The Ceiling of Heaven


Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano
Commissioned by The Chamber Music Conference and Composers' Forum of the East, Monday Evening Concerts of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Xtet
Recorded on Albany CD - Bennington Chamber Music Conference
First performance: July 31, 2004 - Chamber Music Conference of the East, Bennington, Vermont

Program notes: 

The title for The Ceiling of Heaven comes from a Kenneth Rexroth poem called ‘Signature of All Things’:

            …The hawks scream,

Playing together on the ceiling

Of heaven.  The long hours go by.

I think of those who have loved me,

Of all the mountains I have climbed,

Of all the seas I have swum in.

This evokes the natural world – always an inspiration for me – and the notion of a piece ‘in memory of.’   The subtitles of the five movements hint at their content:  I. Distant Fanfares presents declamatory statements featuring the viola and echoed in the other instruments; II. Zenith suggests the sun high in a desert sky – another ceiling of heaven – with a more expressive solo in the viola as its middle section; III. Elegy is an extended, lyric memorial framing a central agitated fast section; IV. Interlude: Processional is a brief valedictory dirge; and V. The Ceiling of Heaven is a rambunctious evocation of those hawks – and all freewheeling beings – ‘playing together on the ceiling of heaven.’ 

The Ceiling of Heaven was commissioned by the Jacob Glick Memorial Endowment Fund of the Bennington Chamber Music Conference, with the assistance of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Xtet.  Violist Jacob Glick was a beloved faculty member and Music Director of the Chamber Music Conference for many years, and he was an avid champion of new music throughout his career.

The Ceiling of Heaven was recorded in 2005 for Albany Records with Bennington Chamber Music Conference faculty Renee Jolles, Nicholas Cords, Edward Arron and David Oei on a recording also featuring music of Allen Shawn and many of the wonderful musicians of the CMC faculty.     - Donald Crockett