Notes from a World Premiere

blog3From composer Shannon Wood regarding our upcoming world premiere of his composition “The Battle of Put-in-Bay, from the Battle of Lake Erie.”

Battle of Put-in-Bay, commissioned by Gannon University’s Erie Chamber Orchestra, celebrates the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie (also known as the Battle of Put-in-Bay).

The composition opens with off-stage trumpets, a call to arms, and canon-like bass drum gun-shot bursts far off in the distance. The pizzicato strings in 5/8 depict Brig Lawrence off to battle, led by US Commander O. H. Perry, who is represented by the marimba melody. The looming 7/8 section battered by percussion is R. H. Barclay, the Royal Navy’s Commander. A plodding 7/4 section titled Age of Muskets symbolizes how slow and strenuous battle could be, especially during a time when firing power was not very accurate. Hand-held muskets had to be fired at close range and the black powder smoke resulting from the firing clouded vision and disoriented soldiers. The cadenza, titled Superior Heavy Metal (Theodore Roosevelt’s words used to attribute the American victory) is a firing drum set solo depicting the Battle of Put-in- Bay. During the battle, Brig Lawrence was badly damaged and despite Commander Perry’s guiding banner maxim, “Don’t give up the ship,” he abandoned his ship with a few surviving men and boated to nearby Brig Niagara, which was still in capable condition. He raised his flag and fired away. A grand maestoso summons his later penned victory words, “We have seen our enemy and they are ours.”

A slightly sullen leitmotif and brusque ending titled Grasping for Heroes leaves the listener a bit adrift expressing the sentiment of a war that many felt didn’t have to be, a war that most seem to have forgotten, and a war that most, even today, don’t quite understand.

Still and all, Battle of Put-in-Bay celebrates a victory, a call to arms, our bravery in standing up to a world power, our citizenship, our independence.


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