On a Theme of John Biggs -
a musical tribute in memory of Lucienne Gourdon Biggs, I came back into
contact with John Biggs, with whom I had performed when a student at Los
Angeles City College so long ago. In writing back and forth, he sent me a
charming short video of his wife and him singing an a cappella "thank you"
led to this little work in the form of a prelude and fugue. Biggs' work as a
composer and performer over the years is known to many. His
details his work over many decades.
Biggs and his "independent route" through life, one reads: "Unlike
many working composers in America, Biggs has been a composer without a post,
without an academic support system. During a a five-year stint, Biggs worked
as a composer-in-residence at colleges in Kansas, during which time he wrote
such well-known pieces as 'Paul Revere's Ride' and 'Auction Cries.' Since
then, Biggs has chosen the rough route of the independent composer.
'Stravinsky was against composers being on a faculty and making that their
main role. He felt that you have to be out there, finding the needs of the
community and writing for them'." In "PROFILE : Piece by Piece : Composer
John Biggs is trying to guide symphonic music out of the ruts of the past."
by Joseph Woodard, Los Angeles Times, 14 May 1992.
On a pleasant
summer's day in 2018, Manuel Rosales and I paid a call on John where he
lives in Ojai, California, enjoying reminiscences aplenty. Among other
memories, John spoke of his parents, and specifically of his mother that,
when she had delivered her first child so long ago, the physician said she
was too small to have more. Her answer and that of this beneficent life was
to deliver ten more into the world. For his mother who I often saw after
concerts so long ago, and after reading her biography of her husband, I
composed a little tribute for organ, entitled
Grâce et simplicité
Of his father, John repeated a favorite joke which he told, defining a fugue
as that in which voices enter, one after another, all the while the audience
leaves, one after another.
theme by Biggs is decorated with arpeggios and a second voice , which then becomes
the answering portion of the round, to say "thank you very much." The
fugue subject and episode continue this in a light hearted manner.
pages, circa 3' 30" - an MP3 demo is here:
The score is available as a free PDF download, though any major
commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior
arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano
On a Theme of John Biggs