"Ashes of Roses" is a setting of traditional texts from the Latin Mass for the Dead, complemented by an excerpt of poetry by early 20th-century American writer Elaine Goodale Eastman, from which the work draws its title. A large ensemble of current students and alumni all singers or instrumentalists performed the requiem.
Composed during the 17 months following Sept. 11, 2001, the six movements of "Ashes" are intended to take the listener on a journey through the emotions of mourning, reflection, healing, hope and perseverance.
A vocal music education and theory/composition major from Valley City, N.D., Hagen has been actively writing music in a variety of styles since starting a rock band at the age of 14. Her earliest training in the mechanics of music came from her mother Sara, who is a music theory teacher. While at St. Olaf, Hagen has studied composition under associate music Professor Peter Hamlin, music Professor Timothy Mahr and associate fine arts Dean Charles Forsberg.
During the summer of 2001, while Hagen was preparing an original piano sonata for performance at her Senior Piano Recital, she decided to set an even larger goal for her Senior Composition Recital. "I really wanted to write something big," said Hagen. After settling on the medium of choir and orchestra, she began searching for words to set to her music.
"I was unsure of what text to use until after September 11," Hagen said. "Then I realized it would be appropriate to write a requiem mass, because our country was in mourning." However, as the mass evolved over the course of a year and a half, a far broader theme for the requiem emerged. "The piece is about more than Sept. 11," she said. "People live with loss every day."
This past summer, Hagen had the opportunity to study for two months in Missoula, Montana with composer David Maslanka, whose Symphony No. 4 was recently played by the St. Olaf Band. "I completed the bulk of the work [on "Ashes"] during that amazing and enlightening time," Hagen said.
After returning to St. Olaf this fall, Hagen continued writing and orchestrating the mass. In preparation for the performance, Hagen and assistant conductor Paul Peltier led a volunteer ensemble of more than 70 performers in a series of rehearsals for "Ashes" in January and February.
The culmination of more than a year of her self-professed creative outpouring, hard work, rehearsal and planning, Hagens March 2 premiere of "Ashes" was attended by more than 200 people, who gave the piece a standing ovation at its conclusion. "It was really amazing to participate in a brand new piece of music," said Lindsey Hooker 05, a member of the "Ashes" choir.
The requiems solo passages were performed by Jennifer Kult 02, Rebecca Garbarino 03, Matthew McDonald 03, Robert Grace 02 and Sarah Demoss 04.
Hagen is currently student-teaching at an elementary school in New Hope, Minn. She is still working on a "Dies Ire" movement that will complete "Ashes of Roses," and is also in the early stages of writing a piano concerto. Having completed her ninth and final semester at St. Olaf this past fall, she plans to pursue a musical living of composing, teaching and performing.