• John Harbison
  • Exequien for Calvin Simmons (1982)

  • Associated Music Publishers Inc (World)
  • afl.bcl/vib/pf/2va.vc
  • 6 min

Programme Note

Composer note:

Exequien for Calvin Simmons was composed in August of 1982, shortly after I learned of the death of Calvin Simmons at 32 from drowning. It was not a piece I planned. I was composing a scene in a ballet, where the protagonist enters the underworld, but the shade I kept meeting was Calvin, a hero of our time, not of ancient times. I composed this Exequien as a going-out for him, based on that ‘meeting’; the music shared material with the ballet but does not belong in it.

All memorials are in some way self-serving, since we are also feeling sorry for ourselves, I first encountered Calvin when he called and asked for a piece to play with his Oakland Symphony. He is still the only conductor of a full time professional orchestra with whom I have had this experience (it became a yearly event), and when he did perform my music, he did with devotion and flair. He established links to many composers, to young American performers, and to new listeners. He lived joyously, with abandon, for the present. Even my short pieces, so immediate in response, couldn’t escape his buoyancy, and became a measure for slow dance rather than a dirge.

--John Harbison