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Program Notes

Boston Liberties

Concord Band commission (2003)

Julie Giroux, composer

  1. "Boston Harbor"

    In search of religious freedom, John Winthrop from the Massachusetts Bay Company led eleven vessels full of Puritans into the area now known as Boston. More followed. As the years passed, the Harbor would see the Boston Tea Party, the Revolutionary War, piracy and a wealth of goods nearly beyond measure. Boston was the maritime center of America in colonial days. In the late 1800s, thousands of immigrants, especially from Ireland, poured into the city and permanently changed its face. Many a long and perilous journey began or ended in its waters, and to this day, it has yet to share all of its secrets. This movement is presented in a traditional seafaring, swashbuckling style with a "Touch of the Irish" for good measure.

  2. "Facts Are Stubborn Things..."

    The killing of five men by British soldiers on March 5, 1770, referred to as "The Boston Massacre", is the basis for this movement. "Facts are Stubborn Things..." is a quote from John Adams’ Legal Papers, the speech that he presented to the jury. The movement has two sections with identical melodies. The melody represents "the facts." The melodies are identical but the accompaniments are vastly different, like two people giving very different accounts of the same incident. I gave the first "telling" and the conductor has total interpretive power over the second.

  3. "Granary Grounds"

    Granary Burying Grounds is where many notable Americans are interred, including patriots John Hancock, Paul Revere, James Otis, Robert Treat Paine and Samuel Adams. Also buried here are the victims of the Boston Massacre, as well as whole families of settlers ravaged by fire and plague. This movement is a reflection of my own time spent wandering the grounds of historical cemeteries where I am always left with more questions than answers. Though some of the names are known, there are many that are not. I wonder what they looked like, what their lives were like and how they died. I wonder if they were loved, and if they loved. Above all, I wonder if they found peace. When I think of them, and in this work, I pretend they all have.

  4. "A Penny a Ton"

    Boston Light was the first lighthouse built in North America and the last one to be automated in 1998. If it had not been demolished in the Revolution, it would be the oldest, but today is considered the nation’s second oldest. The first lighthouse keeper, George Worthylake, lighted the tower for the first time on September 14, 1716. Worthylake was paid 50 pounds a year and kept a flock of sheep on Great Brewster Island. A storm caught his sheep on the long sand spit off Great Brewster and they were drowned as the tide came in. Worthylake, his wife, and three others were drowned when their overloaded canoe capsized. Benjamin Franklin, twelve years old at the time, wrote a poem about it. Then, Robert Saunders, a former sloop captain, became the second keeper, and he drowned within days of taking the appointment. The third keeper, John Hayes, was described as "able bodied and discreet". Hayes asked for a fog signal of some kind and a cannon. America’s first fog signal was placed on the island in 1719.

    In July, 1775, Boston Harbor was under the control of the British. American troops were sent to burn the wooden parts of the lighthouse and they did so. The British began repairing it. Later that same month more troops were sent and, again, burned the lighthouse. When they tried to leave they found their boats stranded since the tide had gone out. American troops fired on British ships until the men could safely escape the island. The British finally left the lighthouse in 1776, but as a farewell present, set the lighthouse with charges and completely destroyed it. John Hancock ordered a new one to be built in design as close to the old one as possible.

    The federal government took over the lighthouse in 1789. This programmatic movement depicts the mishaps, fires, fog cannon, explosions, ship horns, rebuilding and constant operation of the tower, reflecting the determination of a People, a Nation and a Lighthouse. The original Boston Light was financed by a tax of "A Penny a Ton" on all vessels coming into or out of the harbor.

—Julie Giroux

Boston Liberties was commissioned by the Concord Band in 2002. Composer Julie Giroux wrote this four movement work in recognition of Boston as the maritime center of America in Colonial days. The first movement, “Boston Harbor,” is set in a traditional seafaring, swashbuckling style with a “touch of the Irish.” The second movement, “Facts are Stubborn Things,” is based on a quote from a speech John Adams made to a jury in Boston while defending the British soldiers involved in “The Boston Massacre.” The third movement is Julie Giroux’s personal reflection of her own time spent wandering on the grounds of historical cemeteries and wondering about the lives of the people buried there. The final movement depicts the mishaps, fires, fog cannon, explosions, ship horns, and other noises of Boston Harbor and the rebuilding and constant operation of the Boston Lighthouse.

—published score

INDEX


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