Mount Rainier Search and Rescue (2011)

For saxophone quartet and percussion ensemble.

This piece is part of my National Park Series.

In May of 2004, climber Scott Richards called Mount Rainier National Park on a cell phone requesting a rescue for his climbing partner Peter Cooley. The two-person team was ascending Liberty Ridge near 12,000 feet (3657 meters) when Peter’s crampon caught and he fell approximately 30 feet and hit his head, sustaining severe head trauma including a skull fracture as well as injuries to his left arm and leg.

This twelve-minute composition, composed in 2011, roughly follows the major events of the rescue efforts that ensued over the next three agonizing days. In this piece, a series of musical snapshots and recurring musical gestures portray rescue attempts, desperate phone calls, and nights alone on the mountain.  The daring rescue at the climax of the piece is followed by shock at Peter’s death, then an agonized section of mourning as the funeral chimes become unbearably loud. The poignant mixture of adventure, fear, heroism, and grief in this event form a highly personal microcosm of emotions and actions felt around the world in recent years.  Unexpected disasters, injured survivors desperately hoping for rescue, heroic efforts to save lives, grief for the victims – these ideas will resonate deeply with people in Japan, New Zealand, Haiti, Chile, and elsewhere. This piece attempts to recapture the emotions, celebrate the heroism of the rescuers, and honor those lost.

Mount Rainier Search and Rescue Presser Cover.jpg
The XPlorium Ensemble premiered this piece in Taiwan in July, 2011.

The XPlorium Ensemble premiered this piece in Taiwan in July, 2011.

Each time I listen to the piece I feel as though I am back high up on the mountain with the wind and snow. I can feel the events unfolding as they did at 13,000 feet on Mount Rainier.
— Scott Richards