CAROLYN'S COMPOSITIONS

September 6, 2011

Flight of Valor: Honoring United Airlines Flight 93 Victims


CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

FLIGHT OF VALOR:

HONORING UNITED AIRLINES FLIGHT 93 VICTIMS

Scene of Flight 93 crash viewed from a side road

As the Somerset County Community Band approached its fifteenth anniversary occurring in 2004, its board discussed commissioning a celebratory piece of music. Then the United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in their “back yard.” The band’s board changed its focus on the commission from its anniversary to commemoration of the 9/11 event. In 2002 they commissioned James Swearingen, from Capital University in Ohio, to compose the piece. Swearingen based his composition on a well-known hymn, It is Well with my Soul.*

It was in this darkness that the Community Band played Flight of Valor, which received a standing ovation.**

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     Jim Swearingen, a music professor, always wanted to create a composition around one of his favorite hymns, It is Well with my Soul. However, he was waiting for the right circumstance and setting.

Jim recognized that this hymn as a hymn of choice that is universally accepted during a period of grieving. “It has provided me comfort during these times.”

Then David Breen called him, asking if he would be interested in composing a piece honoring the victims of Flight 93.

“I knew immediately…it was a good idea for me to do,” said Swearingen, who doesn’t take it lightly when people ask him to write music in a grief situation.

During the course of writing the music he incorporated his impressions of the event, the greatest being that the passengers aboard this flight weren’t just ordinary citizens…in retrospect, they were like soldiers going to war. He interposed two segments of militarist march music in his piece, Flight of Valor.

2009 view of Flight 93 crash scene seen over a monument

While composing Flight of Valor, Swearingen met a dilemma.

“In the music there comes a point of time when the plane crashes to the ground,” he said, noting that he considered using the percussion instruments to create the feeling of the crash. But it didn’t feel right.

He posed his dilemma to his friend, George, and was surprised the response.

“Don’t do anything,” George said. “Build the tension—then do nothing. The greatest effect will be in the imagination of the people.”

Swearingen played the piece for George, as instructed.

“Do you feel it?” George said.

Swearingen realized the power in George’s comments, and realized that his friend was correct.

“Don’t spoon-feed your audience,” George continued. “Let them imagine it.”

Memorial site in 2002

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     The Somerset County Community Band will perform Flight of Valor at the Flight 93 crash site at 2:00 p. m. on Sunday, September 11, following the Memorial Dedication service. Their performance will be at the entrance onto the walkway of the Memorial Plaza. The walkway leads to a stone listing the names of the Flight 93 victims.

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Schedule for the Flight 93 Tenth Anniversary follows the links below.

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SOURCES

*http://www.somersetcountyband.com/page4.html  and band member Dave Breen

***http://www.honorflight93.org/remember/?fa=anniversary

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ADDITIONAL READING:

FLIGHT 93 CRASH SITE MEMORIAL

Somerset County (PA) Community Band Commissions Flight of Valor

Staycation Day Trip: Somerset County, PA

QUECREEK MINE DISASTER: A 21st Century Historical Site in Somerset County, PA

YOU MEAN THIS NEW ENGLANDER IS A WESTSYLVANIAN?

PHOTO LINKS:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/776823797/in/photostream

http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/776823731/in/photostream/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/776823527/in/photostream/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/776823699/in/photostream/

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SCHEDULE FOR THE FLIGHT 93 TENTH ANNIVERSARY***

On the eve of the 10-year anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, will be dedicated. The Memorial Plaza and Field of Honor will be the first features of the memorial to be completed, and will be permanently open to the public after the September 10 ceremony.

Flight 93 National Memorial dedication

can be viewed at a LIVE WEBCAST:

http://www.history.com/flight-93-pre-event

September 10, 2011         12:30pm ET/9:30am PT

DEDICATION and COMMEMORATION

DEDICATION: Saturday, September 10

  • 11:00 a.m. Musical Prelude
  • 12:30 p.m. Program Begins
    Remarks
    Wreath Laying
    Musical Performances—including the Somerset County Community Band playing Flight of Valor
  • 2:30 p.m. Program Concludes
  • 3:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m. Tribute Activities

Lighting of Luminarias

Saturday, September 10

Begins at Dusk

10th Anniversary Commemorative Service

COMMEMORATION: Sunday, September 11

  • 8:30 a.m. Musical Prelude
  • 9:30 a.m. Program Begins
    Remarks
    Wreath Laying
  • 11:00 a.m. Program Concludes
  • 12:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m. Tribute Activities

For directions to the site, please click here. Please email dedication@nationalparks.org with any additional questions. ***

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