It was in the fall of 1981 that I first met Roger Hannay. I was a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and full of nerve as I climbed the steps of Hill Hall to Roger’s studio and announced my intention to study composition with him. He summarily dismissed me and informed me not to return until I had learned my music theory. So it was that I waited, and studied theory, and approached Roger’s studio once more in the fall of 1983. With a bit more humility, I now asked to study composition. This time, I was invited into the studio and began my formal training as a composer.
It was the fall of 1985 when I received the first of many letters from Roger. Although now living in Bloomington, Indiana and later, Cleveland, Ohio as I continued my graduate work in composition, I remained in close contact with my former teacher who never, it seems, tired of hearing my music or dispensing fatherly advice. It was the fall of 1995 when I contacted Roger about my first academic appointment as a professional composer. That fall, and many others after, Roger continued to take an interest in my career. Messages became more frequent with the advent of email and soon, Roger was visiting me in person – still advising; still teaching.
It was in the fall of 2005 that I received my last email from Roger. Of course, I did not know this at the time. I meant to respond back to him but by this time my days were full of classes, composing, performing and learning how to be a husband to my wife, a father to my children and a teacher to young composition students who looked a lot like I did in the fall of 1981. I learned of Roger’s death in early January, 2006 and not only mourned the passing of one of the great musical figures of my life but anguished over the unanswered email that still resides on my hard drive to this day. This email ended, as all his messages to me ended, with the words “more later…” These haunted words have taken on a new meaning for me as I contemplate Roger’s life and my very small part of his living legacy. As I hear his words coming out of my mouth during a composition lesson with an impossibly young student, I realize that Roger gave me so much that there will always be more later for me to draw upon. Moreover, my faith instructs me that there is more to life than the brief and precious moments we spend on this earth. There will come a time when I know that I will encounter Roger again.
To honor Roger’s memory, this work features two solo voices, viola and cello, that alternately, in my mind, represent the relationships between teacher and student as well as one living in the world and one beyond this life. The piece begins with a solo statement by the cello followed by a solo statement by the viola. At the point where both instruments play together for the first time, I have quoted a composition by Roger entitled The Pied Piper originally written in 1975 for clarinet and tape. I use this particular work due to my very personal connection to the music. It was the very first piece of contemporary music I ever performed and through working on the piece, I felt that I got to know my teacher even better. It was also the piece I chose to perform at a memorial concert honoring Roger in the spring of 2006. I have entitled this work, autumn, chapel hill because I will forever remember Roger on a bright autumn morning, in his studio on the campus of UNC in Chapel Hill, removing his motorcycle helmet and launching into some fascinating discourse. For those of us who live within the cycles of the Academy, the autumn always signals a new beginning; a fresh start. When thinking about Roger, I am forever in the moment of autumn, at the edge of the new beginning and I know that there will always be “more, later…”