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And So Be Changed to Lightning in the End

    2*2*2*2  4*3*3*1 Timpani (5 drums), 2 Perc: snare drum, 3 suspended cymbals (high + medium + low) crotales (arco), bass drum, high triangle, anvil, chimes, glockenspiel, xylophone, crash cymbal, bass drum, police whistle, large tam-tam, Harp, Strings

    Duration: ca. 10 minutes
    Composed: 2005

    Programme Note: And So Be Changed to Lightning In the End is a very athletic, energetic, and dramatic single movement work for orchestra. After a brief introduction, the piece divides into 3 main sections – fast, slow, fast.

    The first section is characterized by contrapuntal lines and thick scoring with large blocks of chords. The slow section opens with strings alone introducing an English horn solo. This is followed by a canon of sorts for the trumpets, which are placed at four different points on the stage. The recapitulation of the first section builds to a climactic trumpet fanfare, and a final gathering of forces to a very abrupt, lightning-strike ending.

    The piece was commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra with the generous support of the Ontario Arts Council. It was written specifically to close the first New Creations Festival in 2005. The initial concept for the piece is encapsulated in a few lines by Dylan Thomas:

    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    As I began writing though, the “rage against the dying of the light” took a much more personal turn. My mentor and highly respected colleague, Allan Bell, became ill and had to undergo a liver transplant. I witnessed the fragile nature of the human body reinforced by the amazing strength of the human spirit.

    The title comes from the first stanza of a poem by Philippe Jaccottet called, Que la fin nous illumine. The English translation by Derek Mahon is:

    Dark enemy, you who brace us in the fight,
    let me, in the few days still left to spend,
    devote my strength and weakness to the light
    and so be changed to lightning in the end.

    Poem copyright © Philippe Jaccottet 1988; introduction and translation copyright © Derek Mahon 1988. Wakeforest University Press

    Premiere: First performance by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor, Toronto, April 2005.


    Performed by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor.
    Kelly-Marie Murphy, composer