By: Dominique Johnson
The National Shrine of Saint Therese is sacred ground where people go for spiritual renewal and to get away from the busyness of everyday life. People may spend a weekend there or just 10 minutes, but the experience they have leaves a lasting impact on Catholics and non-Catholics. Inspired by the sacred ground and Saint Therese, composer Emerson Eads wrote a orchestral piece that honors Saint Therese’s life.
The idea for the composition came last fall when guest conductor for the Juneau Symphony, William Todd Hunt decided to commission compositions inspired by landmarks in Juneau. Hunt, who had worked with composer Emerson Eads on the opera The Princess Sophia, pitched the idea of a series inspired by Juneau to Eads.
Hunt said, “I gave him some ideas like Gastineau Channel, Mount Roberts, the ice field and the Shrine of Saint Therese,” and Eads jumped at the idea of composing a piece on the Shrine.
Eads, who grew up in Fairbanks is the Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at the University of Minot State University. He shared that he chose the Shrine because when you are there, like all of Alaska it, “gives you the sense of how small you are in comparison to it, and makes you see yourself from a greater perspective.” Eads added that after reading about Saint Therese, he decided to make the composition, “An evocation of her life and the geographical place itself.”
Though not familiar with Saint Therese before working on the piece for the symphony, Eads took the time to read The Story of a Soul. While reading it, “I was overwhelmed with the simplicity of her devotion…and how at the end of the day it is all about love,” he shared.
In the composition, Eads took Saint Therese’s perspective on simplicity and love to create the musical piece. The title of the piece is “I Love Him,” inspired by the saint’s last words, “My God I love you.” He said the whole composition is built on that phrase, which ultimately matches the structure of the Shrine, “It doesn’t point to itself in an ostentatious way, it points to a greater being.”
The premiere of “I Love Him,” a meditation for Orchestra on St. Therese will be performed by the Juneau Symphony, led by William Todd Hunt April 6th at 8 PM and April 7th at 3 PM at Juneau-Douglas High School. The program is titled Psalms and Fanfares. For more information on the program and to purchase tickets visit www.juneausymphony.org/apr2019/.