String Trio No. 2 – To the Wandering Hero of Distant Lands

Jim occupies a special place in our history. He has been on our programs numerous times in the past. Jim Ogle chose him to compose a work in honor of Maestro Ogle’s twenty glorious years on our podium. The result was a fresh and original symphony based on Idaho’s four resplendent seasons. In 2008, our orchestra premiered An Idaho Symphony to great audience acclaim.

What follows is the composer’s note on this Trio.

“During the summer of 2007 Carl Rowe, Co-director of the Idaho Dance Theater, and I started talking about a collaboration and we came up with the idea of using the Langroise Trio. A few years earlier I had written my String Trio No. 1 – Elegy to an Ancient Battlefield for the Langroise Trio. Elegy ended up referencing the Iliad, so it seemed like a natural progression to write a trio based on the Odyssey.

I initiated the writing by retiring to McCall for three days of silence and focus. On the third morning I woke up to some music in my head that I quickly jotted down. Upon reviewing it I realized that it worked really well, but I wasn’t sure if the style of music would be appropriate for the project. When Carl Rowe reviewed some samples I played for him, it was the one I had come up with that morning in McCall that got him most excited.

The work is narrative in that it takes its inspiration from segments of Homer’s Odyssey, the tale of Odysseus’s many adventures on his return to Greece after Troy. Each movement captures the emotion of a scene from that epic.

The words of the title of the first movement, Andra moi ennepe, Mousa (Of the man, to me, sing, oh Muse), are the opening words of the Odyssey. This movement begins with the music that came to me the third morning of my McCall retreat. Stylistically, it has elements of classical, folk, new grass, and roots. Emotionally, it is filled with Odyssean power and oceanic waves of energy and, as such, is a fitting opener for the piece.

The second movement, Farewell Calypso, captures the moment that Odysseus and Calypso part. Calypso held Odysseus captive on the island, Ogygia, for seven years. For Odysseus, it is not without regret that he leaves the beautiful goddess, even though it was he who asked for his release so he could return to his beloved wife, Penelope.

The third movement is entitled, The Many Adventures of our Hero. It features an extended viola solo utilizing fifths, spiccato bowing bouncing over open and fingered strings, and a host of changing time signatures. The solo has a heroic and incessantly driving quality, musically manifesting the sustained energy and focused vision required of Odysseus to successfully navigate his way home.

The fourth movement, Ithaca, depicts Odysseus’s first sighting of his native island. This movement was begun early in the process, but was the last to be completed. Ithaca has taken on a life of its own. NPR’s Performance Today has aired it numerous times. It has been arranged for cello ensemble and embraced by cellists as a stand-alone piece.

The fifth and final movement of the work, The Hero Returns, is a straight-ahead musical celebration and expression of joy. The long, arduous journey is complete, the family reunited, the past now legend and the future filled with possibility. The joy of resolution and reunion is timeless. Emotion transcends circumstance and, as such, we can take the joy of Odysseus’s homecoming and hold it dear to our longings and fulfillments.”

Jim Cockey