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Love and Light

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Brian Balmages

Brian Balmages


General Info

Year: 2020
Duration: c. 13:35
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Canzonique Music Co.
Cost: Score and Parts - Available Summer 2021


Instrumentation

Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III (I div. a2)
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III-IV
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Bass Trombone
Euphonium (div. a2)
Tuba
String Bass
Piano
Timpani
Percussion (5 players), including:

  • Bar Chimes
  • Bass Drum
  • Bells
  • Chimes
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Crotales
  • Marimba
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tam-tam
  • Tom-tom (medium)
  • Triangle
  • Vibraphone
  • Xylophone


Errata

None discovered thus far.


Program Notes

It only makes sense to start with a letter by Elizabeth Elliott, the very person who spearheaded this entire project.

On November 8th, 2018, our daughter Madison Hope Elliott was born. Her heart had stopped beating the day before and I labored for 12 hours to get to hold her for the first and last time that day. It was the worst and best day of our lives. If you’ve never kissed your child goodbye forever in a hospital room or held your child’s lifeless body in your arms, or felt the deep dark hole that losing a child leaves in your heart, then I hope you never do.

While I was in labor, knowing that it was just the beginning of our pain, I knew I wanted to commission a piece for her. I didn’t want Madison’s name to be forgotten. She made me a mom for the first time. After we left the hospital and word spread about what happened, many people reached out to us. Oftentimes people wanted to help us but didn’t know what to say. Stillbirth isn’t openly discussed. It happens to one percent of babies born in the United States. That translates to 24,000 stillborn babies a year. The number is much higher when you include the one in four pregnancies that are lost due to miscarriage, and the many infants that are lost due to SIDS and other causes. For tragedies like this, there really are no words.

Turning to music for comfort was just the natural thing for me to do. It took a few months for me to mourn and grieve and finally crawl out of my pit long enough to start reaching out to composers. It was around January of 2019, after talking with Brian Balmages, that I knew I had found the right person. He understood the gravity of this piece and how far reaching and healing it would be for so many families.

We announced the project a little while later, and the response we received was overwhelming. We heard from people all over the country and the world who wanted to be a part of it. Once we saw the overwhelming response, my first reaction was a sense of responsibility to all of those families to whom this mattered so much and to make this project the best it could possibly be. After speaking to Col. Esch at the “Pershing’s Own” about the piece, he graciously agreed that The United States Army Band had to be the group to premiere it.

I am so thankful for all the people who made this possible. To Brian –who really spent a lot of time preparing his heart to be ready to write this piece; to Col. Esch for being so open to this project; to Rachel Maxwell (who hosted the 501c3 nonprofit to help us fund this project); to all of the family, friends, parents, and ensemble directors that joined this consortium and saw its importance; and of course to the incredibly talented and warm musicians of the “Pershing’s Own” for their openness to this vision.

I know that this piece will help so many families now and into the future. While Love and Light is for my daughter Madison, it is also for all the babies in heaven that we have lost. But most importantly, it is for the parents. I believe that God sent this music down to Earth to comfort us mommies and daddies that are still in pain every day, just trying to learn how to live a life without their child. Nothing can take away the pain of losing a child, but time eventually reveals the“ Love and Light” on the other side.

–Elizabeth Elliott, 24 January 2020


How does a composer tackle something like this? And why would a composer tackle something like this? Elizabeth contacted me about the piece during a very emotional time in my life (more on that another time -- this piece is not about me). We exchanged countless phone calls, texts and emails. And after some time, it became clear to me that I was meant to do this piece. I was in the process of converting to Catholicism (Elizabeth is also Catholic) and had recently read Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Artists. I realized this music was meant to tackle three impossible questions, and so with the help and guidance of faith, I decided to see where the music would guide me.

Love and Light is in three sections. The first section asks the question “What does unconditional love sound like?” Not temporary love, but full-on unconditional love. Then the second question -- “What does it sound like when that unconditional love is shattered?” I intentionally use the word “shattered” instead of “broken,” because unconditional love is never broken. But events in our lives do come along that shatter our emotions and cause tremendous amounts of pain. What does that sound like?

