The commissioner has exclusive performance rights until June 1, 2022 and sole recording rights until June 1, 2023.
VIDEO The Boston Trio Community Concerts at Second
YEAR COMPOSED 2021 COMMISSIONER Newport Music Festival
PROGRAM NOTES When the Newport Music Festival commissioned me for a piano trio in honor of their 2021 season, I looked for a topic that would celebrate an aspect of the Newport community. While researching the area, I was struck by the nine lighthouses situated around the island. The dual nature of lighthouses was particularly appealing to me: not only do they serve a vital role in the navigation of ships around rocks and land, but they are also a beautiful sight, particularly at night when their blinking beacons are clearly visible to the eye. It occurred to me that lighthouses link the past with the present, and will endure long into the future, with their beacons serving the same purpose for every generation.
I became fascinated with the lighthouse on the property of Castle Hill Inn, located at the opening of the East Passage of the Narragansett Bay. This squat thirty-four foot granite structure was erected in 1890 on a very picturesque spot, right at the water’s edge. Its “characteristic,” the nautical term for each lighthouse’s unique light sequence that allows ships to identify the lighthouse, is to alternate on for three seconds, then off for three seconds. The lighthouse has also served as the starting and finish line for numerous high profile yacht races, as well as survived a massive hurricane in 1938, though the lighthouse keeper’s nearby residence wasn’t so lucky. American novelist Thornton Wilder wrote much of his 1973 novel Theophilus North while staying at the Castle Hill Inn; a passage from the book perfectly captures the dual nature of lighthouses: “At a later visit I was able to engage the pentagonal room in a turret above the house; from that magical room I could see at night the beacons of six lighthouses and hear the booming and chiming of as many sea buoys.”
In Beacon of the Bay, we first hear the lighthouse’s characteristic as its ruby light blinks on and off. This is followed by a simple theme that represents the lighthouse performing its solitary duty. As the piece progresses, we hear waves playfully lapping around its base, then yachts gracefully floating by; this is followed by a violent storm that churns the waves with so much force that they crash against the lighthouse’s granite body. But the steadfast lighthouse holds firm to the rocks, grandly blinking its ruby light. The music quiets back down to its simple theme, with yachts sailing by once more as the piece concludes.
YEAR COMPOSED 2011 COMMISSIONER WFMT, celebrating 60 years of classical music and fine arts broadcasting ORDERING SCORES Theodore Presser Company Click to view product page PROGRAM NOTES Bernie and Rita Jacobs audaciously started WFMT on December 13, 1951, with a goal to bring fine arts programming to Chicago. After only two weeks of broadcasting and unable to generate enough funds to keep afloat, Rita Jacobs got on the air and asked, “Is anyone out there listening? We’re broke.” Listeners generously responded and helped to ensure that WFMT would endure as a cultural resource. Over the past six decades, the station has flourished in depth and breadth of programming as well as in audience size. Today, the station's programs are heard via streaming all over the world while the WFMT Radio Network produces and distributes programs heard on over 650 outlets in the U.S. and abroad.
In honor of the station’s 60th birthday, WFMT commissioned me to compose a celebratory piece to be premiered by the Lincoln Trio. The piece, titled Jubilation, contains three main themes: a serene, beautiful melody that opens the piece and recurs in various guises throughout; a very fast, energetic theme that uses a 9/8 – 8/8 – 7/8 meter which corresponds to the station’s frequency of 98.7 FM; and a sultry tango that was requested by Desirée Ruhstrat, the violinist of the Lincoln Trio. Altogether, these themes take the audience on a joyful, high-energy romp that pays tribute to WFMT’s spirited past, present, and future. -S.G.
YEAR COMPOSED 2013 COMMISSIONER Barbara Garrop in memory of Norman Garrop for the Lincoln Trio ORDERING SCORES Theodore Presser Company Click to view product page PROGRAM NOTES In 2011, Barbara Garrop, my mother, commissioned me to write a piano trio in memory of Norman Garrop, my father, who passed away about thirty years ago. When I started brainstorming about topics for the piece, I found it difficult to recall many moments of my early life involving my father. Too many years had passed, and the memories that I could summon were of a child looking up to her father, not an adult relating to an equal. However, while collecting stories of my father from various family members, along with discovering a number of objects that had once belonged to him and that I had stored away in boxes decades ago, I began to realize that this piece wasn’t so much about my father as it was about my re-discovering the man that he was: a loving husband and dad who cared deeply about his family and his passions (which included bike riding, collecting coins, strumming our guitar, playing baseball, watching football games, entertaining people, helping to run local theater and puppet productions, and carving objects out of wood); an accountant who dreamed of a better future; a treasurer of our local synagogue; an early advocate for computers (we owned an Apple II+); and a prankster with a great sense of humor. Ultimately, I decided to musically tell the story of my search for these memories.
