Recorded by Clarion Duo on "Ripples" CD
Crystal Records CD961
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When Clarion members Keith Benjamin (trumpet), Melody Steed (organ), and I initially discussed possible topics for a new piece, Keith brought up his son Cameron, who had passed away at the age of seven from leukemia. While Cameron’s life ended too soon, he left an indelible and lasting mark on his those surrounding him. Keith asked if I could commemorate Cameron musically. In talking over possible ways to do this, Keith mentioned the book Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road.
The book was written by Neil Peart, who is well-known as the longtime drummer and lyricist of the band Rush. Peart suffered the heartbreaking loss of his daughter in 1997, followed by his wife ten months later. In an effort to work through the grieving process, Peart did what his wife suggested before she passed: he got onto his motorcycle and hit the open road. Ghost Rider
chronicles a year of Peart’s life in which he drove for 55,000 miles, zigzagging his way across Canada, the western portion of the United States, Mexico, and Belize. Peart’s powerful story illustrates how he coped with immense loss and eventually emerged on the other side to once again embrace life. Keith had found Peart’s book helpful in dealing with Cameron’s death; moreover, Mr. Peart sent Cameron a signed cymbal while he was in the hospital undergoing treatment. This unexpected gesture of compassion and generosity meant the world to both Cameron and Keith.
I chose three phrases from Peart’s book to serve as the inspiration for the movements in Road Warrior.
In the first movement, I am the ghost rider,
I imagined the performers to be howling phantoms that are haunting drivers on a nearly deserted highway. Peart often mentioned that he felt haunted by ghosts from the past while on his journey, and sometimes felt like a ghost himself, moving through an immaterial world as he rode from town to town. The second movement, My little baby soul,
references Peart’s wording to define his own inner essence that he was trying to protect and nurture while on his journey. In this gentle movement, I capture the innocence and simplicity of a newborn soul. The piece concludes with Are you with me here?
In this movement, I depict the performers as they search to find connections to those they have lost, and to those still living. Over the course of his travels, Peart kept up a steady letter correspondence with his close friend Brutus. In one of his first letters, he repeatedly asks Brutus if he is with him in spirit. I found it to be very poignant that while in his self-imposed exile, Peart discovered that he still needed connections to humanity.
I wish to thank Mr. Peart for granting me permission to use his phrases as the movement titles, and for serving as the inspiration for Road Warrior.
Rarely do any of us make it through our lives without being touched by the loss of someone dear to us. I found Peart’s insights into his grieving and recovery process to be insightful, eloquent, and surprisingly comforting. His journey is a touching reminder that with enough fortitude and time, we can work through what fate deals us and continue down our own road of life.