Chaplin Suite


Chaplin Suite


for mixed ensemble or orchestra (2017)

  • Premiere: 28 July 2017 / Dunlop Pavilion / Wintergreen Music Festival Orchestra / Erin Freeman

  • Instrumentation: (I=picc).1(II=corA).11(=bcl).1-

  • Duration: 35'

  • Dedication: to my sons, aged 9 and 6

  • This is a rental work only. Rental and Licensing is handled through Burning Sled Music.


When artistic director of the Wintergreen Music Festival Erin Freeman invited me to score Charlie Chaplin's great  short film The Tramp several years ago, I was inspired by Chaplin's genius to comply with a score that, while suitable for accompanying screenings of the film, is also viable as a concert work (my Piano Concerto No. 2). I had such a lovely time fulfilling the commission that, when Erin asked if I was interested in scoring another silent, I agreed immediately. I returned to Chaplin for inspiration.  The result is Chaplin Suite, a thirty-five minute concert work for mixed ensemble (or chamber orchestra) that can be performed either as accompaniment to Charlie Chaplin's film A Dog's Life (as it was for the premiere) and in concert or as a ballet score.

For fun, I set myself a couple of technical challenges before writing any notes down on paper. First, of course, I wanted a piece that would work either with or without visuals. That is, the music had to be of sufficient stand-alone interest that it didn't lose the audience without the film's narrative giving it a spine. Second, I wanted to use no more than three musical ideas to generate the score. The first was a falling re-do#-la-re melodic motive that has meant a lot to me over the years and originates in my opera Shining Brow associated with the character of Mamah Cheney. In this score, I pin it to the character of Scraps, the Tramp's beloved dog. The second idea was a rhythmic motive  short-long-short-long that I have played around with since I first attached it to the male characters in my opera Bandanna.  It is ubiquitous in this score, in which I associate it with the character of Chaplin / the Tramp. The third unifying idea  (and technical challenge) was that the entire score is in multiples of "quarter note = 60," with nowhere a ritard or accelerando to be found.  

The piece is dedicated to my sons Atticus, aged 9, and his brother Seamus, age 5.

 --Daron Hagen, April 2017