“Three Places in Brazil” is a programmatic work for percussion ensemble. The title is an homage to Charles Ives’s “Three Places in New England.” Each movement references a specific place and time, as follows:
May 30, 2012: Recife
II. The First Mass
April 26, 1500: Coroa Vermelha, Bahia
III. The Last Night of Maria Bonita and Lampião
July 27, 1938: Anjicos, Sergipe
The first movement, “Maracatú,” borrows freely from the maracatú style of music of Recife. During the Carnival season, competing maracatú groups practice on street corners. I happened to be visiting the city during the off-season, however, so my version of maracatú is a creation of my imagination. The second movement, “The First Mass,” depicts the first mass performed by European explorers, an honor claimed by many beachfront communities. The movement begins with the vastness of waves breaking on the beach; a marimba and timpani melody represents the intoning of the priest; and eventually jungle birds, frogs, and monkeys join the congregation. The last movement, “The Last Night of Maria Bonita and Lampião,” is a paean to those two legendary gangsters, or cangaçeiros. Lampião was a Robin Hood figure who escaped a life of oppression to lead a gang of marauders that included his girlfriend, Maria Bonita. In 1938 they were captured and beheaded by the police at their camp in the sertão, or back-country. In the music depicting their last night, they are gathered around a fire, sewing their leather clothing and playing harmonica, as the hoofbeats of the police are heard in the distance.
Three Places in Brazil was written for and premiered by the Percussion Ensemble at DePauw University in 2013.