Higher Ground (2018) is a sixty-minute opera in one act with a libretto by North Carolina-based writer Jim Whiteside and music by Jules Pegram, written in partial fulfillment of the dissertation for the Doctor of Musical Arts in Composition degree. Premiere performances were held April 4 & 5, 2018 at McIntosh Theatre in Ann Arbor, Michigan with a cast that included John Daugherty, Antona Yost, Madeline Thibault, Samuel Kidd, and Christopher Wolf, an SATB chorus, and a 13-piece orchestra.
Set in 1913 and situated in a small Missouri town facing a record-setting “flood of the century,” the opera focuses on J.T. Fitzgerald and his decision to fortify the family’s homestead while wife Hattie evacuates north to Chicago with infant Lucy in tow. Prompted by the guilt of losing another daughter to a previous year’s flood, J.T. stays behind against Hattie’s wishes, promising a letter every day to assure her of his and the town’s safety. Through the intimate lens of a family tested by external crisis, the story tackles broader issues of honor and loyalty, of love’s ability to transcend space and time, and of the true meaning of home.
Pegram’s NEON NIGHTS will be performed by the New World Symphony on November 17, 2017 as part of the annual PULSE: Late Night at the New World Symphony concert in Miami Beach, Florida, conducted by Dean Whiteside. NEON NIGHTS was first premiered by the USC Thornton Symphony in 2012 and has since received performances by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Symphony in C, among others.