National Symphony Orchestra Premieres Jager's 'The Wall'

The audience at the National Symphony Orchestra's Labor Day concert in Washington, D.C., was "like a small city that had suddenly gone to church."

So commented one audience member following the world premiere performance of "The Wall" by Tennessee Technological University Music Professor Robert Jager. The concert, held on the West Lawn of the Capitol, was attended by an estimated 65,000 to 70,000 people.

Subtitled "Reflections on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial," the tone poem was written in 1993. Jager completed the orchestral transcription of the piece last year.

"Robert Jager, a composer and a Vietnam veteran, was bowled over when he first visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and read the list of names that included many friends and comrades," said Joseph McLellan in The Washington Post. "The audience applauded Jager warmly, to the credit of those who had come looking for a good time and found themselves plunged into a meditation on mortality. True, 'The Wall' ends in consolation, with a long, spacious melody, but en route it passes through moments of considerable anguish."

Just prior to the premiere of "The Wall," Jager received word that he and Gregory Danner, chairperson of the university's Department of Music and Art, had won cash awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

ASCAP cash awards, say the organization's administration, "reflect our continuing commitment to assist and encourage writers of serious music." An independent panel chooses each year's winners; the 1996 panel included Washington Post critic Tim Page, Wheaton Conservatory Dean Harold Best and Oakland-East Bay Symphony Music Director Michael Morgan.

Jager, who joined ASCAP in 1965, has received such awards almost every year since 1968. Danner is newer to the ASCAP rolls, and the 1996 award is his eighth.