We’ll Say Goodnight, but not Goodbye

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Brass Ensemble – 6 min [completed 2004]

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Instrumentation: Tpt 1/2/3, Hrn 1/2, Tbn 1/2/3, Euph, Tba. An alternate version is included with Flugelhorn instead of Euphonium, and all parts reworked.


This work was written in memory of a former roommate and dear friend, Ben Petty, who passed away just under three weeks before his 21st birthday. His close friend, Michael Kelly, read a poem of his at the funeral. As I listened to Mike read, I could not help but feel the most heartbroken I had ever felt in my own short twenty years of living. This was due not as much to my own sense of loss, as much as to the pain that was evident in Mike’s voice.

    EVEN IN THE END, by Benjamin Petty
    “We wander slowly through the trees,
    Each embrace brings stifled pleas,
    My fingers linger on your wrist,
    My thoughts are captured, bound in twist,
    I miss you though you’re at my side,
    I want to know that you’re my guide.
    It stands to reason you’ll move on,
    We’ll part so soon, and you’ll be gone,
    For me the ferry stays the course,
    I know my heart will miss you worse,
    It’s coming down, this sorrowed day,
    I need this in an ache-filled way:
    Just promise me at the end of time,
    We’ll say good-night, but not good-bye.”

I began working on this piece one year after Ben’s death and it was premiered in April 2004 by members of the Boston College Bands Program. It was written not only as a tribute to Ben, but also to Mike, whose reading provided some closure to me. While death is painful and is a part of life, We’ll Say Goodnight, but not Goodbye tries to focus on another truth: When someone is taken from us, they never really leave us.

Further notes about the music itself: The main ascending three-note motive is based off of composer Eric Whitacre’s setting to the E.E. Cummings poem, “i thank you God for most this amazing”. At the end of We’ll Say Goodnight, but not Goodbye, I went on to briefly quote the specific portion of Whitacre’s work from which the motive was pulled. This quote from Whitacre’s work also has textual significance as his female voices finish singing the phrase, “and this is the birthday of wings”.

Recording: April 29, 2006, Students of Peabody Conservatory, David Faleris (conductor)