Show An Affirming Flame

A Poem for Orchestra ("September 1, 1939" by W. H. Auden)

Samuel Adler

Text: "September 1, 1939" by W. H. Auden
Duration: 00:05:00
Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

September 11, 2001, began as every Tuesday for me. Up early, a trip to La Guardia airport to catch a plane home to Toledo, Ohio. Added to that, I thought happy thoughts since it was my older daughter?s birthday. The plane left the gate on time, but as usual we were caught in a long line of planes trying to take off, when suddenly the pilot?s voice said that there is a fire at the World Trade Center and we are held up. A few minutes later, we witnessed the second plane hitting the Center and we could actually see it from the airport. The plane returned to the gate, and the airport was evacuated. The next few days were almost surrealistic for many of us. The world had truly changed for all of us Americans. In moments like that, only faith and art can help sustain us, and I turned to a poem by W.H. Auden called ?September 1939,? which ends with the uplifting line, ?Show an affirming flame.? What a triumphant line to counter the terror which had struck us. This poem and especially this line started shaping a work in my mind made up of tunes from the major religious faiths in our country. It begins with a Gregorian Chant from the Catholic Church, followed by a melody from the Jewish mourners? Kaddish. Then a quotation from the Islamic Chant calling the faithful to daily prayers, and finally, the great Protestant hymn ?O God, Our Help in Ages Past,? which was so poignantly used in the national memorial service at the National Cathedral in Washington. These tunes sometimes appear alone or in combination, sometimes quietly, sometimes as outbursts of grief which we all felt for the victims of this senseless attack to whom the work is dedicated. The work was written in three days, and when I finished, I called my good friend Gerard Schwarz who immediately consented to performing it on the first concert of the season of the New York Chamber symphony. The piece is about 5

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the New York Chamber Symphony Orchestra in memory of the victims of the attacks on September 11, 2001.
Composition Date 2001
Orchestration Small Orch.: 2(dbl.Picc.) 2 2 2 - 2 2 0 0; Timp. Perc. Str. Full Orch.: 2(dbl.Picc.) 2 2 2 - 2 2 2 0; Timp. Perc. Str.
Premiere Premiered by New York Chamber Symphony, Gerard Schwarz conductor, Alice Tully Hall, NYC, November 3, 2001.