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Voyage of Odysseus

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Voyage of Odysseus - Katie O'Hara LaBrie

Embark on a musical odyssey as we take to the seas in the Voyage of Odysseus! This engaging theme and variations brings to life the epic adventures of Odysseus and his crew by seamlessly weaving Greek mythology and music together through different modes, time signatures and styles.


Note from the Composer:

I had so much fun writing this piece!  My son has been really into Greek Mythology lately (inspired by a certain popular book series) and so he was my resident expert on the programmatic elements of the piece. 

It all starts with Odysseus’s theme – which should be played with strength and a slight separation between the notes. Challenge your students to look for hints of Odysseus’s theme or motives in each variation.

Next comes the Cyclops – really encourage your students to get into the “pesante” style with heavy weight. When Odysseus reaches Circe’s Island the main theme starts alternating between D Major and D minor representing Circe’s tricky nature. (Be extra careful of your accidentals – they are tricky just like Circe!) Then we creep down to the underworld using the original theme, with a mode change to minor, now played in a soft sneaky pizzicato. 

The cellos introduce a wave-like motive as we go into a lush variation as Calypso tries to make Odysseus fall in love with her. Use long legato broad bow strokes here. As our hero finally escapes the island, a series of triplets will lead us into a 6/8 section showing Poseidon’s Rage. It may be helpful to let the students know that the 4/4 triplets will feel the same as a group of 3 eighth notes in the 6/8 part. 

Next, Odysseus tells his epic tale to the King of the Phaeacians through a fortissimo iteration of the main theme. Finally at m. 137 he returns home to Ithaca and ascends to the throne in D Major glory - but the story isn’t quite over yet… he takes his revenge on all of his wife’s suitors! Everything is playable in 1st position, but there is a touch of 3rd position at the end for the 1st violins (with optional 8va) in these final two sections. I hope you enjoy the story and the music!

– Katie O’Hara LaBrie

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