Carolyn’s Online Magazine
FLIGHT OF VALOR:
A MUSIC COMPOSITION COMMEMORATING FLIGHT 93
On Thursday, 10 September 2015, the Flight 93 National Memorial Visitor Center Complex will be dedicated.
Today, I’m reposting a piece I wrote posted on CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS: Flight of Valor: Honoring United Airlines Flight 93 Victims, a music composition commissioned by the Somerset County Community Band that reflects on the events of 9/11.
As the Somerset County Community Band approached its fifteenth anniversary occurring in 2004, its board discussed commissioning a celebratory piece of music to honor band director Dan Croft.
Then the United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in their “back yard.” The band’s board changed its focus on the commission from its anniversary to commemoration of the 9/11 event. In 2002 David Breen, trumpet player, invited Croft’s favorite composer, James Swearingen, from Capital University in Ohio, to compose the piece.
Jim Swearingen, a music professor, always wanted to create a composition around one of his favorite hymns, It is Well with my Soul. However, he was waiting for the right circumstance and setting.
Jim recognized this hymn as a hymn of choice because it is universally accepted during a period of grieving. “It has provided me comfort during these times.”
Then David Breen called him, asking if he would be interested in composing a piece honoring the victims of Flight 93.
“I knew immediately…it was a good idea for me to do,” said Swearingen, who doesn’t take it lightly when people ask him to write music in a grief situation.
It was in the darkening shades of evening that the Community Band played Flight of Valor during the last concert on the Diamond in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. When done, the crowd gave the Somerset Community Band, and conductor David Croft, a standing ovation.
During the course of writing the music Swearingen incorporated his impressions of the event, the greatest being that the passengers aboard this flight weren’t just ordinary citizens…in retrospect, they were like soldiers going to war. He interposed two segments of militarist march music in his piece, Flight of Valor.
While composing Flight of Valor, Swearingen met a dilemma.
“In the music there comes a point of time when the plane crashes to the ground,” he said, noting that he considered using the percussion instruments to create the feeling of the crash. But it didn’t feel right.
He posed his dilemma to his friend, George, and was surprised the response.
“Don’t do anything,” George said. “Build the tension—then do nothing. The greatest effect will be in the imagination of the people.”
Swearingen played the piece for George, as instructed.
“Do you feel it?” George said.
Swearingen realized the power in George’s comments, and realized that his friend was correct.
“Don’t spoon-feed your audience,” George continued. “Let them imagine it.”
The Somerset County Community Band performed Flight of Valor at the Flight 93 crash site at 2:00 p. m. on Sunday, September 11, following the Memorial Dedication service.
*http://www.somersetcountyband.com/page4.html and band member Dave Breen