esther prepares herself
    VII. Esther’s request
    VIII. The Book of Chronicles
    IX. Esther speaks
    X. Haman’s defeat

    My early experiences with the Book of Esther stem from my childhood, when I would take part in Purim celebrations at my local synagogue. The children would dress up in costume and bring our toy ratchets and rattles. The rabbi would chant the text of the book in Hebrew, shouting out “Haman!” whenever the name came up, at which point all of us children would scream and drown out Haman’s name with our noisemakers. Afterward, we would eat hamantaschen (a three-cornered pastry filled with sweets). Clearly, we enjoyed the holiday as a fun spectacle; I doubt I ever wondered about the deeper significance of the story.
    Upon revisiting the story as an adult, I find several striking points. First, women had little or no agency over their lives – Biblical times were a man’s world (Queen Vashti’s banishment at the beginning of the Book sets this tone immediately). Second, there is no mention of God, meaning that Esther and Mordecai are the agents of change in the story rather than God, though an argument can be made that God had an indirect role in guiding Mordecai’s and Esther’s actions. Finally, the significance of Esther taking direct action to save the descendants of the House of David can’t be overstated, as God had made an eternal covenant with David to preserve his descendants forever, as well as giving David’s lineage the throne of Israel. Esther not only saved David’s lineage from obliteration, but also preserved God’s promise with the Jewish people.
    The question of whether Esther possesses the agency to act is addressed head-on in the biblical story, when Mordecai asks her, “Who knows if you were chosen for such a time as this?” Esther’s weighing of this question is the central dilemma of the story. To add gravitas to this moment, this is the only point that I ask the narrator to sing as Esther ponders the question. Moreover, I find Mordecai’s question can be as applicable to us today as it was to Esther. If Mordecai were to ask each of us if we were chosen for such a time as this, perhaps we might view his query as an invitation to remember that we each possess agency to make changes happen in our lives, to act upon injustices that we see happening around us, and to strive to leave the world a better place than how we found it.
    For Such a Time as This was commissioned by SDG Music Foundation, Chicago, IL. Librettist Jerre Dye penned a new narration so that the story is told through Esther’s eyes.
  • GLORIOUS MAHALIA • 21’ • with audio playback
    Kronos Quartet has first refusal of commercial recording rights after 1/19/21.


    Kronos Quartet and Carnegie Hall

    A sound system is required for performance. The musicians will need earpieces or headphones, through which they hear a click track. Both rehearsal files and performance files are provided upon purchase of score and parts.


    Theodore Presser Company

    Louis “Studs” Terkel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and oral historian, hosted a daily nationally syndicated radio broadcast show from Chicago’s WFMT station from 1952 to 1997. Studs’ curious, inquisitive nature led him to interview people from all walks of life over the course of his career. For WFMT alone, he conducted over 5,000 interviews. Before he worked for WFMT, Studs had a radio program called “The Wax Museum” on WENR in Chicago. It was on this radio network that Studs first featured the glorious voice of Mahalia Jackson.

    Studs heard Mahalia sing for the first time around 1946. He was in a record store in Chicago when Mahalia’s voice rang out over the store’s speakers. Studs was captivated; he had to meet the woman who possessed that remarkable voice. At that time, Mahalia was gaining fame as a singer of gospels and spirituals in black churches both within Chicago and out of it, as she did a fair amount of touring around the country. Outside of these black communities, however, Mahalia wasn’t yet known. With a little sleuthing, Studs discovered where she regularly sang at the Greater Salem Baptist Church on the South Side of Chicago. Studs went to the church, introduced himself to Mahalia, and invited her to sing on his radio program. Studs and Mahalia developed a close friendship over the ensuing decades, and they occasionally worked together professionally. As Mahalia rose to international fame and became known as the greatest gospel singer of her time, she and Studs never lost contact.

