'Alzheimer's Stories' hopes to strike lasting chord
By Bob Karlovits
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 9:02 p.m.
Composer Robert S. Cohen admits writing a piece of music about an illness that has no survivors is “a tough sell.”
But he also says the growing number of cases of Alzheimer's disease has created a public where “everyone knows someone who has it or someone who has had to treat someone with it.” That reality has created an audience — or a potential one — for the work.
The Bach Choir of Pittsburgh presents his “Alzheimer's Stories” Saturday and Sunday as part of its season-opening “Time Remembered/Time Forgotten” concert at Eastminster Church in East Liberty.
It is part of a program that looks at love and responsibility in a number of different ways, says Thomas Wesley Douglas, artistic director of the choir. Besides Cohen's work, the concert also includes Howard Hanson's “Songs of Democracy,” which deals with individual roles in government, and an a cappella version of Sergei Rachmaninoff's “Vocalise” that deals with the “family of mankind.”
But the Cohen work is the centerpiece of the concert, and Douglas hopes listeners are not put off by what seems to be an emotion-testing work. He says it is more “rousing” than “sobering” in the way it deals with the love that is shared between Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers.
The work is in three sections of about 10 minutes each. The first deals with the discovery of the disease by Germany's Dr. Alois Alzheimer, the second is a pastiche of a number of individual stories, and the third is offered to help caregivers find hope in what appears hopeless.
Baritone and mezzo-soprano soloists portray different roles in each section, giving the work a theatrical nature.
The composer says he never thinks of writing a piece of music without having some sort of human story in mind, so all of his music has some element of theatricality.
Cohen says the work dates back to 2007 when a donor, who wanted to stay anonymous, gave the Susquehanna Valley Chorale in Eastern Pennsylvania a large gift to commission a work on the subject.
The composer, who lives in New Jersey, says he was frightened at first by the task, but then began to like the idea. The work, with libretto by Herschel Garfein, was premiered in 2009.
“Alzheimer's Stories” has been performed seven or eight times this year, Cohen says, and has three more coming up in the fall.
One of those will be at Cleveland's Severance Hall, where it will be performed in November as part of a conference on the disease, he says.
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7852.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McCutchen proposes to girlfriend on DeGeneres show
- Starkey: NHL stuck in stone age
- Police: Driver fell unconscious before Seton Hill bus crash
- Steelers defense’s rapid decline looks similar to that of Steel Curtain’s
- PNC plans to do away with tellers
- Indiana County man ordered to trial in shooting of Derry woman in her home
- Penguins’ Neal apologizes, vows to be better
- Steelers notebook: Roethlisberger comes to Haley defense again
- Pirates general manager Huntington is searching for right player, deal
- Highmark health plan enrollment skyrockets from Healthcare.gov
- Aliquippa’s Fields commits to WVU