FLIGHT OF VALOR:
HONORING UNITED AIRLINES FLIGHT 93 VICTIMS
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.**
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.
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.”
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.
Schedule for the Flight 93 Tenth Anniversary follows the links below.
*http://www.somersetcountyband.com/page4.html and band member Dave Breen
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:
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
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
- 11:00 a.m. Program Concludes
- 12:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m. Tribute Activities