Friday, August 19, 2011

9/11: Robert Moran

When Robert Ridgell asked me to compose the TRINITY REQUIEM for his youth chorus as part of the 10th Anniversary of Sept. 11th, 2001, a commissioned score, my immediate reaction was “No, Robert.... having a youth choir sing a Requiem strikes me as slightly ghoulish and a bit unnerving. Let me think about this”. Directly after this conversation, I began to get ‘flash-backs’ of numerous stories I had heard throughout my life of children who had lost their entire families from plagues, wars, endless catastrophes, vicious governments, etc. I told Rob that I had heard of a specific story of a little girl in Kosovo, maybe no more than 8 years old, whose parents and brother of age 6 had been murdered; she was found daily at the grave of her brother, and had completely lost the ability to speak. “Rob, this is what ‘our’ Requiem is about, these thousands and thousands of kids left with nothing. A friend of mine in England, as a little child, was sent off to Wales during the Nazi bombings of London. He returned to London at the end of the war to find that both his parents had been killed. I was speechless. Luckily we have the ability to attempt some expression of grief through our music. Let’s get going with this project now”.
Robert Moran and John Clare
9/11/2001? Most of the voices in this Trinity Youth Chorus are of young people born in 2000. The World Trade Center attack would mean nothing to them... But knowing and seeing on television children’s lives destroyed time and again would have a deep impact. We recorded the Trinity Requiem in November 2010; a very intense and moving experience for everyone involved. At the conclusion of In Paradisum, many of us were in tears. One note concerning the Offertory: I based this short movement upon the bass line of the famous Pachelbel Canon, using that organ statement for my own musical canon for the four celli. The first four notes of the Pachelbel ‘bass line’? Where had I heard those before? They are used as the “Parsifal” chimes, courtesy of Mr. R. Wagner. And even with our concern for eliminating New York City street sounds during this recording, we couldn’t totally succeed. During the opening of the Offertory, one hears a siren passing the church. We decided that this ‘alarm’ was, although ‘not in the score’, worth keeping as a reminder that the World Trade Center, ten years before, had just been behind Trinity.

Robert Moran
Robert Moran has already written his place into the rich tapestry of contemporary music which has flourished in the United States in the second half of the twentieth century. Whilst Glass, Reich, and Riley trod the various paths towards minimalism, Moran was composing and organising performance art spectaculars such as Thirty Nine Minutes for Thirty Nine Autos - a deceptive title for a piece which used 100,000 performers and most of downtown San Francisco - premiered in August 1969, and Hallelujah (April 1971) using most of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and twenty marching bands, forty church choirs and several gospel groups.
Robert Moran was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. Having studied with Apostel (12 Tone Composition in Vienna) and then Berio and Milhaud, Moran co-founded the San Francisco New Music Ensemble at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in the mid-1960s. His time in America’s West Coast culminated in an evening of his works given by the San Francisco Symphony in August 1974. Directly following this concert, Moran moved to West Berlin as Composer in Residence at the invitation of the German Government.
Moran's operas include Night Passage (1995), commissioned by Dennis Coleman and the Seattle Mens' Chorus; The Juniper Tree, co-composed with Philip Glass. He has had three opera premieres via Houston Grand Opera, including Desert of Roses and The Dracula Diary. His dance works are in the repertoire of companies including The Royal Ballet, Netherlands Dance Theater, New York City Ballet, Bavarian Opera House and San Francisco Ballet.
Among his works premiering in 2011 are Alice for Scottish Ballet in April, Trinity Requiem for Trinity Cathedral, Wall Street, NYC in September, Buddha Goes to Bayreuth for double choral and string groups, Germany's Ruhrtriennale Oct 2011, and new dance work The Lottery.
His works are heard throughout the USA, Australia, Europe, and Asia.

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