for baritone, bass trombone, 2 guitars, flute, oboe, violin, cello, bass, piano
He was a handsome Irish devil I met on a gay Mediterranean cruise last summer. He wrote me later that he was coming to see me in New York. We had a lovely visit and he brought me a gift called Pocket Irish Poetry. It about the same time I fell in love with another Irishman, whom I met at the local YMCA. He had a glorious voice, a powerful build and made his own canoes which he sailed up and down the Hudson River. He was not much interested in me "you're not old enough for me" he said (I was 80 years old at the time). Touched by both these men, I wished to write something musical preserving the moment. I went to my Pocket Irish Poetry to find a poem and chose T'is The Last Rose of Summer. The drawback to this text is that it is already welded to the classic tune we all know - a stumbling block certainly. However what clinched the deal and caused me to set aside my objections was the movie Three Billboards. At the climax of the film, while an enormous building burns to the ground, the background music to my great surprise was The Last Rose Of Summer, gorgeously played by an orchestra and sung by Renee Fleming to stunning emotional effect. So with this inspiration I set to work.
The Last Rose is neither a resetting of the text (who would dare?), nor a set of variations on the song. Rather the six movements put the song in contrasting and increasingly outlandish circumstances.
Movement I An Irish Aria is perhaps the ur-presentation of the tune. Though I do tinker with the theme and at the climactic moment set the words to entirely new music still, I do respect and use the traditional setting of the theme. After a rambunctious Bass Trombone cadenza (con virtuosissimo), a sweetly romantic recollection of the opening tune takes us to movement II The South of France. Short phrases sequentially stacked together make up the ebullient motion. The piano's precipitando cadenza sets off a repeat of the section. The ur-tune comes rolling back and offers vigorous contrast. The movement ends in a twinkle.
Movement III Reminisence is the soul of the piece and is the slowest music to be heard. It is richly and freshly harmonized.
Movement IV Grand Canon is I would say, an outlandish setting of the tune. At a very fast clip the theme is in canon with itself at a distance of only a quarter note causing the musical lines to pile up on one another. This structured confusion leads then to the climactic penultimate movement of the piece (V) An American Anthem. This most outrageous of settings pits the famous anthem against the famous Irish air. A musical battle of sorts ensues.
Movement VI Finale builds gradually, rising by thirds the music becomes increasingly excited. This leads to a surprising and humorous ending.