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John Harbison

Publisher: AMP

Everyone Was Here (Gatsby’s Aria from "The Great Gatsby") (1988)
Text Writer
Text: English; Harbison after F. Scott Fitzgerald
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Soloists and Orchestra
Year Composed
6 Minutes
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Programme Note
John Harbison Everyone Was Here (Gatsby’s Aria from "The Great Gatsby") (1988)
"Everyone Was Here" (Gatsby's Aria) from The Great Gatsby

In Act I, Scene 3, Gatsby hosts one of his huge all-night parties. Eventually, finally, the last guests depart. Not quite everyone had been at the party; Daisy, the only one who matters to Gatsby, was absent. As he stands alone gazing out over the water, he recalls a magical night five years earlier when he and Daisy walked in the moonlight and shared a kiss; and, certain that it’s not too late, he vows to repeat that kiss and regain his lost love.


The Great Gatsby is based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel of the same name, which was published in 1925 and remains one of the milestones of American literature. It tells the story of the rise and fall of self-made millionaire Jay Gatsby and his love for Daisy Buchanan, who is married to the rich, brutish Tom.

Gatsby’s neighbor on Long Island is Nick Carraway, an impecunious stockbroker. Gatsby and Nick are linked at first only by proximity and background—two veterans of the Great War arrived from the Midwest to seek their fortunes. The story unfolds through the playing-out of several relationships, including the casual connection between Nick and a professional golfer, Jordan Baker; the achingly romantic love between Gatsby and Daisy (a doomed attempt to repeat the past); and the violently sexual affair of Tom Buchanan and his mistress, Myrtle Wilson. The lavish scenes of Gatsby’s parties contrast with the intimate, intricate web of the relationships of the main characters, whose reckless actions turn an American dream into something more akin to Greek tragedy.

Seeking relief from the tension and the heat of the Long Island summer, the Buchanans and their friends take a drive into the city. At the Plaza Hotel, Daisy is forced to choose between Gatsby (by now her lover) and her husband Tom. On the return trip, there is a terrible accident: Myrtle Wilson, rushing out from her husband’s garage, is hit by a car and killed. Although Daisy was driving, Gatsby takes responsibility for the accident.

Gatsby, delusionally believing Daisy will rejoin him, nostalgically recalls their distant past. Myrtle’s husband, mad with grief, kills Gatsby and then shoots himself. At Gatsby’s funeral, Gatsby’s father and Nick Carraway are the only guests. The funeral over, Nick is left alone to reflect on what has happened. At the close, only Daisy’s green light remains—Fitzgerald’s famous symbol for his characters’ hopes and dreams.

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