A Point Served… (In Remembrance Arthur Ashe)

When the world of tennis lost Arthur Ashe to AIDS in February of 1993, it lost not only one of the sport’s finest players, but also a role model for African-Americans, a man who publicly fought racism and other obstacles to achieve his goal in his chosen profession. Moved by his untimely passing, I decided to compose a work in remembrance of his participation in tennis, as well as his role in the civil rights movement, his quiet dignity and his internal struggle with the disease that took his life. Scored for an augmented chamber orchestra of winds in pairs, three horns, two trumpets, two trombones, tuba, two percussionists, harp, piano and strings, A point served... opens with a solo xylophone that serves as a figurative representation of the game, which is soon joined by the vibraphone, harp and piano, its pointillistic musings underpinned by a long elegiac line in the strings spelling out Ashe’s name. This theme undulates into a metamorphic transformation within the orchestra, subtly manipulating and infusing the thematic material with chromatic and modal elements, while the winds and brass sections take up their own interpretation of a tennis game, their forces representing the strife and conflict that occurred during Ashe’s lifetime, building up to a climax before subsiding into a brief segment for string choir representing Ashe’s quiet personality in private, which is represented by the cello section and solo viola, before the final conflicts of his life return, sometimes heroic, sometimes tragic until the entire orchestra thunders in a fanfare-like section in which the song “We Shall Overcome” is alluded to in the brass, building to a climax before being abruptly cut off into silence, resuming with the xylophone playing the game, a final heroic sound from muted trumpets and a brief line of reflective eloquence from the English Horn and French Horn, subsiding into silence as the ball drops on the tennis court.

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ACO Performances

“Classical Roots” Detroit Symphony Orchestra Earshot New Music Readings (2014)

March 8, 2014 6:00 pm
DSO Orchestra Hall

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