Once More We Saw the Stars (Symphony no. 6)



2 Flutes
2 Oboes
English Horn
2 Clarinets
Bass clarinet
2 Bassoons
4 Horns
3 Trumpets
2 Trombones
Bass Trombone
3 Percussionists
     1. Marimba, Suspended cymbal, Ratchet, Chimes, Whip, Woodblock (med)
     2. Glockenspiel, Bass drum, 2 bongos, 4 tom-toms, Conga (low), Snare drum
     3. Vibraphone, Xylophone, Tam-tam, Brake drum
Piano (doubles celesta)
Commissioned By
Co-commissioned by the Greater Connecticut Youth Symphony, Christopher Hisey, Music Director, the Three Rivers Young People’s Orchestra, Brian Worsdale, Music Director, and the Orquesta Nacional de Venezuela, Alfonso López Chollet, Artistic Director.
Program Note
My guide and I came on that hidden road
to make our way back into the bright world;
and with no care for any rest, we climbed–
he first, I following– until I saw,
through a round opening, some of those things
of beauty Heaven bears. It was from there
that we emerged, to see–once more–the stars
Dante, Inferno, XXXIV.133-139
(trans. Allen Mandelbaum)
The last lines of Dante’s Inferno have always struck me as a wonderfully hopeful postlude to a literally infernal book. Dante, of course, is setting up the next two volumes of his Commedia, but I have often taken these lines as inspiration. They represent, to me, the optimistic knowledge that light always follows darkness.
The year 2020 was a very difficult one for the entire world. Challenges piled on top of challenges. This symphony, Once More We Saw the Stars, is an ode to the knowledge that this, too, shall pass as well as a tribute to the young generation whose resilience and determination represent the best hope of mankind.
All of my symphonies are commentary. Besides its poetic inspiration, Once More We Saw the Stars invokes the rarer tradition of single movement symphonies. Its single, 22 minute movement, is divided into five sections each faster than the last before
turning around back to the initial adagio tempo. The initial, mournful adagio, which, in turn, gives way to a restless section full of repetitions invoking cabin fever and then a highly energetic fugue, does not, however, return at the end. Instead, the
symphony’s final, tonal goal of G major brings us to a hopeful apotheosis.
Once More We Saw the Stars was written in the summer of 2021 in Laurel, Maryland and St. Louis, Missouri. It is dedicated to Maestro Christopher Hisey, old college classmate and friend, who so kindly suggested the work.