Benjamin Williams

Parting Song (2014)

I had the opportunity last summer to not only host the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra's Premiere Orchestral Institute at Mississippi College, but also to be their 'Composer in Residence'. They performed some of my chamber music and I wrote a number of pieces for one of their youngest orchestras. When all was said and done, I looked back on the week and realized how much I cherished the brief moments I spent with those incredible musicians. I suppose that comes with being a musician and academic, there are often large spans of time between the opportunities I have to see and work with many of my colleagues.

When I was asked to write for POI's 'Master Camerata' this year, I reflected on the experience of the bittersweet partings that come with summer. 'Bitter' in terms of parting with my friends and colleagues from the academic year and then again from the summer festivals back to the college; 'sweet' in that each provides a time of rest and restoration to start again. Parting Song begins with a sort of 'catching one's breath' in the strings. The music oscillates back and forth between the two intertwined feelings of sadness and joy ultimately ending in a place of pure rest. There are, of course, a great deal of 'partings' that we experience for which this pattern recurs, including the passing away of loved ones. Again, there is the bittersweet experience: bitter in the temporary parting; sweet in the eternal peace that we look forward to when we come back together again. For me, this piece was an opportunity to reflect on what it means to truly rest in the enjoyment of the relationships I take a part in each and every day.

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