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E.T.O., Rhapsody for Dance Band and Symphony Orchestra, was composed in 1948 in response to Cantrick's experience as a soldier during the Second World war.

Cantrick provides the following commentary on the title page of the score:

The title of this piece is taken from the military vocabulary of World War II and stands for — in case anyone has forgotten — European Theater of Operations.

But the music contains no references to the external events that took place there. Percussion crashes (which are plentiful) do not represent artillery, nor do cadenzas (also numerous) depict public orations. This is program music, but the events it portrays are all internal. They are emotions. What is narrated musically here is what happened inside those Americans who received their letters of "Greetings" from the President, who went to combat in the E.T.O., and who returned changed in ways they could not themselves explain.

The one general impression of these men and women that led to the conception of this music is — as I would be the first to admit — naïve. It is that you could group them into two categories: those who thought things over alot and those who couldn't be bothered. Yet if it was hardly profound as a philosophical idea, as a musical idea it turned out to have possibilities. Let a dance band play the role of the second type of personality, the spontaneous and impulsive one. Give the role of the thinker to the symphony orchestra. Write a piece that employs both instrumental units, as the classical "concerto grosso" employed two contrasting ensembles. The combination should result in a more representative tale of the soldier than could be told in either medium by itself. If someone should suggest that this vague classification of personalities could just as well be applied to any group of people — in fact, to all people — as well as to soldiers, the answer would be, "of course." Except that in the armed forces, as never before nor since, the low-brow and high-brow were in the same boat. Thus it becomes of unusual interest to note their diverse reactions to the dangers, hardships, frustrations, and victories that they experienced together.

In this music there is no attempt to give either viewpoint superior status. I have accepted each instrumental group on its own terms, trying neither to intellectualize jazz nor to popularize the symphonic medium.

Giving a detailed story for any piece of program music is apt to raise more questions than it answers. Let it suffice to say then that the first theme, including not only the opening slow sections but also the impatient "jump" tempo that immediately follows, represents the feelings that accompanied the outbreak of the war. The second theme, announced by the orchestra in sharp irregular rhythmic patterns, represents the feelings accompanying combat and final victory. The third, slow theme represents the feelings arising after the jubilation over the armistice had worn off.

E.T.O. was premiered by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, under Lukas Foss, on October 18,1987, during the "Festival of Five" series of premiere performances created to celebrate the opening of Rockwell Hall at Buffalo State College, Buffalo, New York. Two performances of the work (September 29 and 30, 2007) inaugurated the 60th anniversary season of the Greenville Symphony Orchestra (Greenville, South Carolina), founded by Cantrick in 1948.

A review by Herman Trotter of the Buffalo performance appeared in the October 19, 1987 issue of the Buffalo News.

© 2007 The Robert B. Cantrick Estate
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