composition

Elegy for Terri (Version III)

for Viola and Piano

  • Genre
    Chamber
  • Commissioned by/written for
    Andrew and Kaitlyn Henry
  • Year completed
    2006
  • Year revised
  • Timing
    9:20
  • Catalog number
    197
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Elegy for Terri was begun on March 31, 2005, the day that Terri Schiavo succumbed to her state-ordered execution by dehydration and starvation. It was completed on April 29th of that same year. Originally, the work was composed in two versions, a less-tonal version meant to suggest the cruel death that was imposed on this poor woman, and a more tonal version to suggest the intrinsic value that she, even as a brain-damaged woman, had in the sight of God. A few months after the completion of these versions, I realized that I was not satisfied with either of them, and consequently withdrew them from my catalog, determining that I could produce a much superior work to honor the memory of Terri Schiavo, and one more deserving of the efforts of the talented musician to whom the work is dedicated. Thus from June 20th through 25th, 2006, I wrote a completely new work, retaining almost nothing from the first two versions, other than the idea of using the musical letters of Terri's full name (Theresa Marie Schindler Schiavo) to unify the composition. The work consequently begins with an unaccompanied statement of the 16 musical letters (noting their use according to the German system of notation whereby "s" equals E flat and "h" is B natural.) In measure 18, another version of these musical letters is heard, this time in double stops in the viola part. This series of six measures appears twice more in the work to affirm Terri as a valued human being to almost all who knew her. The method of her execution is portrayed in the music by turgid and chromatic harmonies, and an agitated middle section. All of this gives way to a peaceful, if somewhat unsettled, section to bring the work to its close. The listener will also note the use of a few phrases of the hymn, Abide With Me, to demonstrate my conviction of the comfort that Almighty God can provide in even the most wrenching situations that life can present to a person.

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