And finally, the last and most difficult question. “What does it sound like when a child first sees the face of God?” I spent countless hours thinking about this, praying about it, and searching for the sounds that seemed to make sense of it all. The answer I came up with makes sense to me, and hopefully it will make sense to the listener as well. While there are massive moments, I realized it all began with a very intimate, personal and quiet encounter.

There are several musical elements used throughout the piece. Some will recognize subtle use of “alleluia, alleluia” from All Creatures of Our God and King throughout the work -- used in hopeful, mournful, and angry settings. In addition, Elizabeth shared with me that she used to play Ben Folds’ The Luckiest on the piano to her daughter every day during her pregnancy. Before the funeral, Elizabeth actually reached out to Ben Folds knowing it was impossible that he would be able to attend the funeral. However, he wound up sending her a framed picture of the sheet music to The Luckiest on his own piano along with an inscription:

To Maddie -- your mother used to play this song to you because you made her feel like the luckiest mom. Every time she plays it now, it will be in memory of you, her little angel in heaven.

I decided that I wanted to write a lullaby that would be a unifying element throughout the piece. This original lullaby is loosely based on the chord progressions in Ben’s piece, and is present throughout the work, including a comforting, triumphant and powerful setting toward the end of the piece.

Finally, the entire piece is based on a three-note motif, presented at the very beginning of the work. While the three notes are used and developed throughout the piece, it is not until the last section that it becomes apparent that these notes are the first three notes of Salvation is Created, a popular and powerful choral work by Pavel Tchesnokov. This, combined with elements of the earlier lullaby and fragments of All Creatures of Our God and King, forms the basis of the last section of the piece. It is incredibly powerful, both in its fullness and its quiet vulnerability. And, as best as I can describe it, seeks to answer that difficult question -- “What does it sound like when someone first sees the face of God?”

- Program Note by composer


Love and Light was commissioned by "Pershing's Own" in memory of Madison Hope Elliott, the daughter of conductor 1st Lt. Elizabeth Elliott. Madison was born without a heartbeat on November 8, 2018, and the piece represents not only a memorial to Madison, but as a way to find comfort through music after a painful loss. After reaching out to several composers, Lt. Elliott found Brian Balmages to be the most understanding of the gravity of the piece and how healing it could be for families who experience the loss of an infant.

"We heard from people all of the country and the world who wanted to be part of it [the commission]. Once we saw the overwhelming response, my first reaction was a sense of responsibility to all of those families to whom this mattered so much, to make this project the best it could possibly be. After speaking to Col. Andrew Esch at The U.S. Army Band, he graciously agreed that 'Pershing's Own' had to be the group to premiere it," said Lt. Elliott. "I am so thankful for all the people who made this possible. To Brian - who really spent a lot of time preparing his heart to be ready to write this piece, to Col. Esch for being so open to this project, to Rachel Maxwell (who hosted the 501c3 nonprofit to help us fund this project), to all of the family, friends and parents that joined this consortium and saw its importance, and of course to the incredibly talented and warm musicians of 'Pershing's Own' for their openness to this vision."

- Program Note from U.S. Army Band concert program, 22 February 2020


For Madison Elliott, all little angels and their parents.

- Program Note from score


Awards

  • NBA Revelli Composition Contest, 2020, winner


Media

(Needed - please join the WRP if you can help.)


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


Performances

To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Alabama Winds (Tuscaloosa) (Randall Coleman, conductor) - 21 November 2021
  • University of South Florida (Tampa) Wind Ensemble (Marc Sosnowchik, conductor) - 14 November 2021
  • Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond) Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Terry Austin, conductor) - 6 October 2021
  • United States Army Band (Ft. Myer, Va.) (Elizabeth Elliott, conductor) – 22 February 2020 *Premiere Performance*


Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music


All Wind Works


Resources