it perched for vespers nine
“Puckett’s motet is a real find.”Gramophone
commissioned by the American Bandmasters Association
My wife’s grandfather was an extraordinary man. He was an immigrant who walked around quoting poetry and whistling tunes from his childhood in Scotland. Like a character from a movie he always seemed to pull just the right verse for the occasion.
In the spring of 2007, he fell into a coma following a severe stroke. After weeks of being in this state he awoke and said:
In mist or cloud…
…On mast or shroud
It perched for Vespers nine.
Whiles all the night…
…Through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white moon-shine.
These were the final words of a man who always chose the right words. Within the hour he was gone. Not recognizing the verse, I immediately ran to Google to decipher what message the old man could have been delivering.
The verse is from the famous poem of condemnation and redemption, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The poem is the story of a mariner condemned to travel the earth telling his tale of hubris and punishment in search of redemption. The mariner shot an albatross for no other reason than he felt like it and then suffered the wrath of both death and living-death for his gall.
The verse my wife’s grandfather quoted is the verse immediately before the one containing the ill-fated murder of the albatross. As they say, the calm before the coming storm.
My work entitled, “It perched for Vespers nine,” on a surface level engages the imagery from the verse itself. But at the emotional core of the work is my trying to work out what my wife’s Pop Pop might have been trying to tell us about what awaits us “In mist or cloud”.
It perched for Vespers nine was commissioned by the American Bandmasters and the University of Florida. The work was premiered by the Michigan State Wind Ensemble with Matt Smith conducting and the east coast premiere was given by the University of Florida Wind Ensemble with David Waybright conducting.
Recording from UNCG with Kevin Geraldi conducting
2 Alto Saxophones
1 Tenor Saxophone
1 Baritone Saxophone