    In researching WFMT’s Studs Terkel Radio Archive, I found several broadcasts when Studs featured Mahalia Jackson and her recordings on his show. Two broadcasts in particular stood out. The first broadcast occurred in 1963, when the pair sat down for a conversation that covered a wide range of topics, including Mahalia’s experiences of working in the South, the continuing hardships she faces being a woman of color, and the civil rights efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Reverend Ralph Abernathy, and many others (including Mahalia, who was a staunch supporter of Dr. King). The second broadcast dates from 1957; it features Mahalia performing a number of gospels and spirituals for a live audience at a hotel in Chicago. In crafting my composition, I decided to highlight many of the salient points of Studs’ and Mahalia’s 1963 discussion, with a musical performance from the 1957 concert featured prominently in the work.

    Glorious Mahalia consists of five movements. In movement 1, Mahalia discusses the origin and meaning of the spiritual 
    Hold on. In Stave in the ground (movement 2), she and Studs talk about the work she did when living in the South, and the continuing prejudice she faces. This is followed by a more heated discussion between Studs and Mahalia in Are you being treated right (movement 3). The fourth movement features Mahalia’s soulful performance of the spiritual Sometime I feel like a motherless child. The piece concludes with This world will make you think (movement 5), in which Mahalia speaks of her hope that we can unite as one nation.

    Glorious Mahalia was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet by Carnegie Hall, with support from David Harrington Research and Development Fund. I wish to thank Kronos Quartet’s violinist David Harrington for suggesting Mahalia Jackson’s interviews with Studs Terkel as the topic for the piece, as well as Tony Macaluso, Director of the WFMT Radio Network and the Studs Terkel Radio Archive, and Allison Schein, Archivist for the Studs Terkel Radio Archive, for their help in locating and securing my chosen broadcasts within the Archive.
    Marin Quartet • Cordes en Gascogne Festival • Couloumé-Mondebat, France



    Commissioned by Joanne Bernstein and made possible by many generous donors.
    When there are no words, there is music.

    Inkjar Publishing Company
    $25 • licensed digital performance set (full score, parts)
    To order:
    • Click on the link to email Inkjar Publishing Company
    • An invoice will be sent to you via PayPal.
    • Once payment is received, you will be emailed the licensed performance materials will be sent as PDFs within three business days (excluding weekends and holidays).

    How does a composer write a work in response to the horrific mass shooting that took place at Highland Park’s Independence Day parade in 2022? I started with research. Joanne Bernstein, a longtime Highland Park resident and the commissioner of this project, arranged for us to talk with a wide range of people about the event, from city organizers and first responders to witnesses and survivors. We also visited the current memorial site for the seven victims, along with a Kindness Rock Garden situated close to the memorial where people have placed painted rocks with messages. Additionally, we sorted through thousands of tags written by people who visited the temporary arch memorial erected near the parade route in the months after the event. As I ruminated over our research, I placed on my desk a stone I had brought from the Rock Garden that had the word “peace” written on it. Alongside it, I put a tag from the memorial arch that was inscribed with the Hebrew words tikkun olam and its corresponding English “repair the world.” The rock and the tag stayed as permanent fixtures on my desk as I completed the process of composing the piece. These objects became my guiding light as to how to respond musically in my work.
    What is the role of music in response to such an event? I find three purposes: first, to honor the victims and survivors. Second, to reflect on the inherent goodness of the people who jumped into action to save the injured, who provided resources to the families of victims and to the survivors in the immediate aftermath, and who are continuously working to bring the community together since the terrible incident. Third, to attempt to bring healing to members of the community.
    In naming the work Repair the World, I call upon the Jewish concept of tikkun olam that we need to fix what is broken. This idea plays out musically in the piece, with melodies and chords first moving one way, then “fixing” themselves by reversing, as though getting repaired. The entire structure rewinds as well, with sections presenting themselves in reverse order halfway through the piece. I also wanted to express musically that our work to heal the world is ongoing. To represent this, I introduce a repeated note motive at the very opening of the piece; this motive is heard throughout the entire work. I end the piece with this same motive to signify that we still have work to do.
    Additionally, I wish to make the universal concept of tikkun olam personal for all who perform and hear it. I invite all presenters and performers to translate the title into the language that is personal to them and their audiences, and to list the title in their chosen language in concert programs. May we all strive to heal the world together.
    After the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war in October 2023, musicians began performing Repair the World as a response to the crisis. The commissioner and I welcome musicians to play the work anywhere and everywhere people are dealing with loss of any kind, whether from gun violence, war, or even personal loss.

