Initial Memories (A Divertimento for Organ and Wind Quintet) was commissioned in 2014 by Indiana University of Pennsylvania in honor of IUP’s newly installed Ronald G. Pogorzelski and Lester D. Yankee Memorial Organ and is dedicated to the memory of Messrs. Pogorzelski and Yankee. The prime mover in both securing this American pipe organ and commissioning Initial Memories was IUP’s Assistant Professor of Organ and Keyboard, Christine Clewell. It was a distinct pleasure to work with Dr. Clewell on this commission and I thank her for her valuable assistance.
In four movements, Initial Memories is approximately seventeen minutes in length. It was composed during the summer of 2014 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and received its World Premiere on 7 November 2015 at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA. “Divertimento” is an Italian word meaning “to amuse.” It designates a popular musical genre rooted in the 18th century. The term originally connoted a multi-movement composition for small ensemble that was intended to entertain. Divertimenti from the later 18th century up to our own time could also be serious in nature and many have resembled dance suites. Like those early dance suites, where all movements were rooted in the same tonality, each of the four movements of Initial Memories is based on “F”.
Initial Memories celebrates the 2-manual and pedal, 24-stop, 21-rank tracker action pipe organ built by R.J. Brunner & Company in 1991 for Mr. Pogorzelski’s and Mr. Yankee’s private residence in Bucks County, PA. The organ was inspired by the early Pennsylvania German organs of David Tannenberg (1728–1804). The organ’s casework is gilded in 22-karat gold leaf. The instrument was a gift from the estate of Mr. Pogorzelski and Mr. Yankee to the National Headquarters of the American Guild of Organists in New York City. By a competitive national selection process, IUP was chosen to house the organ on a special leasing arrangement. It was installed in the Daniel DiCicco Rehearsal Hall at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in May 2014, where it will be used for both teaching and performance.
Because I am a composer who has always been inspired by extra-musical stimuli, I was delighted to discover that there are many significant American writers whose lives and work have been, like this organ, rooted in the State of Pennsylvania. Thus, each movement of Initial Memories is inspired and titled by a quote from a different Pennsylvania author. The instrumentation of the piece is for organ and wind quintet (Flute [C], Oboe, Clarinet [Bb], Horn [F] and Bassoon). Although the suggested registrations are for a two-manual organ, the piece is easily adaptable to a larger instrument.
The impetus for the tonality of “F” for each movement came from the first American popular song to be written by an American woman, The Blue Juniata. With words and music by Mrs. M.D. Sullivan, her 1841 The Blue Juniata celebrates the Susquehanna River’s Pennsylvania tributary, the Juniata River. That same river would, years later, also inspire Pennsylvania writer Malcolm Cowley to title his 1968 publication, Blue Juniata: Collected Poems. It seemed only befitting that Mrs. Sullivan’s jovial melody be at the heart of Initial Memories. Although it is hardly necessary for a listener to hear them in order to enjoy the piece, the initials of several of the writers who words inspired this work are remembered by note codes throughout the composition, giving rise to the title, Initial Memories.
1. Prologue (“…the wonder of earth…” – Pearl S. Buck)
Since it was Mr. Pogorzelski and Mr. Yankee’s desire that their pipe organ gift be placed in the secular setting of a university environment, it seemed only appropriate for the first movement of Initial Memories to be titled by an excerpt from Pennsylvania author, Pearl S. Buck: “I feel no need for any other faith than my faith in the kindness of human beings. I am so absorbed in the wonder of earth and the life upon it that I cannot think of heaven and angels.”
In three sections, the spirit of this opening movement is that of an overture and, with its dotted rhythms, it recalls the majestic opening section of the French overture. Although obscured by different rhythms and octave displacement, the pitch material throughout the movement is that of Mrs. M.D. Sullivan’s popular song, The Blue Juniata.
2. Dialogue (“…the past became a music…” – Malcolm Cowley)
The written correspondence of Pennsylvania writers Malcolm Cowley and Kenneth Burke from 1915-1981 has been documented in a 1988 Viking publication, The Selected Correspondence of Kenneth Burke and Malcolm Cowley. The lively dialogue between these two lifelong friends puts forth their personal, national and world reflections on the realities of their day.
Reflecting the energy from much of this correspondence, the second movement of Initial Memories is marked “fast and energetic” and is characterized by dialogues between the wind quintet and organ throughout. The melodic material of the movement consists of the initials of the two writers: F/C (Malcolm Cowley) and D/B-flat (Kenneth Burke).
3. Hymn (“…May beauty thus create…” – Donald L. Clapper)
A verse from a 1979 four-stanza hymn text by Donald L. Clapper, O God of All Creation, serves as the textual stimulus for this lyrical third (and longest) movement of Initial Memories. For decades a beloved musician in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, area until his death in 2012, Mr. Clapper served Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Harrisburg for forty-three years as Minister of Music and it was on the occasion of his 25th anniversary in the service of this church that he wrote this hymn text.
Following a brief organ introduction on the pitches D/C (Donald Clapper), the opening hymn-like music is first presented by the organ alone. The wind quintet follows with its own full statement of the same music. The organ then enters with a variant of the lyrical material, but with the main melodic component inverted. As before, the wind quintet then enters to mirror the organ’s statement. As the development of the main hymn-like material continues, the organ and wind quintet come together and, eventually, build to a large and expansive climax. The movement concludes with a short, gentle, reflective section for organ and wind quintet recalling the introduction.
(N.B. Following my initial sketch of the short four-part hymn-like idea that became the basis of this movement, I discovered that, with some alterations to my music, the first stanza text of Mr. Clapper’s hymn would fit beautifully. That setting, sung first by a soprano soloist then by a four-part choir, is offered in the score to Initial Memories as an optional beginning to this movement.)
4. Dance (“…dance across the page…” – Stephen Vincent Benet)
From the poem, Before an Examination, included in his 1917 collection, Campus Sonnets, Pennsylvania writer Stephen Vincent Benet’s words were a most befitting inspiration for the frolicking final movement of Initial Memories.
As with the three previous movements, the fourth and final movement, Dance, is centered on “F”. Mid-way through the movement, however, The Blue Juniata melody, so obscured in the first movement, is now clearly heard as it is playfully tossed back and forth within the wind quintet and between the wind quintet and organ. Here tonalities shift to “A” then to “G” before exuberantly concluding in “F”. Through another note code, the two tonality shifts celebrate the influential American organization that gifted this beautiful pipe organ to IUP, the American Guild of Organists (AGO – A/G/A).
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
1. 2’ 30”
2. 3’ 00”
3. 7’ 30”
4. 3’ 30”
Total duration = ca. 17 minutes