Mark O'Connor and Patrice Jackson; Double Concerto for violin, cello and orchestra (For the Heroes)

Mark O'Connor and Patrice Jackson; Double Concerto for violin, cello and orchestra (For the Heroes)
Mark O'Connor - Violin
Patrice Jackson - Cello
Double Concerto for violin, cello and orchestra (For the Heroes)

Three movements - 35 min.
Instrumentation - 2222/4221/timp/perc/pno/harp/strings

Download free orchestral score below

Double Concerto For Violin and Cello
(For The Heroes)

Program Notes

I began composing "Double Concerto For Violin and Cello" (For The Heroes) within a month after the 9/11 attacks.  "Folk Mass," which was composed in 2002, features text from the Old Testament.  I consider "Folk Mass a much more direct artistic response to that horrific event.) "For the Heroes" was my intuitive response -- one that embodies the American optimism usually found in my work.  While much of my music pays tribute to historical, basic American values, this time I strove to create truly heroic overtones to reflect the times.  

I was scheduled for a 30-city tour with a chamber music orchestra commencing just days after the attacks. While many people were frightened to travel (or even to go to the mall), not one of the 22 musicians in the orchestra requested leave of the tour.

It is interesting to think of musicians as courageous, but in those dark days, these talented and dedicated players were ready to hit the road.  I think we all felt it was our responsibility to take some music to the people around the country.  It was a way we could help.  At the time, musicians were looking for ways we could respond as citizens of the world.  

It was just these feelings that inspired this new music.

It was during that 30-city tour performing my 4th concerto, "The American Seasons," that I began to write the 5th concerto, "Double Concerto for Violin and Cello."  When doubt was cast on the availability of reliable scheduled air travel, I rented my own bus to move across the country.  It would get me from place to place.  Traveling by bus offered me the time to concentrate on writing the music and, at the same time, served as inspiration.  I was able to watch our grand American landscape pass by me, mile after mile, as we traveled through the heart of the country.  

This odyssey was revelatory.  We were musicians, to be sure, but we were also a kind of American foot soldier.  We were doing what we could to ease the pain people were feeling and expressing in those uneasy days.   We were playing distinctly American music, and people were responding in remarkable ways.

About a week into the tour, we played in New York City.  The incredible heroism of the rescue workers (yet to know the grim duration of their task), has a tremendous impact as I composed to reflect all I was feeling.  As we prepared to bring "The American Seasons" to Avery Fisher Hall, a New York firefighter contacted me and told me I had fans in the department.  He told me how music was becoming solace to so many as they worked.   I made arrangements for a number of firefighters to come to the concert and met with them that evening.  I also invited a group of young musicians from Harlem (from the Opus 118 program) to join me on stage to perform.  We closed with "Amazing Grace" and "We Shall Overcome."   There was not a dry eye in the house.   After the concert, the firefighters invited me to join them at an Irish pub.  Being in the midst of all these incredible souls through this emotional evening was an experience I will never forget.  

The firefighters offered to take me to Ground Zero.  But I couldn't bear to go.

The husband of a violinist friend was a doctor on the scene at Ground Zero in the first 24 hours. He felt it his duty to be there, but he advised his wife to stay away.  There would be things she, as a musician, could do… but not there.  Not at Ground Zero.

Famed dancer and choreographer, Twyla Tharp, offered me the same advice.  Artists, she said, are very sensitive. They can't help other people if their spirits are broken.  I did not go to Ground Zero for several months.

Twyla Tharp is an inspiration, to be sure, but she is also a collaborating partner, as well,  having choreographed a dance called "Westerly Rounds" to my 2nd violin concerto.  It was on beautiful fall day that her dancers performed "Westerly Rounds" on a temporary stage set up at the Twin Towers.  It was the last artistic performance there before the towers fell on 9/11.

In the days after 9/11, New York was transformed, as the city, the country and the world struggled to understand what had happened.  Performances were canceled.  All Broadway theaters went dark.  In a powerful symbolic moment, Yo-Yo Ma walked onto the stage at Carnegie Hall to break New York's artistic silence.  The master cellist and musical hero played my "Appalachia Waltz" for this purpose.

That period of time, these artists and the role music played during those days inspired the music of this concerto.  I wanted to write this concerto to include cello and to dedicate it to Yo-Yo Ma.

I don't know what kept placing an American fiddler in New York City during those tragically memorable days, but it was a series of experiences that would change my music forever.  

A year after 9/11, I wrote a darker and much more dissonant and introspective piece with my composition "The Fallen," for flute and strings.  As I look at these pieces in chronological  retrospect, I realize it was my immediate reaction to the events that seemed the most optimistic…almost a celebration of the goodness in people responding to a very bad thing.  During those times when some people felt the world was falling apart around them, it was the celebration of the enduring human spirit that ended up influencing me most profoundly.  For this reason, "Double Concerto for Violin and Cello" is for the heroes.

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updated 3 years ago