William Blake. Detail from the frontispiece to “The Eagle. Ballad the Second” in William Hayley’s “Designs to A Series of Ballads”.

Varium cæli

Orchestral 2:06

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Varium cæli was commissioned by River Oaks Chamber Orchestra. It was composed in Waterford Springs, Vermont and Cambridge, Massachusetts and completed in July of 2019.

Varium cæli could be translated as “changeable weather,” “changing sky,” or even “different air.” I sketched out the plan for the piece over a weekend with friends in Vermont during which the weather rapidly oscillated between warm and sunny and cool and stormy. We laughed that this is typical New England… but even for New England, it was unusually fickle and unpredictable. Though not fit weather for a hike or a swim, it was great weather for staying in and composing.

The various meanings of the Latin seemed appropriate: “different air” was fitting as I wrote Varium cæli a mere three weeks before moving from Boston, where I’ve lived for many years, to Chicago, to start a new life. “Changing sky” is literally the experience of that Vermont weekend, and “changeable weather” reflects my preoccupation with climate change while writing the piece. When I received a commission from ROCO, I was told that the theme of the concert on which the piece would premiere is “Time for Hope.” My hope springs from the actions I take to bring about the changes I want to see in the world. Hope without action is not hope at all; it is complacency.

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