Child Moon began with a phone call from Patrick Reynolds, conductor of the University of Dayton Symphonic Wind Ensemble. He, along with Peggy Taulbee, was interested in commissioning a work to honor the life of Peggy’s late daughter, Leslie Taulbee Waddell. I graciously accepted, though I was unsure of how I would go about writing such a piece.
Fortunately, Peggy and Patrick shared much about Leslie. I learned of her passion for life as well as her deep connection to music (Leslie played trumpet in the University of Dayton Symphonic Wind Ensemble, while her mother has played flute for years). Most importantly, though, I learned of her love for her two young daughters, Elise and Emma. After Leslie’s passing, her daughters continued to speak with her whenever they saw the moon. In their eyes, the moon was most certainly heaven.
This touching story of the girls and the moon stuck with me as I began to formulate ideas for the work. At about the same time I rather serendipitously discovered Carl Sandburg’s poem, Child Moon. Besides the obvious connection to Elise and Emma, the imagery in Child Moon helped me clarify my thoughts and feelings at a time when I was struggling to do so. Further, the poetry assisted with the structure of the composition: one last conversation between mother and daughter.
The child’s wonder
At the old moon
Comes back nightly.
She points her finger
To the far silent yellow thing
Shining through the branches
Filtering on the leaves a golden sand,
Crying with her little tongue, “See the moon!”
And in her bed fading to sleep
With babblings of the moon on her little mouth.
–Carl Sandburg (1916)
the University of Dayton Symphonic Wind Ensemble in memory of Leslie Taulbee Waddell