A symphony is born

First Person

February 04, 2007|By Timothy Hogan

What turned out to be some of the most turbulent days in modern American history - a time of great suffering, uncertainty, fear and paranoia - gave birth to a musical work that provided artistic refuge to me as a Maryland composer.

On the day the country experienced the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, I and another artist began scripting the Day of Sorrow Symphony, which was not a musical work that I could have ever imagined, conceived or planned previously.

Though the classical score has been described as beautiful and remorseful, yet an emotionally uplifting work by the select few who have heard it, it was a philharmonic work that I would have rather not existed, or at least not under the tragic circumstances that originally gave birth to it.

I was on my way to work at the Senator Theatre that morning. I was headed to the box office for the morning count, as was my regular duty, when one of my managers ran up and told me the news.

The World Trade Center had been struck by two planes, the Pentagon was on fire, and it seemed the country was under terrorist attack.

As we had been accustomed to playing elaborate pranks on each other at the theater, my first reaction was disbelief. But as I turned on the television, I slowly began to wake up to the painful reality.

I was sent home that day, relieved of what then had become frivolous responsibilities. I sat at home, glued to the news stations, speechless, along with close family friend and fellow composer Chris Taylor.

As the days went by, we talked about how we could channel what we were seeing and feeling into music.

Sitting in front of a grand piano and keyboard, my friend and I were moved by what we saw.

Within a week, we completed Day of Sorrow Symphony, an epic classical philharmonic work. We had first debated titling it Unwritten Stories because its creation felt effortless.

We had no commercial interest for this work, nor intentions of making it available to the public.

It, however, was given to a local librarian by a friend who had heard it.

We played a brief rendition of the movements All Comes to an End and Will We Ever Know, which are part of the entire score, at the downtown Enoch Pratt Free Library, on the one-year anniversary of the attacks. It received a standing ovation.

We have not played it since and did not pursue efforts to have it played by a symphony orchestra. There was a suggestion that we submit it to the city, or to the White House. But we never did.

As I am now artistically removed enough from this work today, perhaps its historical significance as a work has begun to take on a new life for me.

It was created in Maryland by two African-American unknown composers and it was completed a week after the events of Sept. 11. Its emotional impact was then and still is fresh.

Perhaps one day such a classical work - should it reach a larger public venue - will become a tribute and commemorating anthem of that day for future generations.

Timothy Hogan, 33, is a native Washingtonian who lives in Baltimore. Write him at myartistwriter@yahoo.com

To hear excerpts from Day of Sorrow Symphony, go to baltimoresun.com/symphony.

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