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Explanation and Allegro (1.1)


In the spirit of Sir Edward Elgar’s Op. 47, “Introduction and Allegro”, I wondered about the Agincourt Projects in musical terminology.

British composer Sir William Walton, a full generation younger than Elgar, provided music for Agincourt’s Centennial celebration in 1957. And at that approximate time, he quipped about the writing of opera (of which he had produced just one, “Troilus & Cressida”): “Never write an opera,” Walton advised, “Too many notes. Too many notes.” Or some such admonition; I’m writing this from memory and you know how that goes. I might have echoed Sir William myself: “Never create a community. Too many stories. Too many stories.


adverb & adjective: 1. (especially as a direction after a solo section) with all voices or instruments together.

noun: 1. a passage to be performed with all voices or instruments together.

Asked by of Sunday’s students how to choose a topic as their own contribution to the story thus far, it seemed best to approach the process of triage at some distance. consider, for example, the theme of the dying and the dead. Yes, any community of Agincourt’s size and aspiration would have had medical professionals and some sort of hospital. Ours has a curious name—Luke, the Physician—and has been relocated twice: first to the west edge of the city, and later, when a much larger facility was required, north of Hiway #7. Either of the earlier facilities would be do-able.


adjective & adverb: 1. (especially as a direction) at a brisk tempo.

noun: 1. a passage or movement in an allegro tempo.

Depiction is problematic; to depict something is to freeze it in a moment of time, an arbitrary and artificial state. All parts of Agincourt have been in a constant state of “becoming”, but two of them at least offer a contained phenomenon: the county fairgrounds across the Muskrat and the cemeteries clustered at the opposite east edge of the city. To show either of them now entails their accumulated evolution from the 1860s to the present. Far better and easier, I suspect, would be a rendition of either in a previous phase. But I ahve yet to find volunteers to take them on.

Perhaps the most “allegretic” of Agincourt’s parts might have been the city’s northern edge, where State Hiway #7 bypassed on its way westward toward Storm Lake. Grady Clay, journalist-turned-landscape-observer, has written what may be the most accessible resource for the study of urban change: Close-up: How to Read the American City (1974). Clay’s insight tells us that change is already afoot long before the physical evidence. This area would have been the location of the drive-in movie theater, new- and used-car dealerships, farm implements, and probably the first actual motel (as opposed to a “motor court”). such a study of The Strip could be a semester-long exercise, a potential candidate for ARCH 720-something or other. But I’ve resolved to never do one of those again.


adjective: 1. relating to or characteristic of an elegy; “haunting and elegiac poems”. Synonyms: mournful, melancholic, melancholy, plaintive, sorrowful, sad, lamenting, doleful.

noun: 1. verses in an elegiac meter.

This is probably a more appropriate musical direction for either the cemeteries or the Square, Agincourt’s public assembly space opposite the courthouse; the testosterone-laden site of war memorials, etc.


noun: 1. a contrapuntal composition in which a short melody or phrase (the subject) is introduced by one part and successively taken up by others and developed by interweaving the parts.

There have been moments, intense episodes of creativity, between and among some of us, when the energy is a genuine collaboration, each feeding on the other. Cecil Elliott once called this “heated agreement”, which might be counterpart to the musical notion of fugue.

con prosciuto, agnello e confitura di fragiole

Musicians will be puzzled by these performance instructions (usually written in Italian). Confronted by Sir Lawrence Olivier concerning the score for Olivier’s film version of Hamlet, the sardonic William Walton added these words to his next film score, for Richard III: con prosciuto, agnello e confiture di fragiole. Unfamiliar with such direction, the conductor asked Walton their meaning and was not amused to find Walton intended the piece to be played “with ham, lamb and strawberry jam”. I’d taken these intentions to heart when I read them more than fifty years ago and offer them to you today. Do not take yourselves too seriously. Even the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 must have had its bittersweet moments of irony and heroic humor in the face of irresistible force.


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