A piece of music I forgot about

You might think that because I compose slowly and painfully—I am an untrained amateur after all—I would clearly remember every single piece I ever wrestled to the ground and called finished.  Oddly, I don't.

In working with the William Blake's Inn files yesterday, for some reason I ended up in a folder I had no idea was even on my computer.  Apparently Finale stashes files away for its own purposes in a folder called "Finale files," out there in the general Documents folder.  Since I stash my stuff in specific folders (so I can find them, thank you very much Apple), I usually don't look in the general Documents folder.

But there it was, and there was a stray music file, Resignation.

Way back in 2010, through a network of friends and relationships, I was asked to compose a piece for the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra, a youth string orchestra from Ayr, Scotland, Newnan's sister city.  They would be doing their triennial tour to the U.S. in 2011, and someone thought it would be quite jolly for a local composer to write something for them to premiere here.

I'm not sure Ayr thought it was so jolly, but never turn down a request for a piece that's actually going to be performed, is my motto.

I sent them several ABORTIVE ATTEMPTS to choose from:

  1. The Labyrinth in Snow (an evocative piece, giving solo roles to a pianist, cellist, and violinist)
  2. Rondo (a piece that begins with material very much in the AFO fiddle style, but which immediately falls apart; they have to keep rebooting the main theme; meant to be humorous in a vaguely P.D.Q. Bach kind of way)
  3. Resignation (an arrangement of an old Southern hymn tune; a wistful waltz)
  4. Vibes (a tough piece, an arrangement of a short electronic work by fellow Lichtenbergian Marc Honea)
  5. Waltz (a string/piano arrangement of the third movement of my aborted symphony; the link is to the original movement)

Many emails flew back and forth across the Atlantic: what were the limitations of the players? Was their preference something strictly in AFO style or were they willing to be adventurous?  Would a featured solo be appropriate, and if so, which instrument?  Did they travel with any instruments other than the strings? (And bagpipes, of course.)

Of the choices I gave them, their conductor settled on Variations on 'Resignation': it was less taxing, which meant they wouldn't have to devote a huge proportion of their prep time to a new piece; it was close to their home style; it had the Southern American link.  All good.

So I whipped that thing out, shipped it out via email, and was immediately hired as Director for the Governor's Honors Program, which meant that I wouldn't even be in town for the concert in June.  However, I worked it out so that I could get home for that one day (the director position is 24/7 for the duration of the program) and hear my piece.

I wish I could say that the kids were wildly enthusiastic about the piece, but I don't think they were.  They are absolutely a fiddle orchestra—and a fabulous one—and I was asking them to think and play more classically; it was not their habitual style.  I liked that they had a student conduct it.  Their playing was not quite accurate, and I think I overwrote for them; that's on me, not them.

Finally, checking their website, I don't see any indication that it has entered their repertoire as a standard.  Oh well.  Such is the life of an artist, ne-ç'est pas?

Still, it's a lovely piece.  You ought to play it sometime.

Oh, and the other abortive attempts?  Let me know if you would like to have a finished version of any of those.


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