Leave-Taking (2015)

Leave-Taking (2015)

Instrumentation: flute, clarinet, cello, and piano.

First performed at First Baptist Church of Amherst, Amherst, MA on 24 May 2015.

Sarah D. Brown, flute
Stephen Broyles, clarinet
Daniel Ang, cello
Evie Hopkins, piano

Program Notes

I composed Leave-Taking to celebrate the end of my four years at Amherst College, where I had the opportunity to attend the wonderful First Baptist Church. There I was blessed to have found warm and generous people to be friends with. In particular, I am grateful for my friendship with Dixie Brown, Stephen Broyles, and Evie Hopkins, which enabled me to make music with each of them in different settings, both for pleasure, for church services, and for concert performance. There were memorable times when Dixie, Stephen, and I would gather together at the bottom of Stephen’s apartment lobby, and there in the open afternoon air we would play trio sonatas by both famous and lesser-known Baroque composers such as Lotti, Quantz, Handel, Telemann, and Corelli. Sometimes we would perform some of these pieces at church, with Evie joining in as well. Many times I have also played the prelude for the first service at FBC – usually I would play several hymns specially selected to be suitable for the cello, accompanied by the indefatigable 84-year-oled Evie. Another highlight was playing Stephen Broyle’s arrangements of famous classical pieces as well as spirituals with the church ensemble, which consisted of anyone available, often ending up being an odd combination of clarinet, two flutes, trumpet, violin, cello, and piano.

These experiences greatly enriched my four years at Amherst College, and to top it all off Evie and I decided to plan a farewell concert at FBC on the last day I would be at Amherst College as a student – my graduation day. Leave-Taking was premiered at this concert. It is a prime example of composing for the community. One of my main considerations was that Evie mentioned she did not like too much dissonance nor atonality. Another was that we had limited time to prepare the piece, and the group was not used to playing contemporary music. So I reined in my “normal” tendencies of alternating between extreme dissonance and more traditional tonal sounds, emphasizing the latter while at the same time trying my best to write music that genuinely expressed myself artistically. I refrained from writing anything too technically complicated or tiring. The resulting piece has three movements, following the traditional sonata structure of fast-slow-fast. The sound-world evokes memories of late Romantic and more modern 20th century English composers such as Elgar, Holst, Vaughan Williams, and Britten. The overall feeling is that of compression and miniature – the sections in each movement could each have been expanded. Instead what we get is a whirlwind of a musical journey through quickly changing moods and atmospheres, symbolizing the myriad of musical experiences I went through with this group during my four years at Amherst. What is important here is the feeling of journey, of the joys of communal music-making, and that all good things come to an end, but the memories will stay on forever.