Fortress of Peace was completed in January of 2015, commissioned by the Southwest Community Concert Band, Ray Florenza, conductor. This very fine community ensemble performs in a variety of churches on the southwest side of Chicago, and specifically asked me to create a work that combined traditional hymn tunes in a contemporary wind band setting. The three songs selected were "A Mighty Fortress is our God" written by Martin Luther, "It is Well with my Soul" lyrics by Horatio Spafford and music by Phillip Bliss, and a traditional hymn tune known as "Fairest Lord Jesus" or "Beautiful Savior", and many other names as well.
The first was selected in honor of Pastor Steve Andres, one of the pastors at Calvary Church in Naperville, Illinois whose wife unexpectedly passed away at a young age. Our whole congregation watched Pastor Steve struggle with his loss, and since he often led worship, the struggle was often public. Although he was best known among the youth for his exciting renditions of contemporary worship songs, in his time of grief Pastor Steve turned to many of the old hymns of the faith, commenting on how the substance of these older songs helped sustain him. "A Mighty Fortress" was one of his favorites during this time, and I was deeply moved each time I heard him sing it. Steve is now fully restored to ministry at Calvary Church, and preaching and singing more passionately than ever. I included this song as a tribute to him and his willingness to share his journey with the members of our church.
"It is Well" is a favorite tune for both my wife Erica and I. The words and the story behind them are equally profound. Lyricist Horatio Spafford lost a fortune in the great Chicago Fire of 1871, then two years later lost all four of his daughers in a shipwreck at sea. The lyrics to this beautiful song were penned when he visited the site of the shipwreck. Finally, "Fairest Lord Jesus" was one of my earliest musical memories from high school. I heard an All-District Treble Choir sing a wonderful arrangement of this hymn at a festival in Springfield, Missou when I was 14 or so and the music has stayed with me ever since.
Notes by Thomas Bough
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