PILOT (2012-13)

PROGRAM NOTE
“Pilot” is an amplified micro-oratorio for soprano, tenor (or soprano), bassoon, piano, electronics, and video. I became inspired to compose this piece after reading accounts of the Andes plane crash disaster of 1972. I was struck especially by the religious convictions of the young survivors, who attribute their salvation to divine intervention, and who recall the grisly actions they had to take in order to survive—feeding on the bodies of the deceased, some of whom were once beloved friends—as a mysterious form of holy communion.

While “Pilot” is not directly about the Andes event, it is an emotional response to its themes of sacrifice, loss, religious faith, matrimonial devotion, and—by some accounts—the strange euphoria that can sometimes accompany imminent death.

TEXT (by the composer, including quotations from interviews with the Andes survivors, and fragments of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar”)

INTERVIEWER / GHOST WIFE (soprano)
We are going to talk
Not about what happened at the mountains
Not about external facts
We are going to talk about the things that happened inside of you
About the person you were, and the person you are
About the things that changed in your relationship with the world
And life
And the things that remained as they were, before the accident.
Is this okay?

SURVIVOR (tenor)
Why?
Don’t ask why
I am still breathing
I am still alive
Don’t ask why…

INTERVIEWER
Where?

SURVIVOR
On the mountain

INTERVIEWER
How?

SURVIVOR
We were starving
And God, we were delirious
What we did will stay with us
When we die

INTERVIEWER (becomes GHOST WIFE)
I hope to see my pilot
Face to face

GHOST WIFE+SURVIVOR
When I cross
The bar
No sadness, no farewell
No sadness
When I cross the bar
When I cross the bar

GHOST WIFE
I’ll be with God
I’ll be with God
I’ll leave a beautiful body
My body, don’t love this body
Don’t love me
You’ll lose too much
I’ll leave you
I’ll leave you here

SURVIVOR
No farewell…

GHOST WIFE
I’ll leave you here all alone
I’ll leave you
I’ll leave you here
I’ll leave you here, no farewell
I’ll leave you my body…
Use me
Use me
Use me

SURVIVOR
To stay alive
To stay alive

GHOST WIFE
Use me
My body
Given for you

GHOST WIFE+SURVIVOR
Remissionem
Peccatorum
Peccatorum…

PERFORMANCE HISTORY
Premiered February 23, 2013 at Houghton Chapel, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA.
Performers: P. Lucy McVeigh, soprano/crotales; Aaron Sheehan, tenor/crotales; Andrew Delclos, bassoon/crotales; Eliko Akahori, piano; Jenny Olivia Johnson, sampler synthesizer/electronics; and Laura Moran, 2-channel video.

Performed March 9, 2013 at St. Bede Episcopal Chapel, University of Miami, Miami, FL.
Performers: P. Lucy McVeigh, soprano/crotales; Alec Schumacker, tenor/crotales; Andrew Delclos, bassoon/crotales; Paul Schwartz, piano; and Jenny Olivia Johnson, sampler synthesizer/electronics.

Performed March 29, 2015 at Tenri Cultural Center, New York, NY
Performers: P. Lucy McVeigh, soprano/crotales; Amanda Crider, mezzo-soprano/crotales; Andrew Delclos, bassoon/crotales; Eliko Akahori, piano; and Jenny Olivia Johnson, sampler synthesizer/electronics.