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I. Sprague Smith Sonorities - preview score
II. The Blessed Path - preview score
III. The Place Where Our Eyes Meet Again - preview score
Commissioned by Magnetic South; A Contemporary Music Series sponsored by the College of Charleston and the Charleston Symphony, Dr. Yiorgos Vassilandonakis, Director. Dedicated to the memory of my mother Beatrice Demos Sotis (1935 – 2012). May Her Memory Be Eternal.
The title of this work is adapted from a quote I read in The Rest Is Noise, the excellent book on 20th Century music written by Alex Ross. In chapter three of the book, Mr. Ross quotes the Princesse de Polignac, née Winnaretta Singer (heiress to the Singer sewing machine fortune) who, in describing a Bach chorale states, "...[it] reconstituted the past, and proves to us that we had a reason for living on this rock; to live in the beautiful kingdom of sounds." Originally, the “kingdoms” I planned to write about were my personal locations over time and how these locations affect my “sounds.” However, during the composition of the piece, my mother fell ill and died. This event had an enormous impact on me and significantly altered the composition. In dealing with my emotions, it was inevitable, and perhaps therapeutic, to reorient my thematic concepts for the piece around the memory my mother.
I retained the name, Beautiful Kingdoms. Now, however, these “kingdoms” refer to the periods of time; specifically the time we have on this earth, the time of our death and a time that is to follow. The first movement, Sprague Smith Sonorities, was completed while I was a Fellow in residence at the MacDowell Artists Colony in Peterborough, NH. Sprague Smith was the name of my studio. Near the end of my time at MacDowell, I received word of my mother’s critical illness. I was able to complete the movement before returning home but was obviously very troubled while composing. In retrospect, this movement has come to represent a “kingdom” of time that is microcosm of our time here on this earth. Although I was elated to be at the colony, the news of my mother’s health cast a pall over the otherwise joyous period. The movement represents the bittersweet reality that we live with both tremendous joys and deep sorrows that often exist simultaneously. The music itself bristles with energy and tension as it seeks to depict these conflicting emotions.
The second movement, The Blessed Path, was written after my mother’s death. The character of the music contrasts significantly with the first movement. The entire movement is built upon a sadly sweet Byzantine Hymn chanted within the Funeral Service of the Greek Orthodox Christian Church. This hymn, Makaria h OdoV (Makaria I Odos), is very brief containing the following text: “Blessed is the way wherein you walk today, for there is prepared for you a place of rest.” The “kingdom” of time I seek to describe in this movement concerns itself with the immediacy of death. This is a period of existence the departed one experiences prior to the general Day of Judgment and Second Coming of Christ. Where does the soul go? Moreover, how do we, left behind, grapple with loss?
The final movement, The Place Where Our Eyes Meet Again, concerns itself with fervent belief among Christians that at some point in the future, with the return of Christ, a new “kingdom” of time will be ushered forth: a time that knows no sunset. It will be a time wherein we are physically reunited with all those who we were separated from in this life. The music, therefore, is buoyant and triumphal in nature throughout.