In a conversation with my maternal grandfather (Pépère), he made an obvious and yet striking comment about his reality. “My roots run deep here.” He was referring to the Houle family farm, located in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom on which he has lived virtually his entire life since he was born in 1921. For much of this time things really have not changed. For the bulk of its years it has been a dairy farm. It has always produced maple syrup. The scenery has always been gorgeous and the barn cats are numerous. His existence is so intertwined with the place that acknowledging his deep roots in the farm is a trivialization; they are at once tranquil and grounded while simultaneously aggressive and unyielding.
On one of my many visits to the farm, my grandmother (Mémère) gave to me two old gifts: a family book of French hymns and a violin that had been owned by my great-grandfather. As the most avid musician in the family these were precious and inspirational gifts to me. The violin was an instrument my great-grandfather chose not to teach to his son as his existence on the land was being secured. Thus it has been largely unused for many years revealing the aggressive and unyielding nature of his roots. Upon my return to Chicago, I played through the old hymnbook and was drawn to the tranquil beauty of Gounod’s Le ciel visité la terre and Riga’s Christ adoré. In a humble effort to awaken the ‘spirit’ of the old violin through the inspiring roots of my grandfather, I have employed these two hymns as the melodic foundation for Roots Run Deep. Dually tranquil and aggressive; the music’s gravity persistently pulls the listener upward.
Originally written for string quartet in late 2011, Roots Run Deep for orchestra was completed shortly following the December 2011 quartet premiere in early 2012. The Chicago Composers Orchestra premiered Roots Run Deep on February 21, 2012 at the Ruth Page Theater in Chicago. The current revision was completed in early 2015 and the Vermont Youth Orchestra subsequently presented the Vermont state premiere on May 3, 2015.
Instrumentation: 3(III=pc).2(II=ob/ehn).3(II=cl/bcl, III=ebcl).2(II=bn/cbn) / 220.127.116.11 / 2perc / strings
Percussion 1: Snare Drum
Percussion 2: Bass Drum
Duration: 10 minutes
Date: 2012, rev. 2015