High Flight (6 Movements)

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This 20 minute, 6 movement work uses the poetry of WW2 pilot John Gillespie Magee Jr. to trace the journey from the innocence of his home life to the harsh realities of war. 

The work is a celebration of life, of soaring, of living and loving. This sumptuous music connects us with a young man, his beautiful mind, his idealism and his untimely death. I have never been a part of a work which marks a death by honoring life so fully.”

Erick Lichte – Chor Leoni Men’s Choir


Composers notes

This composition relies on the brilliant poetry of the young Anglo-American WW2  pilot, John Gillespie Magee, to create a narrative about personal transformation amidst the turmoil of war. His trajectory over the course of only a few years closely mirrors that of many of his young compatriots as they were plucked from the relative innocence of their home life into the horrors of war abroad. Over the course of 6 movements we are made witness to an exuberant and linguistically gifted young man that at first writes about the resilience of youth, the over-the-top romanticism of young love, and a yearning to fly. In a short 3 year period his poetry takes a dramatic shift as he joins the Royal Canadian Air Force, is transferred to Great Britain and there, is forced to reckon with the gruesome realities of war. After many sorties in the lofty heights of the English Channel, Magee met a tragic end when, in a training mission, he collided with an RAF plane.  Only 3 months earlier he had penned what is now considered to be one of the greatest wartime poems, High Flight, the final movement of this musical work. In a letter to his parents he wrote, “I am enclosing a verse I wrote the other day. It started at 30,000 feet, and was finished soon after I landed.” I chose to musically set this poem as an epitaph for Magee himself and for the countless other airmen that died so many years before their time.



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