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May 12, 2003
Vol. III, No. 15

Regardless of our politics or where we stand on the recent events in Iraq, we have to admit that this coming Memorial Day is going to be a tough one for a lot of folks. As organists, some of us may be asked to participate in special services while others may simply wish to commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice. With this in mind, I have put together an organ piece called "Memorial." For those who would like to know more about the piece and how it came to be, please read on. A PDF version is available now for free download on the Composition Free Exchange page:

Last Sunday, I was sitting at the organ console, mentally reviewing my ongoing projects, when I realized, once again, that I haven't composed anything in a long time. Ignoring the fact that it's because I'm too busy, I started toying with the idea. How about something practical? Organists are always asked to play for special occasions. How about something for a holiday? What's coming up? Memorial Day. "Taps" popped into my head, probably because of all those times in my younger years when I was called upon to play it at Memorial Day ceremonies. Everyone in my family started life as a trumpet player.

OK, "Taps" is a simple piece, maybe I could develop it into something more by working in a hymn tune somehow. "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" instantly came to mind, I suppose because of the title words. So just like that, I had a plan.

With a few extra minutes before the service, I went to my office and worked on my electronic keyboard. The harmonization for "Taps" ended up being little more than a drone with a few accenting notes. It seemed that any more than that took too much away from the tune. After the service I worked out a harmonization for "O Sacred Head" at the organ. To set the mood as well as complement "Taps," this harmonization also ended up being quite simple. All that was left was to put it all together.

I'm not going to pretend that "Memorial" is some great work of art. In fact, that it was short, simple and came about quickly only intensified the artistic insecurities that I would normally have after creating something. I was especially unsure about the use of "Taps." I didn't want to offend anyone or use it in an inappropriate manner. That's why there's an alternate ending offering the option to omit it. But in defense of my work I proceeded to the internet to find the rules governing the use of "Taps." My research led me to several websites including ultimately Jari Villanueva's I contacted him and his responses helped me to feel OK about what I was doing. I'd like to thank Jari for his advice and encouragement and please visit his website,, if you're interested in more background on "Taps" and the history of the bugle.

Creating "Memorial" was a rewarding journey for me and I hope others will find some meaning in it as well. Have a safe Memorial Day.
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Updated Pages
Composition Free Exchange:
Added is "Memorial," an organ piece for use in Memorial Day ceremonies and related services. I also posted a revised version of my Prelude #2; natural signs were added in measures 5 and 30. A revised version of the complete Opus No. 1 has also been posted with the same changes.

Have a great week!

Dan Long

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