The Night Gatherers, 2004 (14′)
for viola and string quartet
The Night Gatherers was commissioned by my friend, whose grandmother had recently died. It is a memorial work, written (as the dedication reads) “for the M_____ family, in memory of J— and B—“. The dedication is telling; it is meant for the family, as a piece of art that reflects not just their loss, but more significantly, the life of a woman (the family matriarch) whom they all loved and the ways in which her spirit will continue to live on in the family, particularly in her granddaughter. J— was a wonderful painter, and it seemed natural to use her artwork as a way into her life. One painting, in particular, stood out: an image of women gathering the leftover wheat from a threshed field, after the working day was over, struggling to help support their families, giving of themselves, wholly and selflessly. J— was a strong woman in an era where female strength was not prized; she was an artist when that was even more of a male-dominated field than it is today. I can tell that she was strong from having met the family, and from my relationship with her granddaughter, an excellent musician and a good friend. Chamber music, for me, is often associated with issues surrounding life and death, and this work helped me to close the book on a certain chapter of my compositional life; instead of writing ceaselessly for myself, I was asked to write something for a group of people who needed an anchor for their emotions. Moving outside of myself was, in fact, incredibly healing; to know that my music could serve a function for others (as it has for me) is heartening and inspiring, and I deeply appreciate the opportunity I was given to share this experience with a warm and caring group of people.