let this place

Wind Orchestra

After receiving the commission from this work from Institut collégial Vincent Massey Collegiate Wind Ensemble and their conductor, Matthew Abraham, I was in the fortunate position of being able to spend time with the group talking about what music means to them, what it means to community and society, and also how they currently felt about that current community and society both from a personal perspective and a wider vision.

It became clear that these grade 9 – 12 students had a deep understanding of the environment around them both locally and the world at large, and the difficulties that surround us all at this time. A sense of serious concern for the ecology of the planet was of key concern as was apparent which seemed to channel through a wider concern at the lack of humanity that we see every day in the street, in our city, in our country and in our world.

let this place was written in response to those very concerns, and my anger that we have – in what feels like a very short space of time – descended in to a world where children are separated from their parents at the US border, where racism and hatred have become commonplace, where anti-Semitism has once again reared its ugly head, where gun and knife crime hardly makes the news such is its frequency, where we allow, as citizens of this planet, children to be victims of chemical weapons in Syria, destruction of human life in Yemen; the list is almost endless.

We seem to have forgotten the many warnings that history has taught us, and none more so than the words of the plaque situated at Auschwitz-Birkenau:

“For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity, where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women, and children, mainly Jews from various countries of Europe.

Auschwitz-Birkenau 1940 – 1945”

The title of the work, let this place, is taken from the plaque and is an invitation for us all to consider those words. The first part of the work “cry” is both a reference to those that perished at the concentration camps and the sadness we should all feel that the words inscribed have been so easily forgotten.

The second part “despair” is where we are now; the concerns that were raised by the students, the anger I feel, the distress that we see on a daily basis. The piece doesn’t end, it merely stops; a challenge to all who play, listen and experience the piece to make a choice about the kind of world we want to live in – to cry, to despair, or to listen to the “warning to humanity”.

let this place was commissioned by, and dedicated to, Institut collégial Vincent Massey Collegiate Wind Ensemble and their conductor, Matthew Abraham.

Peter Meechan 2019