For Violoncello and Orchestra
David Sampson (1994)
As I look back over the works I have written in the past
twenty years, I find that many have been created to honor a person or
event. Examples are: Simple Lives - a celebration of the focused,
pure living of my grandmother and her sisters; In Time - a memorial
to those that risked and lost their lives at Tiananmen Square; Three
Portraits - musical sketches of my good friend, Scott Mendoker;
Hommage: JFK - a fanfare for John F. Kennedy; and Monument
- ruminations on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.
While these subjects were deeply inspirational to me,
the event which dominates all others was the killing of my brother,
William Evan Sampson, by the Ku Klux Klan and American Nazis at a demonstration
in Greensboro, N.C. on November 3, 1979. Although the killing of Bill
and five others was done in full view of T.V. news cameras, and the
murderers were known local residents, it took three agonizing trials
before a small amount of justice was done.
For years, my normal life including composition
fell by the wayside as I and the people around me grasped for
some explanation and a path through the whirlwind of painful images.
When I did write again, I avoided even an attempt at expressing the
intense and complex emotions following November 3rd.
Finally, in May of 1981, I wrote a work titled In Memoriam:
W.E.S. A series of works followed including Morning Music, Distant
Voices and Winter Ceremony. What I began to notice was that
each new work, even the ones that did not specifically focus on Bill’s
murder, seemed to grow out of the trauma in Greensboro. The impact reverberated
in all aspects of my life.
In 1993, when I was awarded a commission by Paul Tobias
and his organisation New Heritage Productions, the Bergen Foundation
and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, I first created Three Arguments
for unaccompanied cello, which was again an intense revisiting of fourteen
years earlier. When Turns was begun, I was exhausted from facing
Greensboro. So, I looked to the most positive aspect of my present life:
my family. Turns is a celebration of the support and unflinching
love my wife, Christine, and two sons, Ben and Mark, have given to me
for over twenty years. This music reflects a struggle to reaffirm life
and family and to allow wounds to heal, despite past traumas, despite
Greensboro. Although not without its moments of inward reflection, it
portrays strength, love and fulfillment.
Following is a brief description of Turns: The
cello begins the first movement alone creating an atmosphere of intimacy
and longing. Various orchestra voices enter gradually commenting on
the cello statements. When the strings signal the end of the introduction
by a gentle rhythmic accompaniment, the cello begins a long soliloquy
using a motive which is continually transformed climaxing in a rise
into the highest register of the cello.
A rhythmic variation on the motive follows, propelling
the work to an even higher sense of urgency mixed with playfulness and
whimsy. One more thematic statement by the cello in octaves signals
the end of the movement which then quickly relaxes into repose.
The second movement also begins with cello alone, but
this time entirely pizzicato. Pizzicato is the most percussive pitched
sound available to the cello and gives an impression of a voice lost.
Even though the lines played by the cello are lyrical, the natural lack
of resonance give the notes a constrained quality.
As the cello finishes this section, a tremendous crescendo
from the orchestra empowers the soloist. The bow is added and the cello
repeats the motive heard before as pizzicato with soaring strength.
This continues on with a cocky, playful section distinguished by conversations
between the soloist and orchestra.
After this scene is played out, the cello hints back to
the pizzicato introduction. This time the instrument, though quiet,
is full-voiced and empowered. There is a sense, though, that it wishes
for a time past. This leads back into the playful material and then
fades into another hint of the pizzicato beginning.
The third movement is an energetic fireball right from
the beginning and never lets up. The form is rondo with a theme first
heard in the cello returning again and again, each time with a slightly
different orchestral accompaniment. The work ends with one last flurry
from the cello and an emphatic cadence.
download .doc file