QOTD Extra: Frank Ticheli's "An American Elegy"

An American Elegy

By Frank Ticheli
Gusman Concert Hall, University of Miami, Coral Gables, March 12, 2013

Performed by the Greater Miami Symphonic Band
Conducted by Gary Green
Off-stage trumpet solo by Alan Wolfe

From the Program Notes by Frank Ticheli:

An American Elegy is, above all, an expression of hope. It was composed in memory of those who lost their lives at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, and to honor the survivors. It is offered as a tribute to their great strength and courage in the face of terrible tragedy. I hope the work can also serve as one reminder of how fragile and precious life is and how intimately connected we all are as human beings.

The work begins at the bottom of the ensemble's register, and ascends gradually to a heartfelt cry of hope. The main theme that follows, stated by the horns, reveals a more lyrical, serene side of the piece. A second theme, based on a simple repeated harmonic pattern, suggests yet another, more poignant mood. These three moods - hope, serenity, and sadness - become intertwined throughout the work, defining its complex expressive character. A four-part canon builds to a climactic quotation of the Columbine Alma Mater. The music recedes, and an offstage trumpeter is heard, suggesting a celestial voice - a heavenly message. The full ensemble returns with a final, exalted statement of the main theme.

Performance of An American Elegy:

Program Notes:


By Frank Ticheli, Pasadena
Los Angeles Times, Letters, February 20, 2018

When I composed "An American Elegy" nearly 20 years ago in response to the Columbine shooting in 1999, I thought it would be a singular episode, or at least a rare one, in our nation's history. Sadly, I am constantly reminded how wrong I was.

Nothing will improve until more lawmakers admit that the Constitution was written by mere mortals doing the best they could without benefit of a crystal ball. Those same mortals saw this themselves, thereby permitting amendments to the Constitution. In other words, they possessed a humility and wisdom that many current lawmakers seem to lack.

Commonsense gun legislation may very well save the 2nd Amendment. This may not happen in my lifetime, but I have hope that our children's generation will show more wisdom than the small-minded legislators from our generation.

"An American Elegy" has been performed frequently in response to mass shootings occurring since Columbine. I had no idea that could ever happen. I am sad about a cultural situation that makes it so.



By Don McCanne, M.D.

Today's Quote of the Day Extra requires no explanation to single payer supporters who understand and support social justice for all. Frank Ticheli's "An American Elegy" provides us with eleven minutes of contemplation that helps to fine tune our values.

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