What the Soul Remembers
Commissioned by the Fort Wayne Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic
in Memory of Colleen Benninghoff, Wilda Gene Marcus, and K Marie Stolba
Instrumentation: 2,2,2,2; 2,2,2,2; timp; piano; strings
Duration: 10 minutes
I. Wilda Gene Marcus
II. K Marie Stolba
III. Colleen Benninghoff
The Fort Wayne Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota graciously invited me to Fort Wayne, IN in 2008 to begin the process of learning about three extraordinary women who were all members of SAI, Wilda Gene Marcus, K. Marie Stolba, and Colleen Benninghoff. I was given a memory book filled with thoughts, photos, letters, and sometimes music. I met with family members and friends of the women. Their photos sat on my piano as I composed each movement. Much of what I have written was done out of pure intuition and is my musical reaction to what I hope is the essence of each of these women. Though, admittedly, it is quite daunting to try to embody three extraordinary women within a piece of music, particularly when I never had the honor of meeting them firsthand. As I composed this work, I was also pregnant with our daughter, Lily. And as I continued to reflect on creating a new feminine life inside my own body, it was an honor to also be able to birth a different kind of creation in the memory of three feminine spirits. Through this experience, I found myself tapping into those strengths, those mysteries and the power that comprises what it is to be female. As I write these program notes, I can feel my own daughter moving around inside my womb and I feel more connected to women in general, and inspired by the lives of Wilda Gene Marcus, K Marie Stolba, and Colleen Benninghoff. I am inspired by their words of wisdom and by the many ways that they contributed to this world selflessly. Again, it is an honor and a gift to have been entrusted this project and I know that my own daughter will somehow be connected (even in a very small way) to these three women.
The work is organized into three movements, each movement representing one of these women. The work opens with Wilda Gene Marcus. Obviously, as a piano teacher, it was important to highlight the piano in her movement, however, as I learned more about her, I realized that the piano part could be neither too flashy, nor too much at the forefront. Because above all, Gene Marcus was a teacher and, I believe, took great pride in what she was able to pass along to her students. To me, she seemed to be the type of woman who would step aside in order to allow someone else to be recognized. It made me laugh to know that while she was a true advocate for music and teaching, she simply did not “do meetings”. The opening melody is represented by both the oboe and the French horn. The oboe represents a quiet, internal strength. Gene Marcus seems to me to have been the type of person who celebrated others' accomplishments, but was happy to step aside so that others might shine. Thus, the opening melody represents the gifts she left to her many students. When the piano takes over the melody, it is understated and simple. At the end of the movement, the piano playing with the viola and cello represents another legacy she left, her two sons who are both professional musicians.
* Incidentally, Gene Marcus and I share the same birthday.
The second movement, K Marie Stolba, opens with her own music from one of her songs, Memory Hither Come. My own theme then enters in the strings against her music now transposed into a major key as opposed to the opening minor key. The movement builds until the entire orchestra juxtaposes her music with my own. Utilizing her music seemed the best way to capture her spirit that, from my understanding, seemed to be bold, straightforward, and honest. As a professor and scholar, she strikes me as someone who was serious about her craft and purposeful in the way she lived her life. Additionally, she strikes me as someone who inspired others through her music, intellect and giving spirit. The second movement
attempts to weave the serious and straightforward sides of her personality with the inspiring and creative parts of who she was.
The third movement, Colleen Benninghoff, opens with a solo clarinet. Colleen, while a trained pianist, seemed better represented by the independent strength of the solo clarinet. Her movement opens with an inversion of the subsequent main melody. Other solo instruments in the woodwind and brass families enter in contrapuntal movement repeating and responding to the opening clarinet theme. As I understand it, Colleen had many gifts, one of which was her gift to bring people together for a greater good. This is what I tried to represent in her movement. I imagined her coming up with an idea and forging ahead until that idea came to fruition. The ending of her movement (and of the piece) represents the fruits of her labor.
In particular, I know that she paved the way for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic to begin their outreach concerts in towns outside of Fort Wayne. I have no doubt this was no small feat, but represents the strength of her vision and tenacity in seeing an idea through. I know from her memorial service, which she planned herself, that she loved “Nimrod” from Elgar's Enigma Variations. This is also one of my favorite movements in music and it seemed fitting to utilize the opening notes of this movement in the finale of this piece. It is from this idea that I derived the opening clarinet theme as well as the final chorale-like theme that ends the piece.