Music by Lee Hoiby, performed by Andrew Garland and Lee Hoiby 


550,000 views and counting. 

15 thoughts on “From Iraq: Last Letter Home”
  1. Mark, perhaps our audience does not know that you are, or were, Mr. Hoiby’s librettist. Perhaps you could add some personal notes?

  2. A piece like this, in the context of the moment, can hardly not evoke varied responses, and ambiguous ones. Almost 5000 comments have accrued at YouTube, I can’tseem to access more than a third of them. Here are a few:

    I never thought YouTube could be this good. Let’s have 20 million of you for this, please.

    he came to my school and i loved him

    What a touching video… Amazing, I don’t know what to say…

    God bless your heart! This is so touching.

    You sang this beautifully. I hope we hear more from you, lots more.
    Such a sad chapter in our history…all war is painful.

    Thought the operatic piece you displayed was beautiful and in the context of war, it was heart-wrenching to me as a citizen, and as a San Diegan, where thousands of men and women are deploying, it really hit home for me. Thank you for sharing that piece of art.

    Thank you for sharing. I did not want to leave this on comments because everybody who has left a comment have their own agenda and nothing to do with what the letter said. Thank you for sharing this, it is beautiful.

    Beautifully composed — very powerful

    Beautiful piece. Wonderful performance. Thank you.

    The boys of the upper choirs at my school performed this song at a Veteran’s Day concert. I read the story online. It’s a beautiful story and song. It about made me cry.
    A great song.

    So I weeped for 7 mins and 48 secs?

    this letter makes me cry woo, i read this letter on a herpes dating site called **meetstd.com_***, i can not believe it .

    Beautiful and touching video. Thank you.

    Anyway, this is a great video and a great effort to recapture the emotion and sweat that went into righting this letter. This letter has nothing to do with anyones belief on the current war. Just take it simple. . . marine29palm7

    Lovely, and deeply moving. Thank you! The music brings out the natural eloquence of the text.

    This is probably posted by an insurgent sypathyzer. Do you think Jesse would want his death used as a proganda tool. Well it is

    At no time does the letter mention the war. I have no idea how you came to that conclusion. Please elaborate on your theory if you can. All I hear is a finely written letter by a man who loved his country so deeply that he was willing to and ultimately paid the ultimate sacrifice.

    I’m not exactly sure what a “sypathyzer” is. . .Is it anything like a synthesizer? I always liked the one that was used to play the theme to “The Rockford Files.” . . .

    You have a wonderful voice. This is a difficult message to hear. God bless all our troops.
    Thank you, too, for opening some closed eyes and ears. There are those who would not see or hear, and they are missing a world of beautiful music.
    What do I hear and see?
    a rich, warm resonate baritone voice,
    complete control, smooth transitions,
    very believable acting,
    all in all one heck of a lot of talent, young man!

    Wonderful voice!..very balanced. I’m sorry about Mr. Givens.

    This is a terrific performance of a hauntingly beautiful song.

    My respects to the family and friends of Mr Givens.
    My admiration to the singer.

  3. For me this music never lets loose. Just when you want or expect a “song” (towards the end)you don’t get one –too composed for me. This work is also very dependent on its title for its ironic content as it could be about any business trip (if I heard the text correctly there is no mention of war at all). David, supporting American soldiers who lay down their lives for our country is not the same as supporting the government that sent them. Illustrating a dead soldier’s experience which is real, of course ennobles them. Perhaps you might wish to create a work of a different character maybe something about Abu Grahib or the government who sent them??

    Phil Fried
    Phil Fried

  4. Dear Daniel,

    I don’t have any experience in the military. And of course Hoiby has a right to write his music how he likes. I would say that in this case there are political implications. Not to beat a dead horse, but would you agree with that?

  5. I think we’re saying the same thing: there is more to being a soldier than bravery. Now as to whether you and I “both know that,” I can’t speak for you or your military service, but I can speak for mine.

    I also agree with “if i were to write such a piece I would not be satisfied to present just one side.” Hoiby made an artistic decision to do just that, and he has a right to do so. Not every work of art has political implications.

  6. Daniel, I’m not going to take that bait. Both you and I know that theres a lot more to being a soldier than just bravery, and just pointing out this one aspect once again is a distraction. But I guess I was the one who first used the word.

    As for the statement of yours, “…telling one side of a multifaceted story” – upon reflecting yet even more, this is probably my main problem. That is to say, if i were to write such a piece I would not be satisfied to present just one side. As I said before it “..does just as much harm in distracting us from more relevant issues of this war.”

  7. Well, I just think the “letter-writing” type scene is kind of cheesy. I don’t think it’s romanticizing the war or the warrior, but telling one side of a multifaceted story. A soldier’s bravery isn’t tied to any one conflict, as there are servicemen/women around the world – not just Iraq. As to bravery, many soldiers (emergency responders of all kinds) will tell you they are not being brave just doing their job…so in a way it may be romanticizing things too much.

    Of course there are some who just think of them as murderers:

  8. yeah, i should’ve taken more time to write it better. The effect that happens in this piece for me is that because of the traditional setting (and staging) the bravery of the soldier becomes a message that romanticizes war- therefore supporting it. Well, thats my question to you. Had the music and the staging been different, maybe then there’d be more subtlety. Or maybe i’m just missing the point…

  9. I agree with Daniel regarding the staging. It would have helped the juxtaposition of a warrior singing a ballad if he had a machine gun strapped on his back, ammunition over his shoulders (perhaps some grenades tied on a vest over his shirt), and at least flat top. The guy from the video looks like he doesn’t see much action.

  10. Just to clarify, davidcoll are you saying that soldiers are not brave? Maybe it was the way you worded the sentence.

    Personally I don’t like the “staging.” Too cliche. The writing is good, but if you don’t like Lee Hoiby’s style it won’t blow your socks off.

  11. Subject-matter-wise, I don’t think you can fault it for “glorifying” anything more than the real voice of an individual soldier, i.e., somebody much like any of us. Hard to fault that, really. There is the conflict we feel seeing/hearing a living person that we know is going to die. Beyond that, both people with-strong anti-war feelings and those with rah-rah leanings should be wary of letting those color this particular moment; both cheapen the reality of this guy’s life.

    The musical setting is pretty treacly and predictable, and loses me there. On YouTube it says this was written and normally performed by male chorus; I get the feeling that version would only drag more and *really* put me to sleep. But to each their own…

  12. Curious if anyone else agrees with this sentiment, but I really have a lot of trouble with a piece like this because while in one regard it is very much anti-war, it glorifies in a very romantic and traditional way the bravery of a soldier. While tragic and hopeless, I think that a piece like this, from a political standpoint, does just as much harm in distracting us from more relevant issues of this war. Of course its just music, perhaps we can say. I don’t know….any responses?

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