The commissioner has exclusive performance rights until June 1, 2022 and sole recording rights until June 1, 2023.
Newport Music Festival
When the Newport Music Festival commissioned me for a piano trio in honor of their 2021 season, I looked for a topic that would celebrate an aspect of the Newport community. While researching the area, I was struck by the nine lighthouses situated around the island. The dual nature of lighthouses was particularly appealing to me: not only do they serve a vital role in the navigation of ships around rocks and land, but they are also a beautiful sight, particularly at night when their blinking beacons are clearly visible to the eye. It occurred to me that lighthouses link the past with the present, and will endure long into the future, with their beacons serving the same purpose for every generation.
I became fascinated with the lighthouse on the property of Castle Hill Inn, located at the opening of the East Passage of the Narragansett Bay. This squat thirty-four foot granite structure was erected in 1890 on a very picturesque spot, right at the water’s edge. Its “characteristic,” the nautical term for each lighthouse’s unique light sequence that allows ships to identify the lighthouse, is to alternate on for three seconds, then off for three seconds. The lighthouse has also served as the starting and finish line for numerous high profile yacht races, as well as survived a massive hurricane in 1938, though the lighthouse keeper’s nearby residence wasn’t so lucky. American novelist Thornton Wilder wrote much of his 1973 novel Theophilus North while staying at the Castle Hill Inn; a passage from the book perfectly captures the dual nature of lighthouses: “At a later visit I was able to engage the pentagonal room in a turret above the house; from that magical room I could see at night the beacons of six lighthouses and hear the booming and chiming of as many sea buoys.”
In Beacon of the Bay, we first hear the lighthouse’s characteristic as its ruby light blinks on and off. This is followed by a simple theme that represents the lighthouse performing its solitary duty. As the piece progresses, we hear waves playfully lapping around its base, then yachts gracefully floating by; this is followed by a violent storm that churns the waves with so much force that they crash against the lighthouse’s granite body. But the steadfast lighthouse holds firm to the rocks, grandly blinking its ruby light. The music quiets back down to its simple theme, with yachts sailing by once more as the piece concludes.