  • STRING QUARTET NO. 1 • 11’
    Mvmt. 1: Rose Thorn
    Mvmt. 2: Struggle
    Mvmt. 1: Perilous Water

    Kontras Quartet


    Theodore Presser Company

    String Quartet No. 1 was my first exploration into the world of string writing. It consists of three movements (Rose Thorn, Struggle, and Perilous Water), all of which delve into various types of counterpoint.
  • STRING QUARTET NO. 2: DEMONS AND ANGELS • 30’ Enter description here.
    I. Demonic Spirits
    II. Song of the Angels
    III. Inner Demons
    IV. Broken Spirit

    Biava Quartet


    Peter Austin and Music in the Loft for the Biava Quartet

    Theodore Presser Company

    Disguised demons, forgiving angels, tortured human souls. String Quartet No.2: Demons and Angels tells the story of a man who thought his actions were guided by the forces of good, only to discover that he has lost his mind and wreaked havoc on earth. The first two movements explore the man’s personality: I. Demonic Spirits addresses what he has become, while II. Song of the Angels remembers the goodness in him before he became transformed. III. Inner Demons depicts the man as he loses his mind. The piece concludes with IV. Broken Spirit, as the man faces a life in prison, in which his fleeting thoughts alternate between chaos and the hope of finding redemption by the grace of an angel. This piece was commissioned by Peter Austin and Music in the Loft.
  • STRING QUARTET NO. 3: GAIA • 31' Enter description here.
    I. Gaia
    II. Creation of Mother Earth
    III. Dance of the Earth
    IV. Lamentation
    V. …et in terra pax

    Biava Quartet


    Thomas J. Hamilton as a gift to his wife, Nadine, through a grant to the Chicago Classical Recording Foundation

    Theodore Presser Company
    Both physical and digital score options available.

    Gaia is the mythical Greek goddess of the earth. There is a wide range of stories about Gaia which depict her creations and kindness, as well as of her anger and vengeance. I. Gaia is a short introductory movement in which we first encounter Gaia’s theme. In the programmatic II. Creation of Mother Earth, we hear the Greek myth of the planet’s beginnings: from chaos, Gaia emerges in full splendor, then creates the night sky glittering with stars. Gaia and her creations celebrate life in III. Dance of the Earth. In IV. Lamentation, Gaia is crying out against what civilization’s use and abuse of the planet. This movement combines wailing sirens, S.O.S. distress calls, and the cry of the earth itself, represented by a viola solo. The quartet ends with V. …et in terra pax, which translates to “…and on earth, peace.” This movement represents what so many of us hope and want both in the world, as well as for the planet itself. I envision that this is how Gaia began, and to what I hope she can return.

    This quartet was commissioned by Tom Hamilton for his wife Nadine. I wanted Nadine herself to be embodied in the piece. So I took the two letters of her name that stand out to my ear – the A and the D. These two notes create the interval of a rising perfect 4th; this is a bright sound that worked well in my conception of Gaia. I also turned the interval into a simple ascending scale: A B C D. Gaia’s interval, scale, and theme (that emerges in the 1st movement) appear in various guises throughout the entire quartet.
  • STRING QUARTET NO. 4: ILLUMINATIONS • 19’ Enter description here.
    I. The Book of Hours is opened
    II. Catherine of Cleves Prays to the Virgin and Child
    III. Singing Angels
    IV. Interlude: Book of Hours
    V. Christ Carrying the Cross
    VI. Interlude: Book of Hours
    VII. Mouth of Hell
    VIII. Trinity Enthroned
    IX. The Book of Hours is closed

    Avalon Quartet


    Nicholas Yasillo of the Norton Building Concert Series for his wife Susan

    Theodore Presser Company

    Stacy Garrop’s String Quartet No. 4: Illuminations was inspired by five illuminated pages from a medieval Book referred to as “The Hours of Catherine of Cleves.” Books of Hours, the most prolific book of the late Middle Ages, are prayer books for lay people that enable a person to participate privately in the daily round of prayers and devotions that were originally recited only by monks and priests. The main text of a Book of Hours contains a cycle of daily devotions consisting of psalms, lessons from scriptures, hymns, collects and other prayers. Because Books of Hours did not have page numbers or indexes, the illuminations (or illustrations) enabled the owner to quickly find the text needed for reciting the prayers. The quality and number of illuminations, often using silver and gold, depended upon the patron’s ability to pay.

