What strands of friendship produced our selection “Friendship” by K. Lee Scott?
Where to start ? The first strand produced the commission for the piece, from long-time CCC member Ron Lester and his wife Ann. Ron has been a member of the chorale for 12 years, first joining us because he was looking for variety and fun in the music being performed as well as a certain amount of flexibility in rehearsal attendance due to his work schedule. (I wonder what other chorales he looked at! Our rehearsal schedule is pretty demanding, to my mind at least.) He ended up serving on the board in various capacities and feeling such a part of the group that when he and his wife started estate planning, he says, "we thought it would be a lot more fun to give a gift to the Chorale now and be a part of that gift." The 35th anniversary of the chorale itself and the 20th anniversary of Brian Patrick Leatherman's tenure as conductor were both occurring this year. Ron and Ann decided on a set of commissioned pieces, dedicated to the chorale but having a life beyond it. So something by a known composer would be the way to go.
Why did they choose K. Lee Scott as that composer? He is indeed an internationally-known composer and arranger of choral music. The chorale has performed his music in two concerts, the most recent being several sections from his contemporary requiem mass Lux Aeterna last year. Here's where the second strand of friendship comes in: Scott came across a reference online to our upcoming concert that included this work. He liked what he saw and ended up watching our performance. A relationship began, so it was natural for Scott's name to be the first to be considered. Ron says that there was true collaboration, with the composer asking him questions about themes and musical ideas. Since Brahms is a favorite of Ron's, Scott included some lovely flowing triplets in the piano accompaniment and a big sound overall. The text grew out of an Italian proverb that our conductor especially likes: “chi trova un amico trova un tesoro,” which translates as “he who finds a friend finds a treasure.” All well and good, said Scott, but that's not enough to build a whole piece around. You need something more. How about . . . and he came up with the section beginning,”Do you know what friendship is?” from Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
So the text itself forms the third strand. I was hoping to find the actual origin of the Italian proverb, but no such luck. While it's listed on a website of such sayings and therefore seems to be authentic, there's no source given. If you google the proverb the first search result that comes up is a 1981 movie about . . . well, the plot summary is a bit hard to follow. Something about castaways, and con men, and pirates, and fake money. You can read a hilariously-translated Wikipedia entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Friend_Is_a_Treasure. The Hugo reference was much easier to track down. Gringroire the poet is talking to the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda:
“Do you know what friendship is?” he asked.
“Yes,” replied the gypsy; “it is to be brother and sister; two souls which touch without mingling, two fingers on one hand.”
She would have been better advised to pursue friendship rather than her obsessive love for the soldier Phoebus which results ultimately in her death.
It is a privilege to give this piece its first airing, and we look forward to doing the same next year with two other Scott commissions.