SYMPHONY: THIS WILL BE OUR REPLY
World Premiere Performance: March 30, 2019
Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra, Dan Allcott, Music Director
Oak Ridge Chorus, Jaclyn Johnson, Director
First United Methodist Church of Oak Ridge Adult Chancel Choir, Seth O'Kegley, Director
In celebration of the Leonard Bernstein Centenary (August 25, 2018), Lucas Richman received permission from the Leonard Bernstein Office to create a new work for chorus and orchestra inspired by the speech Maestro Bernstein delivered to the United Jewish Fund two days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Known as “An Artist’s Response to Violence,” the speech addresses the manner in which musicians might best use their abilities in the aftermath of tragedy:
“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely,
more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” *
The three movements of Richman’s “Symphony: This Will Be Our Reply” expand upon these three directives, exploring the contrasts of great beauty and horrific violence that pervade our modern era. In the process of musically capturing the daily struggle to rise above the steady onslaught of incomprehensible savagery, certain motives can be traced throughout the work as they evolve from a place of benign passivity to orders of an imperative nature.
The first movement, Intensity, pits the principal string octet, as a smaller community unit, against the dangers and distractions of the outside world, represented by the remainder of the orchestral forces. The smaller group manifests a traditional sonata-form style of chamber music while enduring a bombardment of interjections, ranging from random bursts to mocking reflections of the octet’s musical gestures. Ultimately, with intensity of purpose, the octet breaks through with its own message of truth and unity.
The practice of defining beauty is a purely subjective affair and is, as such, truly mystifying. The second movement, Beauty, finds symmetries occurring in nature interwoven with a select palette of musical motives and a full range of orchestral colors. The result is an aural fabric with which the composer does not endeavor to depict one specific view of beauty but, rather, open the field for multiple interpretations.
The third movement, Devotion, begins from a place of awe and genuflection with the chorus intoning “Va’anachnu,” a devotional prayer heard during the Jewish High Holy Days. After the chorus makes a strong appeal to a higher power for enlightenment in the face of tragedy, the work ultimately resolves with an anthemic setting of an original poem which frames the ancient Hebrew text, “L’Takken et Ha’Olam (Repair the World),” uplifting the essence of Bernstein’s profound message.
“Symphony: This Will Be Our Reply” was commissioned by a consortium of organizations including the Oak Ridge Civic Music Association, Bemidji Symphony Orchestra and Los Angeles Jewish Symphony for performances in the 2018-2019 season.
* Used by the permission of The Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc.
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