Wars start with calls to arms, and end with memorials.
One such call to arms was a march attributed to Henry Purcell during the revolution of 1688. Called Liliburlero, it became very popular in the English barracks, an anti-Jacobite song deriding the Irish Catholics.
Sir Richard Rodney wrote The Liliburlero Variations for two pianos - a Dranoff 2 Piano commission - based on that historical piece.
Memorial Day originated in Decoration Day when the graves of American Civil War soldiers were “decorated” with flowers. Charles Ives was born eight years after Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. Charles Ives’ father, George, served as the Union army’s youngest bandleader. From an early age, Charles Ives was surrounded by American vernacular music, all influences that found their way into Ives’ music.
Composed in 1912, the orchestral tone poem forms the second movement of Ives’ New England Holidays Symphony. Decoration Day unfolds as a stream of fleeting dream images. Nostalgia and childhood memories blend with the lament of the dead. The hazy sonic collage includes fragments of Adeste Fideles, the Dies irae, and the Civil War tunes, Marching Through Georgia and Tenting on the Old Camp Ground. At times, amid disintegrating tonality, the music resembles a late Mahler adagio. A hushed statement of the mournful bugle call, Taps, emerges over intimations of Nearer, My God, to Thee in the strings. A spirited rendition of the Second Regiment Quickstep attempts to return us to the world of the living. Yet, after the raucous final chord of the march, lingering ghosts remain. The final bars drift away with a serene plagal cadence. [Credit: Timothy Judd, The Listeners’ Club Blog]
These two pieces signify beginning and end, the exuberance of hubris and the contemplation of loss.
The Dranoff2 Piano