HILARY PURRINGTON is a New England-based composer of contemporary classical music. Her work has received recognition from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC), the Massachusetts Music Educators’ Association (MMEA), Houston Grand Opera’s Home and Place, the American Modern Ensemble, and Voices of Change, among others. Recent projects include commissions from the Melodia Women’s Choir, the Novus Trombone Quartet, the Chicago Harp Quartet, and the Musical Chairs Chamber Ensemble. Purrington holds degrees from The Juilliard School and the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, and she is currently pursuing a Master of Musical Arts at the Yale School of Music.
LISTEN: Cassandra for women’s choir, piano, and percussion quartet
Melodia Women’s Choir
Cassandra was commissioned in 2015 by the Melodia Women’s Choir of New York City. As a female composer writing for a women’s choir, I found it fitting to create a work that tells a story about an extraordinary woman. I have always been fascinated by Roman and Greek mythology, and I chose to gather multiple texts that together relate the tragedy of the Trojan princess Cassandra.
According to myth, Cassandra was one of the most beautiful women in the world, second only to Helen of Troy. The god Apollo, hoping to seduce the princess, made her his priestess and gave her the gift of prophecy. When Cassandra refused him, he cursed her so that no one would believe a word she said. Thereafter, the Trojans viewed her as a madwoman, and she lived a life of isolation and misery. Following the destruction of Troy, Cassandra was captured by the Greeks and made the concubine of Agamemnon, king of Mycenae and commander of the united Greek army. Upon reaching Mycenae, Agamemnon’s wife, Clytemnestra, murdered Cassandra in a jealous rage.
We don’t know if the princess actually existed, but I wonder – if we strip away the supernatural elements of Cassandra’s story, what was actually “wrong” with her, if anything? I like to imagine her as formidably intelligent and outspoken, an extraordinary woman millennia ahead of her time.