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BAROQUE ORCHESTRA: Spectacle of Light | STACY GARROP • COMPOSER

Spectacle of Light


The commissioners have exclusive recording rights until 9/9/22.

INSTRUMENTATION
1202  2200 harpsichord, baroque timpani, strings

AUDIO
Music of the Baroque Orchestra; Dame Jane Glover, conductor

DURATION
5'40"

YEAR COMPOSED
2020

COMMISSIONER
Music of the Baroque

PROGRAM NOTES

When Music of the Baroque commissioned me to compose a piece in honor of their 50th anniversary season, I was delighted that my new piece would premiere on a concert entitled Baroque Fireworks. But what aspect of Baroque fireworks should I explore? I found the answer on Music of the Baroque’s website. In perusing the webpage for the Baroque Fireworks concert, I was mesmerized by the page’s backdrop image, which looked to be a hand-drawn picture of a fireworks show. A little research uncovered that the image is an etching of a 1749 fireworks spectacle that took place on the River Thames in honor of Great Britain’s King George II. The king had signed the 1748 treaty at Aix-la-Chapelle that officially ended the War of Austrian Succession, and as was typical in this era, he wanted to celebrate with a grand show of music and fireworks. This is the very same event for which George Frideric Handel wrote Music for the Royal Fireworks.

I was intrigued by the manner in which the etching’s artist represented the path of each individual firework, starting with an upward trajectory of a golden streak of light that inevitably bends and falls back towards the earth, blooming into glittering specks before flickering out. This inspired me to find other depictions and etchings of Baroque fireworks, as well as to view numerous modern-day fireworks shows on YouTube to study how they rise, bloom, and overlap with each other to create a rich, complex, and fleeting tapestry of color. I realized that fireworks and music share an ephemeral nature: they both delight our senses before fading into memory.

Ultimately, I decided that
Spectacle of Light would represent the experience of a fireworks show. The music starts with great anticipation as the crowd waits in darkness, then a single firework illuminates the sky, followed by a massive eruption of light, color, and sound. After this initial frenzied burst, the fireworks quiet down into a slower-paced, mesmerizing display of colors before building to a big, fiery ending. As a tip of the hat to Music of the Baroque, I worked a few salient elements of the baroque style into my own musical language, as well as found a few choice spots to add a few subtle hints of Handel’s Royal Fireworks.

-S.G.