Pianist Anne-Marie McDermott and Composer Chris Rogerson discuss Samaa’

This week, the SPCO performs a new expanded version of Chris Rogerson’s Samaa’ (Sky) for piano and orchestra. In this interview filmed for the Bravo! Vail Music Festival where Samaa’ first premiered, Rogerson shares more about his inspiration for the piece.

Written for pianist Anne-Marie McDermott, this reflective piece is inspired by the lived experience of Kais Alkalisi, a Yemeni guide whom Rogerson met while in Yemen. Kais shared a story with Rogerson of a time, while traveling through Houthi territory on a public bus, in which he and the other riders saw missiles falling from the sky. In that moment of fear, Kais turned to an elderly woman beside him and told her the missiles were several kilometers away — that she should not worry.

“This image — of Kais and this woman traveling through a dangerous war zone, missiles raining down around them, is a sweeping, moving, epic image to me: a testament to the lengths people can go simply to live their lives,” writes Rogerson.

“And while just an image to me, it is something very real to them. It is something I cannot personally describe or attempt to portray. The fear they must have felt, the urgency, the overwhelming basic need to see their loved ones. And yet I am moved by it, and what I can do is express how I feel about that image in the work that I can create.”

The full recording of the original version of Samaa’, first performed by the SPCO and Anne-Marie McDermott in 2022, is available free and on-demand in the SPCO Concert Library.