(full orchestra, narrator) 14'00"
The stirring and eloquent words of Lincoln, Thoreau, Whitman and contemporaries frame this tribute to heroism, faithfulness, and self-sacrifice. High school, college, community ensembles.
Listen (mp3, 16.5 MB; Cannon Valley Regional Orchestra, Northfield, MN)
Score, Orch. Parts, Narrator Score: Rental, inquire for fee: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fidelitas is a work which celebrates heroism. It was co-commissioned by the Defeat of Jesse James Committee, St, Olaf College and Carleton College to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the defeat of the James gang when they attempted a bank robbery in the town on September 7, 1876. It also honors Joseph Lee Heywood, the bank teller who was murdered during the raid and whose bravery saved the small town's fortunes.
I composed Fidelitas in June and July of 2001, and it was premiered at an outdoor concert at Carleton College on September 8, 2001 with the Cannon Valley Regional Orchestra, conducted by Paul Niemisto and narrated by Will Healy. Below are the program notes from the premiere. Following the notes are selected quotes from the narration. The full narration is available for perusal, and includes the words of American writers Thoreau, Emerson, Lincoln, and Whitman, and poignant excerpts from the homily at Heywood's funeral.
Composer's Program Notes (Sept. 8, 2001):
Joseph Lee Heywood, the substitute bank teller who was murdered during the robbery exactly 125 years ago yesterday, is commemorated in a stained glass window at the United Church of Christ in Northfield. On this window is inscribed the word "Fidelitas", the Latin word from which we derive the word "fidelity" and which describes the noble character of a person who remains steadfast, honest and faithful to their purpose or calling in life.
To set the stage for the narration, three musical themes are introduced. The first is of an heroic, uplifting nature. A brief transition leads to a more tranquil, lyric melody, initially presented in the strings alone, then repeated with woodwinds. A second transition is interrupted by drums and trumpets, and a popular Civil War song, "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp", is given full treatment by the entire orchestra. This tune was chosen to symbolize the profound impact that the war had on the events which took place in Northfield more than a decade after the end of the conflict. There is ample evidence to suggest that revenge was a factor behind the Southern outlaws' targeting of Northfield for the robbery. But the violence alone which they witnessed as young men (Cole and Jim Younger's father was brutally murdered by Northern sympathizers when they were quite young; Jesse James himself at sixteen was beaten and left for dead by men who were anti-South) led to the acts of brutality in which they subsequently participated before, during and following the war. While not excusing the criminal life which the outlaws chose, it is certainly possible to see the connection.
The quotation of the Civil War tune ends in a tumult, gradually subsiding into more serene music which underscores the narration and is compiled from several sources. The initial quotations are from well-known American voices of the nineteenth century: Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman and Abraham Lincoln. These statements on morality, virtue, character and heroism segue to a musical interlude which introduces Heywood's "theme". The more substantial middle section of narration is excerpted from the eloquent discourse delivered at Heywood's funeral on September 10, 1876 by the Reverend D. L. Leonard, then pastor of the UCC church. Following the excerpt from the eulogy, this theme is heard again in a more heroic setting, leading to the final narrative which consists of further statements from the same famous Americans.
The words and music of Fidelitas should be heard as more than a tribute to one man. The composition was created to remember and celebrate all those qualities that we as humans can and should aspire to: honesty, faithfulness, self-sacrifice--essential elements in a society where people live in peace and harmony with one another.
Fidelitas Narration (selected quotes):
Our whole life is startlingly moral. There is never an instance's truce between virtue and vice. Goodness is the only investment that never fails. (Thoreau)
I understand the large hearts of heroes, the courage of present times and all times. (Whitman)
Heroism is an obedience to a secret impulse of an individual's character . . but whoso is heroic will always find crises to try his edge. Human virtue demands her champions and martyrs, and the trial of persecution always proceeds. (Emerson)
It is the eternal struggle between two principles--right and wrong--throughout the world. (Lincoln)