Premiere performance on May 17, 2015 with James Nyoraku Schlefer and the Voxare String Quartet.
When I first began to compose The 26 for James Nyoraku Schlefer, I found myself drawn to the famous story of the 26 Franciscan Martyrs of Japan. This lead me to Sushako Endo’s searing and com- plex novel Silence, whose mood would ultimately permeate the heart of the music I would write. As the months passed and The 26 took shape, the world witnessed the rise of groups like ISIS and Boko Haram, along with their single-minded desire to eradicate Christianity from their respective parts of the world (while western leaders remained curiously silent.) Suddenly the now distant sacrifice of these martyrs for Japan – and the very real human fears and struggles which must have accompanied their fate – became tragically prescient as the terrible stories and images continued to pour out of Africa and the Middle East. There was no way that I could write music about these terrible events, but the events could not help but find their way into this music. The work’s opening notes – ini- tially imagined as an echo of the excitement of the beginning of an ancient journey – also took on the character of the previous vibrancy of these now dispersed ancient communities. Concurrently the psychological complex- ity of the martyrdom of the Japanese 26 – a struggle given such incredible treatment in Endo’s novel – found itself replayed in recent months by two rows of men kneeling on the beaches of Libya, facing west for a “message in blood.”