    Catherine (1417-1476), duchess of Guelders and countess of Zutphen, commissioned her Book of Hours and received it around 1442. Today her Book of Hours is considered to be the masterpiece of the finest (although anonymous) Dutch illuminator of the late Middle Ages. “The Hours of Catherine of Cleves” is one of the finest in the collection of Books of Hours in the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City.

    In trying to craft the experience of reading Cleves’
    Book of Hours, the composer approached the work similarly to Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. As in Mussorgsky’s work, the audience follows the reader as he or she opens the Book of Hours, studies and reflects upon five illuminations, and then closes the book at the end of prayer.

    Below is a brief description of the five illuminations represented in the quartet:

    Plate 1. Catherine of Cleves Prays to the Virgin and Child
    The first illumination in Catherine’s book shows her kneeling before the Virgin and Child praying, “O, Mother of God, have mercy on me.” The setting may be the castle chapel in Cleves and the statue at the top center of the panel may be of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of the Cleves castle. Musical angels are on the battlements and coats of arms of Catherine’s ancestors surround the illumination. The composer based this movement on the Gregorian Chant “Ave Maria.”

    Plate 3. Singing Angels
    Three angels start to sing the hymn “Te Deum Laudamus” (although this hymn is not utilized in the quartet). The beginning words are on the banderol, “We praise thee, O God.” It is thought that this illumination refers to the preceding one, now missing, of the Annunciation to St. Anne (Mother to be of the Virgin Mary). The large open pea pods of the boarder are symbols of fertility. For this plate, the composer envisioned a harmonious chorus of angels and achieved this sound using high string harmonics.

    Plate 24. Christ Carrying the Cross
    This illumination shows Christ carrying the cross with Simon of Cyrene, St. John and the Virgin Mary behind him. Hanging from Christ’s waist are two blocks of wood with nails that torture his ankles and feet. St. Veronica appears on the left side margin. The music for this plate invokes the sound of Christ’s feet as he slowly walks to his final destination.

    Plate 99. Mouth of Hell
    This illumination of Hell begins the Office of the Dead. One prayed often for protection from and to prepare for death, which could be sudden and unexpected due in part to the plague and new strains of influenza. This frightening entrance to hell has one mouth with talons and pointed teeth leading to a second fiery mouth with creatures boiling souls in the depths of hell. Around the picture, souls are being tormented while at the top a third mouth of fire is heating caldrons into which souls are cast. At the bottom is a green creature spewing out scrolls with the names of the seven deadly sins. The music captures both the ghoulish glee of the demons as they carry out their tortures, as well as the wailing souls of the unfortunate inmates of hell.

    Plate 35 Trinity Enthroned
    The Trinity, similar in posture and dress, sit on a throne with the Father on the left, the Son in the middle and the Holy Ghost on the right. The banderoles address death and salvation. The text on this page begins with the plea, “Oh, God, come to my assistance.” In the middle of the text a prayer begins, ”Glory be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.” The nine different colored angels around the throne are thought to represent different orders of celestial beings. The composer sought to represent the majesty and benevolence of the Trinity, represented by a string of three-note chords (one note for each member of the Trinity).

    String Quartet No. 4:
    Illuminations was commissioned by Nicholas Yasillo in honor of his wife, Susan, who has a passion for learning about Books of Hours.

    - Notes by Susan Yasillo and Stacy Garrop
  • HELIOS • 4’30” • 2 tpts/flugelhorns, hn, tbn, tba

    In Greek mythology, Helios was the god of the sun. His head wreathed in light, he daily drove a chariot drawn by four horses (in some tales, the horses are winged; in others, they are made of fire) across the sky. At the end of each day’s journey, he slept in a golden boat that carried him on the Okeanos River (a fresh water stream that encircled the flat earth) back to his rising place. The cyclic journey of Helios is depicted in this short work for brass quintet. The first half is fast-paced and very energetic, while the second half is slow and serene, representing day and night.