Transitions and Farewells-for-Now
A colleague of mine often uses the imagery of sunrises in his compositions. I too use solar imagery, as it were, in my compositions. However, in my compositions, the sun is almost always depicted as setting. Perhaps this is just a results of my natural propensity toward melancholy.
Regardless, I’ve always found sunsets to be both haunting and inspiring. Many of my compositions are inspired by events in my life – particularly, sad events; situations involving a loss of some kind. Naturally, these compositions have a nostalgic sound and character. For me, at least, few things in nature evoke the sense of nostalgia as strongly as does a sunset. In a previous article, I discuss how various of my compositions/improvisations have been inspired by the setting sun, and the visual effects it creates.
I was thinking about these sorts of things because I’m presently in a transition period in my life; a period when certain people and situations that I held dear – and still hold dear – are passing out of my life.
For instance, as I write this, it is 11:48 A.M., Sunday, May 8th, 2022. This morning’s service at Dueber Church was my last service with my friend John, who has been the church’s music director since long before I began serving there. The original traditional service music team consisted of John, myself, and a young lady named Hannah, who was the church’s pianist.
Prior to my coming to Dueber Church, I had never worked with a music team. However, working with John and Hannah has been one of the best experiences of my professional life – and certainly among the few truly effortless collaborations of which I’ve been a part.
When I started at Dueber in May of 2021, it was already known than Hannah would be leaving at the end of that year, for a study abroad program; part of her final year of her undergraduate studies. I was very sad to see her go; even though I knew from the outset what was going to happen. It was still sad, though, because I cherished our team; a team that I named “The Mighty Three.”
Late last summer, while I was at the church, taking a break from my organ practice, I was considering these things (how people move in and out of the story of one’s life), and this led me to record an improvisation that I later transcribed for organ: Daydreaming. Daydreaming is probably the saddest music I’ve created to this point.
Here is my original recording of the transcription. This recording was made at Dueber Church, on the same organ heard as is heard in the original improv recording. This organ’s “harp” stop really gives the piece a mysterious, dreamy, and rather melancholy sound.
The picture I used for the background of my recording of Daydreaming is a photo I took of the skies outside the church the day I recorded the original Daydreaming improvisation. I took this photo as I was walking back to my car; as a way to remember that day better. I knew I had recorded something really special.
I believe I’ve quoted from Daydreaming more than from any of my other compositions. I’ve not yet released the original improv recording of Daydreaming, and I’m not sure if I ever will.
Nonetheless, part of the original improvisation can be heard in the two-part composition, October Bells, from my Electronic Music (Volume IV) album.
I made a YouTube video for October Bells II. This track closes the Electronic Music (Volume IV) album. The placement of this track is another musically symbolic depiction of sunset. I must admit – I get choked up when I listen to October Bells. It makes my hair stand up, because it so perfectly put into musical form what I felt that day.
I recently made a solo piano version of Daydreaming.
From the beginning of this year until a few weeks ago, the morning service was led by John and me. The use of the organ without the piano, accompanied by the choir, imbued the service with a “high church” sound and feel. It was great to have the chance to work with John in this new arrangement.
However, last month John received a call from another church, and after much prayer and consideration, he accepted the call. I’m very happy for him, though I’m sad to see him go.
With all this in mind, I recently recorded several improvisations; one for piano, and another for organ.
The first improvisation – the piano improvisation – is dedicated to John and his wife, Kate.
I recorded the second improvisation yesterday afternoon. As I was taking a break from practicing, I sat in the quiet, still sanctuary, and looked around. I was thinking back on my memories of Dueber Church during the last year. These are some of the happiest memories of my adult life so far. I was almost reliving those memories; of my audition at the church, of that first (very memorable) rehearsal, of chatting with John and Hannah before and after the services. I looked at the piano, and remembered Hannah sitting there. I looked up at the lectern, from where John led the music each week. I felt sad, knowing that almost certainly, the three of us would never be so situated again. Sitting in the church alone, and seeing no one at the piano and no one at the lectern, it was a palpable symbol/manifestation of the absence of two people with whom I worked closely, and with whom greatly enjoyed working.
These thoughts inspired an organ improvisation entitled The Road Goes Ever On.
The title of this improvisation (an improvisation dedicated to John and Hannah) is borrowed from the opening line of a poem in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
I’ve been thinking about this poem a lot lately, as I consider the various paths my life has taken, and the various people who have passed through my life.
While my time with John and Hannah was short, I’m extremely grateful for that time. Working with them – and working at Dueber, generally – has been the best experience I’ve had as a liturgical organist. It has been a pleasure working with John and Hannah, and I will really miss them, and our team. Long live The Mighty Three!
OTHER RECENT RECORDINGS
I’ve recently recorded several compositions that I plan on including on the Clues & Sublimation album. These recordings include Telesterion, Theodicy Club, and Thea.
I’ll write more about these pieces in another newsletter. For now, I’ll just say that Clues & Sublimation is continuation and development of concepts from Three Analog Dances, Night Shift, Other Works: Electronic Music (Volume VI).
Another recent recording, For My One and Only Girl, is one of my very best recorded keyboard improvisations. I’m incredibly proud of this improvisation.
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