Over a year ago, the Town of Clarence and the families of the 50 victims lost on February 12, 2009 were forever changed. And for those affected by the plane crash of Continental Flight 3407 the grief process may be ongoing still.
On Tuesday, the SUNY Fredonia School of Music as part of its Scholarship Concert Series presented a performance by the ensemble, "ANA," which featured a song dedicated to those lost in Flight 3407.
During the spring of 2010 the ensemble comprised of faculty requested that guitarist James Piorkowski, a Distinguished Professor at SUNY Fredonia compose a piece for them to perform for this concert. The concert was not intended to feature a song in honor of those lost in Flight 3407, but as it progressed it seemed as though fate had decided the outcome.
"When I found out this ensemble has a vocalist I had to find a text, a lyric for them to sing. So I went through many poems and essays and this one poem that was written about Flight 3407 really caught me ... it was just compelling," Piorkowski said. "The poem just stood out as something I really wanted to set to music. It was very emotional, very powerful and clear ... it was everything that I like in a text, set to music. The poem itself is pretty graphic about the actual crash and about the emotions people I'm sure had felt ... it's very visual."
Piorkowski came across the poem following a conversation with Gunilla Kester, an adult private student of his, who lost a dear friend in the ill-fated flight on February 12, 2009. Kester is a contributor and editor of the book "The Empty Chair," a compilation of poems and essays from people with ties to the crash. Kester gave Piorkowski the book, and he was immediately moved by the various offerings, especially Toward the Light (Flight 3407), a poem written by Jane Sadowsky, another Western New York resident and one of the book's contributors.
Sadowsky was in attendance Tuesday to read her poem to the audience before it was performed to music during the concert.
OBSERVER Photo by Michael Rukavina
Soprano Angela Hass performs Ernest Chausson’s “Le colibri” during a scholarship series concert in Rosch Recital Hall on the SUNY Fredonia campus Tuesday evening.
"It was very different," Piorkowski said, referring to the composition process. "It was a very different challenge because when I write normally it's just to please me, how I want to be able to hear this music repeatedly and still be pleased with it, but I knew that it was a much greater project because of the subject matter, because of the emotions of those who are in the audience who lost loved ones. It was a very different charge for me than a normal composition."
The piece was performed by the ensemble of pianist Anne Kissel, cellist Natasha Farny, and soprano Angela Hass.
"When I told them what I chose, then they read the poem and heard the music and they were really touched by it," Piorkowski said. "I'm very honored by how much the musicians have put in to prepare for this piece, how serious they've taken it. It's wonderful when a composer puts down notes and musicians are so sincere about it, so honest and vesting to get the most meaning out of the music. I'm very touched."
In his remarks to the audience, James credited the family members and loved ones of those lost in the flight who fought hard to reform the federal laws of the United States to assure safer air travel.
"On August 1, 2010, after more than a year of unwavering efforts by the families of Continental Flight 3407, President Obama signed the aviation bill into law," he noted gratefully.
In addition to the piece composed by Piorkowski, Haas, Farny and Kissel featured music by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Sergei Rachmaninoff. They also performed The Last Poems of Wallace Stevens, by the acclaimed American composer, Ned Rorem.
Family members of those lost in Flight 3407 were said to be coming from as far away as New York City for the performance.
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