About the Album
In 2007, 2008 and 2011, I had the honor of performing at the September 11th Memorial Ceremony in New York City. Being at Ground Zero on the anniversary of 9/11 is an experience that I’ll never forget. It was one of the most humbling, touching, and meaningful events in my life.
This album is a tribute through music to the survivors and victims of 9/11 as well as a personal reminder of the privilege I had performing at the ceremonies. The pieces on the album are not meant to be sad, but to convey a sense of serenity and reflection through their simple beauty. The songs range in emotion from sorrow to triumph, and from nostalgic to hopeful. It is my hope with Commemoration, to preserve some of the sentiment I experienced during the 9/11 Memorials and to share it with you.
About the Ceremony
Each year the families of the men, women, and children killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 gather near Ground Zero in a tribute of remembrance for their loved ones. Surviving family members read aloud the names of the 2,977 victims among moments of silence, musical interludes, and addresses by former and current Presidents, Governors, Mayors and Senators.
The ceremony includes six moments of silence that signify crucial moments during the attacks: twice to mark the exact times a plane struck the World Trade Center, twice to mark when the towers fell, and two more marking the plane crashes at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. The silence is punctuated by poignant ringing of the 9/11 ceremonial bell, calling out the imprint of those haunting moments.
As the names are read aloud, musicians perform carefully chosen repertoire that facilitate a contemplative and tranquil atmosphere. Performers are asked to play at slow and gentle tempi as the reading of the victims' names is the focus of the program.
The 10th anniversary marked the opening of the 9/11 Memorial; twin reflecting pools that sit within the footprints of where the Twin Towers once stood. The names of every person who died in the 2001 attacks are inscribed along the Memorial pools as a reminder of the largest loss of life resulting from a foreign attack on American soil in history.
About the Pieces
1) Air was written in 1978 by Los Angeles based composer, Ian Krouse, and was inspired by traditional Irish music. It is a love song, of sorts, and I was humbled to perform this piece amid President Obama and President Bush’s addresses at the 10th-anniversary 9/11 Memorial.
Originally composed for 3 violins and basso continuo in the 17th-century, 2) Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel was largely forgotten until its first publication in 1919. Since then, it has become one of the most popular classical music pieces ever written, is performed often during wedding ceremonies, and used frequently on television and in movies.
3) Wild Mountain Thyme is a sensuously longing Scottish folk song. It is also known as Will Ye Go Lassie, Go and it evokes the picturesque mountain terrain in the small village of Balquhidder in the Stirling Council Area of Scotland.
4) Mysterious Habitats is a captivating and hypnotic piece written in 1994 by Yugoslavian composer Dušan Bogdanović. It was inspired by François Couperin’s keyboard work, Les Barricades Mystérieuses. Like the Couperin piece, Mysterious Habitats is a seemingly simple, yet compositionally intricate work
5) Day by Day, or Blott en Dag in original Swedish, was a popular Scandinavian hymn composed by Oscar Ahnfelt in 1872. Ahnfelt wrote many hymns, but Day by Day is his most beloved melody.
6) The Anonymous Romance is one of the classical guitar’s most popular and haunting melodies. The composition has been attributed to and claimed by many guitarists over the last century, but the true composer remains unknown.
7) Waiting for Dawn (1989), 8) Sunday Morning Overcast (1986), and 9) In Sorrow's Wake (1994) are three nostalgic pieces by the American composer Andrew York. Waiting for Dawn comes from a larger set of pieces called 3 Delineations, In Sorrow’s Wake from a work called 8 Dreamscapes, and Sunday Morning Overcast is a stand-alone piece written early in York’s career. After the 10th Anniversary 9/11 Ceremony, I received a touching message from Mr. York telling me that he heard me play one of his pieces during the ceremony and was honored that his music was included at the event.
Composed in 1980, 10) Farewell to Stromness by Peter Maxwell Davies was originally written for solo piano and as a protest towards plans to mine uranium ore in the Orkney Islands. The slow, walking bass line that pervades the piece portrays the residents of the village of Stromness leaving their homes as a result of uranium contamination. Had the proposed development been approved, Stromness would have been heavily polluted as it was only two miles from the uranium mine's core.
