Three Echoes of the Odyssey

4/7/20202 min read

On February 16, in Montreal - that is to say, on another planet and in a different era - my Three Echoes of the Odyssey were performed by two magnificent artists, percussionist Marie Josée Simard and pianist Louise Bessette. Between the intention to write about this event and sitting down to do it, coronavirus exploded on this continent - Montreal seems now as far away as the moon. It seems almost indecent to rejoice in my good luck at being able to hear my piece and share it with a blessedly appreciative audience. We were able to be with my wife Jocelyne's two daughters and their families. And we went to see a play, something I have not done in years, Dany Goudreault's haunting, magical 'Corps Célestes' at the Théâtre d'Aujourd'hui.

These Three Echoes are the culmination of a long series of experiences. Marie Josée made them the focus of her residence at Banff in January-February 2019. Wanting to make full use of her splendid instrumentarium, I did not stint! With the strategic genius of a general, she mapped out the position of the instruments, enabling her to move with breathtaking fluidity and grace from one to another, cutting and pasting the score as needed so that the required notes would be found in front of the correct instruments at the right time. The sorcery of Skype enabled me to be present when necessary, giving us a sense of onsite collaboration even when we were a continent's width away from each other.

The collaboration with Louise Bessette was also deeply rewarding and helpful; in the first of the three Echoes I was exploring the interior of the piano for the first time. Her immense experience and profound musicality were indispensable in this adventure. And the intuitive complicity of these two artists created a sense in the audience of almost visceral participation in Odysseus's adventures as I imagined them. I had the luxury of working with them for a week before the performance, and it is difficult to imagine a more rewarding experience for a composer.

In my notes on the piece I wrote: The quest of a wanderer to find a safe and welcoming harbour in a dangerous and often hostile world takes on particular poignance today. I did not realize how dangerous the world was about to become, though of course it has long been intolerably dangerous for far too many. I am deeply grateful to Marie Josée and to Louise, and to the audience who came to hear the piece... and to whatever gods made it possible for the event to happen. Wishing for a day, soon, when people will be able once again to gather to listen to and make music together, in peace and in safety.