Half Notes: Will There Be Singing
In a recent conversation, the composer of “Will There Be Singing” explained: “I do not try to deliver a social or political message through my music, yet I have to say that when I sat down to compose ‘Will There Be Singing,’ world events were creating in me a turbulent anxiety that I could not help but express in my work.”
Times were dark for Christopher Cerrone, both figuratively and literally, as he worked on this haunting piece. It was 2017, in Oregon. The skies were black that summer with smoke from the fires that were devouring vast tracts of pristine wilderness. On the political horizon, he saw even darker clouds forming, both here in the U.S. and abroad. The word “hope” did not come easily to his lips.
Nor to his music. As he tried to compose in this environment, Cerrone decided that he could not run from the darkness, but would have to meet it head on. And so, in “Will There Be Singing,” he strives to work through the turbulent anxiety of these times, not by offering a musical escape from the turbulence, but by jumping into it with both feet, with no assurance that he will emerge.
And he has the audacity to invite us to join him.
From the very start of the piece, the unease and the dissonance are palpable. Gradually, two chords emerge, alternating back and forth, like rhythmic breathing. But this is not the calm inhale/exhale of zen meditation; it is a frantic breath, like someone fighting to remain calm amid the tension.
Through the first half of the composition, the tension increases. The breathing becomes more erratic, until it suddenly ceases and there is a moment of apparent reprieve. But the ominous tone soon resumes and builds, first with a high screeching, then with strings, percussion, and horn. It builds to a climax and then suddenly ends in an abrupt and surprising way.
Listen to “Will There Be Singing” with cautious ears and a strong heart. The piece does not bring solace. It does not comfort. It does not offer a panacea or an escape from dark times. It wades into the darkness, hoping for hope, and coming up short. Are we fools, it asks, we who nurture hearts of hope?
“Will There Be Singing” does not answer that question for us. It challenges us to answer the question for ourselves.
– Dan Lory
Hear Will There Be Singing at CCO’s Oct 26 concert at St James cathedral: MORE INFO AND TICKETS
By popular demand, once again we are offering our series called Half-Notes. Half-Notes are reflections by Dan Lory, CCO’s non-expert in residence, on each of the compositions performed in our concert.
Dan Lory calls himself a music lover who is unencumbered by knowledge of music theory. Enjoy Dan’s take on each piece that will be performed at CCO’s October 26 concert. We think these reflections will help all listeners—from music experts to the theory-unencumbered among us—enjoy the concert more fully.