Duration: 11 min.
Chamber Version Premiere:
February 25th, 2012
Unitarian Society of Hartford, Hartford, CT
Joshua Hall, oboe; Annalise Ohse, violin; Matt Primm, viola; Elizabeth Vysin, cello
String Orchestra Version Premiere:
February 26th & 27th, 2016
Dell Hall at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, Austin, TX
Beth Sanders, oboe, and the Austin Symphony Orchestra conducted by Peter Bay
An Invocation was commissioned by oboist Joshua Hall, a friend and colleague from the Hartt School of the University of Hartford and a student of Bert Lucarelli. The request came in the summer of 2011 with the intention that this new work be a companion piece to Mozart’s Oboe Quartet in F major, K. 370. I was initially very excited to write the piece but work proceeded slowly through the fall. As the deadline of a February performance loomed, I grew less excited about this new oboe quartet and more and more frustrated. It wasn’t until I came across a poem by Jeffery Beam, one of my favorite poets, that things turned around for me.
I’ve always found Jeffery’s work evocative. The poem in particular that inspired me this time is a litany of half statements and half responses, full of color, scent, and imagery. His lines invoke the power of nature, each of our human senses, and our collective capacity for wonder and curiosity. The poem begins:
From cedar’s green feathers / cedar’s red odor
From moss’s cool fever / earthworm’s glowing
In these first two lines, Jeffery immediately surrounds us with so much sensory information: the complimentary colors of green and red all around us, the smell of the fragrant cedar towering above us, the touch of the cool moss underneath us. In other lines, he teases the ear with jumping trout and dancing thunder and our taste buds with wild carrots and pecans. Throughout the text, there are glimpses of natural majesty, both large and small. The lines contrast flashes of happiness with moments of melancholia and with other moments of yearning, to which I react in my own An Invocation.
An Invocation can be performed with either oboe or soprano saxophone as the solo instrument. Versions of the score are available with accompaniment by string trio (the original version) or string orchestra.