John and Jim

Duration: 7′
For Wind Ensemble (Grade 4.5)
Commissioned by the Columbus Pride Bands and the Queen City Freedom Band of Cincinnati for the 2024 Pride Bands Alliance Annual Conference, celebrating Ohioans Jim Obergefell and John Arthur who brought Marriage Equality to the United States of America.

  • Piccolo, 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Bassoons, 4 Bb Clarinets, Bass Clarinet, 2 Alto Saxophones, Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone
  • 3 Bb Trumpets, 2 F Horns (doubling recommended), 3 Trombones, Euphonium, Tuba
  • Double Bass
  • 8 Percussion:
    • Timpani
    • Glockenspiel
    • Xylophone
    • Marimba 1, Suspended Cymbal, Triangle
    • Marimba 2, Crash Cymbals, Tam-Tam
    • Vibraphone 1
    • Vibraphone 2
    • Bass Drum
  • Piano
Program Notes

I first heard the name Obergefell in 2015 when the case that bears it, Obergefell v. Hodges, was decided by the Supreme Court. Among the most important in history for queer Americans, this landmark ruling granted marriage rights to all same sex couples. At that moment, Obergefell was etched in history. For those writing about the law, the name would thereafter be written in italics, and today it’s as much a shorthand for the case law of marriage equality as it is the name of a man. But at its core, the case begins with two people.

John Arthur and Jim Obergefell were married in July of 2013. They had been together in a loving relationship for 22 years, and Jim was caring for John as he faced the end stages of ALS. In the last year of John’s life, they traveled on a medical plane to Maryland—one of just a handful of states where same-sex marriage was legal at the time—to be married. The marriage ceremony was conducted on board the plane before they returned home to Ohio for their last months together. John passed away that October, and, because Ohio did not recognize their marriage as legal, Jim had to challenge the state in court to be listed as John’s surviving spouse on his death certificate. The state appealed, and the court battle worked its way through the legal system until 2015, when Jim and his team were victorious before the Supreme Court. Their efforts ensured that the relationships of same sex couples, including my marriage to my husband, would be seen as equal under the law. For that I am deeply and personally grateful. 

John and Jim is my effort to pay tribute to the men whose love and devotion gave rise to great change, and I do so by interpolating source material from an iconic piece of traditional wedding music: Pachelbel’s Canon in D. In my youth I adored Pachelbel’s Canon, and I learned a piano arrangement of it when I was 11 years old. For months I would play the piece every morning before school, endlessly repeating its bass line while improvising melodies when the treble clef’s music ran out. Through these explorations, I discovered some basic principles of music composition, and it was through the Pachelbel that I began composing in earnest. It was also around that time that I first learned of its use in weddings, as it was the frequent soundtrack to reality TV shows chronicling the weddings of straight couples. At the time it saddened me that music I found so beautiful was emblematic of something that, according to the law, I could never have. It feels fitting then, that in the year of my own wedding to my partner of 11 years, reframing (and perhaps reclaiming) the Pachelbel should provide the inspiration for a celebration of marriage equality. 

My piece is a conversation between two alternating phrases, one of which uses melodic fragments and harmonic progressions from the Canon in D as source material. In the Canon, Pachelbel establishes a single bass line and layers it with several melodies, two of which are quite iconic but never performed simultaneously in the original. I disassembled and rewrote these to work harmoniously with one another upon the arrival of the piece’s climax, which appears after several minutes of what I think of as the music finding and piecing itself together. Ultimately, I believe “John and Jim” sounds like both a departure and nod to the piece that first inspired me to compose. All of this takes place in a reverberant atmosphere, where notes linger and continually echo around one another, symbolic of both the persistence and impact of people like John and Jim.

John and Jim was commissioned by The Columbus Pride Bands and the Queen City Freedom Band of Cincinnati for the 2024 Pride Bands Alliance Annual Conference, where it was premiered on July 20, 2024 by Dr. Jon Norywota and the combined Concert Bands. Heartfelt thanks to the Pride Bands Alliance for this opportunity to tell my story and celebrate John Arthur, Jim Obergefell, and the progress that has been made in the name of love.

Perusal Score – Performance materials can be purchased beginning in 2025.

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