In the first movement (Without), a child calls out in a sing-song voice, searching for her lost parent. This search intensifies over the course of the movement through a series of themes, including a “stepping” motif in which a two-note progression steadily climbs higher, a pseudo-jewish folksong, and a passionate “longing” theme. The child’s search becomes increasingly intense throughout the movement, calling out fervently and repeatedly to the parent; the movement ends in a moment of great tension and uncertainty. The second movement (Within) quietly opens with the lost parent finally answering, represented by a solo cello; the child (now personified by the violin) has found the parent within the sanctuary of her own heart. This movement highlights the joy and solemnity of this beautiful discovery. -S.G.
YOUTUBE AUDIO Lincoln Trio YEAR COMPOSED 1998 ORDERING SCORES Hildegard Press via Theodore Presser Company Click to view product page PROGRAM NOTES The genesis of SEVEN emerged from two separate sources. The first is Anne Sexton’s evocative poem Seven Times, in which the speaker of the poem longs for release from life. Upon dying, she is surprised to find a quiet, peaceful place (this poem can be found in the book Anne Sexton: The Complete Poems ).
The second source was the T.V. show Star Trek Voyager. One of humanity’s worst enemies are the Borg, which are a half-machine, half-organic species who assimilate all species they encounter and add them to their collective conscious. The crew of Voyager managed to sever one Borg’s connection with the collective consciousness, thus leaving the Borg isolated and human for the first time since she had been abducted as a young girl. This Borg, named Seven of Nine, found the isolation of being an individual almost unbearable for numerous episodes before she began realizing her full potential in her new human life.
As I began writing the trio, I saw a connection between Sexton’s poem and Seven of Nine. Both represent change. Ann Sexton’s speaker craves death. Seven of Nine fought her forced change from collective consciousness to isolated individualism. In both cases, neither character expected what waited for them on the other side. This “change” is represented musically near the end of the piece. You might imagine the change to be Sexton’s moment of death, or of Seven’s switch from being a Borg drone to a human. -S.G.
VIDEO Lincoln Trio YEAR COMPOSED 2009 ORDERING SCORES Theodore Presser Company Click to view product page PROGRAM NOTES In 1994, I heard for the first time an Appalachian folk song called Silver Dagger at a folk festival. The simplicity of the melody joined with a cautionary love tale enthralled me, and I spent the next several years researching the song. What emerged from my research were dozens of variants of the song, both in terms of text as well as melody and title. The variants that I discovered could be grouped more or less under three different titles: Silver Dagger, Drowsy Sleeper, and Katie Dear. All of these versions revolve around the same Romeo and Juliet premise: a boy asks a girl for her parents’ consent to marry. The story has various endings: the parents won’t give approval, so the girl and boy each end their lives with a silver dagger; the girl turns the boy down and sends him away to find another love; the girl forsakes her parents and runs away with the boy; and so on. In my trio, I incorporate two complete versions of the folk song, one of Katie Dear and one of Silver Dagger, as well as motives from a variant of Drowsy Sleeper. -S.G.
Civitas Ensemble "Springtime Sonder" Concert Yuan-Qing Yu, violin, Kenneth Olsen, cello, Winston Choi, piano
Duos • flute, piano • oboe, piano • english horn, piano • clarinet, piano • bassoon, piano • soprano sax, piano • soprano sax, marimba • also sax, piano • violin, piano • viola, piano • violoncello, piano • soprano (voice), piano
Trios • flute, violoncello, piano • oboe, bassoon, piano • soprano and baritone saxophones, piano • clarinet, bass clarinet, piano • violin, violoncello, piano
YEAR COMPOSED 2020
COMMISSIONER Utah Arts Festival (original sextet version) ORDERING SCORES Theodore Presser Company Click to view product page PROGRAM NOTES In 2014, I enjoyed a wonderful residence at the Ucross Foundation in Clearmont, Wyoming. Ucross is an artist colony that gives writers, composers, and visual artists the gift of time, space, and support to follow their artistic pursuits; we are provided with studio space, housing, and meals so that we can work continuously on our projects. I have been in residence at numerous artist colonies; however, nothing in my previous experiences prepared me for living in such isolated, wild country. Ucross is situated on a 20,000-acre cattle ranch at nearly 4,000 feet in elevation with fewer than 150 people living within the town. But what Clearmont lacks in population, it makes up for abundantly and spectacularly in wilderness and wildlife. I composed the sextet Postcards from Wyoming to offer three glimpses of what I found to be the most striking aspects of my residence. The Solitude of Stars, the third and final movement of the original sextet, was inspired by the stunning nightly display of the heavens above. Without city lights dimming the night sky, countless stars shone brightly over the vast expanse of the prairie.
During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, I undertook The Solitude of Stars Project, which contains multiple duo and trio arrangements that I made for colleagues and friends. -S.G.