11) Catedral de los Pájaros (1996) was inspired by a 1000 year-old tree in Villa de Merlo in the San Luis Provence of Argentina, near the home of José Luis Merlin. The wonder of this carob tree, says Merlin, is that even after 1000 years, it continues to fruit and flower and is home to innumerable birds and birds’ nests.
12) Canción del Emperador (1538) by Luys de Narváez was among some of the first music ever published. Originally written for the vihuela (a predecessor of the guitar), Canción del Emperador is a transcription of the vocal motet Mille Regretz (1520) by the famed Renaissance composer Josquin des Prez. Narváez’s title suggests that this song was the favorite of Charles V, who reigned during part of Narváez’s life.
George Frideric Handel’s 13) Sarabande was originally written for harpsichord between 1703-06 and is part of his Keyboard Suite in D minor (HWV437). The sarabande form originated in Latin America in the 16th-century, but was banned by Phillip II in 1583 for its sultry nature. It was re-introduced in France and England in the early 17th-century where a stately version in a slow triple meter was preferred to the lively Spanish original.
14) Allegro Moderato, E minor and 15) Moderato, B minor by Fernando Sor are more commonly known as Estudio No. 17 and Estudio No. 5. This is according to a compilation of 20 studies composed by Sor and assembled by the great 20th-century guitarist, Andres Segovia. During his lifetime, Sor was dubbed “the Beethoven of the guitar” for his tremendous output of expressive music for the classical guitar.
Antonio Ruiz-Pipó wrote 16) Canción y Danza No. 1 in 1951 when he was just 18 years old. The piece employs beautiful folk-like melodies in two very different styles; the Canción is slow and plaintive while the Danza is fast and lively. I should note that I only performed the Canción during the 9/11 Memorial, but the Danza is offered here as a sort of glimmer of hope and a symbol of triumph.
About the Artist
Benjamin Pila is the only classical guitarist to be named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts. He has performed extensively throughout the United States in venues such as Alice Tully Hall, Avery-Fisher Hall and the Kaplan Penthouse in New York’s Lincoln Center, the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and Harris Concert Hall in Aspen, Colorado. Benjamin was also invited to perform at the 2007, 2008, and 2011 September 11th Commemoration Ceremonies at Ground Zero in New York City.
Benjamin’s playing has been featured on the Today Show on NBC as well as on the National Public Radio program From the Top. He was awarded ASCAP’s Best Performance of a Contemporary Work and was the grand prize winner of the Pacific Guitar Festival, the Tampa Bay Symphony Concerto Competition, and the University of Southern California Guitar Concerto Competition. He has won prizes in the Yamaha 6-String Theory Guitar Competition, the ASTA National Solo Competition, the NFAA YoungARTS Competition, and the Texas International Guitar Competition. Benjamin was also the first guitarist to receive the Ruth Eckerd Hall Scholarship in the Performing Arts and is the only guitarist to be awarded three times the H. Paul Gudelsky Fellowship for Guitar at the Aspen Music Festival and School.
Benjamin received his Bachelor’s degree from Florida State University studying with Bruce Holzman, his Master’s degree from The Juilliard School studying under Sharon Isbin, and recently completed his Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Southern California under Scott Tennant of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. Dr. Pila is currently serving as the Artistic Advancement Committee Co-Chair on the Alumni Board of Directors for the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts.
PRODUCED AND EDITED BY
ENGINEERED AND MASTERED BY
Sunburst Recording, Culver City, CA
January and June 2012
Thank you to The Juilliard School for inviting me to play at my first 9/11 Ceremony and to 9/11 Music Director, Kimberlee Wertz, for asking me back. To my parents Kalman Pila and Judith Sachs for their love and support throughout the years and to my teachers, Scott Tennant, Sharon Isbin, Bruce Holzman, John Parris, and Brian Head for their advice and guidance.