Mercurio’s Grateful Tail

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Steven Mercurio with 3-year old Ava

UPDATE: A Grateful Tail is now available on CD. Visit the The Subito Store here.

Read the original story about Steven Mercurio’s “Dog Symphony” below.


Composers often have faithful companionships with their dogs, and Carl Orff and Arnold Schoenberg give us just a glimpse of how deep these relationships can be. And now, we can add Steven Mercurio to this list, when on July 3, he premieres his newest work A Grateful Tail at the 2013 Prague Proms. Written for vocal soloist, chorus and orchestra, Mercurio’s four-movement, 42-minute symphony is based on American playwright Eugene O’Neill’s “Last Will and Testament of Silverdene Emblem O’Neill” (an heartfelt remembrance of his family dog “Blemie”), and is the first symphony written about dogs. Mercurio conducts the Czech National Symphony and Choir, joined by featured vocal soloist Oscar-winning actor F. Murray Abraham.

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Carl Orff shakes hands with his four-legged best friend.

“I was inspired,” Mercurio shares, “to create this symphonic tribute to dogs shortly after my beloved 15-year-old poodle Lola succumbed to old age. A sympathetic friend sent me a copy of Eugene O’Neill’s letter in which he encourages dog owners not to grieve death but to rejoice in the happy life they shared. I knew immediately that I was going to set it to music and A Grateful Tail was born.”

In each of its movements, A Grateful Tail is a glimpse of a dog’s life — from its youthful play to its final, peaceful rest. Mercurio comments, “‘Siriusly,’ Dog Star [Movement 1] takes its name from Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, [which] has been used by travelers and navigators for thousands of years as a guiding star…The sound is buoyant and frisky emulating the nature of ‘doggy playtime’ [and] evokes both a musical and visual sense of the mythological and mysterious elements of Sirius and its Dog Godstar secrets…In ‘Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, Peacefully’ [Movement 2], tranquility presides over this supremely gentle movement. After a day of play, every dog needs rest. ‘Let Sleeping Dogs Lie’ is a lyrical andante inspired by the profound serenity and beauty of a dog at rest.”

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Arnold Schoenberg with his Irish setter Roddie during his American years in Hollywood. Photo credit: Arnold Schoenberg Institute Archives/G. Schirmer

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A Grateful Tail  is now in The Subito Store

He continues, ““The Last Will and Testament of Silverdene Emblem O’Neill” [Movement Three] is based on O’Neill’s powerful prose [and] was intended as a consolation piece for Carlotta, his wife, who had become grief-stricken over the loss of their beloved dog “Blemie.” Written for a singing actor who personifies the role of Blemie — a dog at the end of his life, the movement plays like a one act, musical drama as we follow Blemie through a three-dimensional, emotional and psychological journey writing his “Last Will and Testament,” for those who have loved him. [The final movement] — “Wagging the Tail: Ossia “Fido’s Lament” — [is] a life-affirming rumba/samba using Blemie’s final words. In order to make the dances come alive, this movement also calls upon the colors of a rhythm section…[and] employs the most unique American musical invention, the gospel choir…[It is] a joyful and revival-like celebration of a dog’s life as its spirit lives on forever in the hearts and minds of dog lovers everywhere.” Afterward, A Grateful Tail will be released on CD on July 9.