Union Grove

 

clarinet, violin, cello, and piano

In the summer of 2019, I was invited to attend the Montecito International Music Festival Composition Sessions in Riverside, California. I was part of a small group of composers from all over the world who participated in workshops, masterclasses, and recitals of original works. Two weeks before the festival began, I was given my composition assignment, which I would finish during the first week of the festival. I was asked to write a quartet for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano - the same ensemble used by Olivier Messiaen in his Quatuor pour la fin du temps. At the same time I was given this assignment, my grandmother became very ill and had to be hospitalized after struggling for years with cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. This had a huge effect on the piece, which I decided I would make about memory.

 

I spent my formative years on twenty acres of cows, pasture, and pine trees in a small unincorporated community in McCurtain County, Oklahoma known as Union Grove.  I was surrounded by most of my extended family, including both sets of grandparents. When trying to create the music of this place I was reminded of the glorious sound of the wind blowing through thousands of pine trees, and I decided to recreate this sound with clarinet and cello. The music goes through an evolution beginning with a nostalgic melody representing memories of home and familial love, which travels through several permutations as life becomes more complicated. The piano crashes as unexpectedly as a sudden attack of dementia. The original melody tries to be recalled by the violin, but it isn’t quite right - almost as if it is no longer possible to remember.  Eventually, the original melody returns, but the harmonization is very different. Nothing can ever really be the same.