“A case of mistaken identity threw two attorneys, George Frederick Street and George Ludlow Wetmore, into fits of rage. With their reputations on the line, the challenge to settle the dispute in a duel was made by Wetmore himself. The two would meet at Maryland Hill and leave a dark stain on the history of New Brunswick.”
Back in January, 2021, NB-based composer Zachary Greer released his stunning instrumental album, “The Duel” – a musical commemoration of the last fatal duel that occurred 200 years ago just a few miles outside of the city of Fredericton. Failing to win their mutual disagreement though court proceedings in September 1821, both parties agreed to settle their dispute with a duel (a well established practice in Europe, but outlawed by this time in New Brunswick) – two gentlemen, two pistols, and fifteen paces between them. October 2nd, 2021 marked the 200th anniversary of this historic event, and Greer’s album provides a dark and evocative soundtrack for their incredible story.
“On the surface, Final Breath is about George Wetmore and George Street’s emotional journey leading up to the events of the last fatal duel in New Brunswick,” Zachary shares. “However, the themes of their characters are so current. The experience of carrying guilt and regret, and the potential to succumb to ‘darkness’ when under extreme emotional pressure are timeless tropes of the human condition. I also found that the immense significance put on reputation … resonated so well with our current society and its relationship with social media.”
“Hatred carried on the wind / Innocence eludes us / Soon divided, kith and kin / Wild words that start to / Tear us down / With no way around / Stone hearts sinking to the ground / Take your final breath.”
“Final Breath” is the coup de grace for “The Duel,” and while Greer handles guitar, bass, piano, and some vocal duties, he enlists Fredericton string duo Pallmer (Mark Kleyn/viola and Emily Kennedy/cello) to add their haunting touches to this pivotal moment of the tale (Emily also handles the lead vocal duties). “Pallmer has an intimate and raw sound, which is exactly what I wanted for this story,” shares Greer. “I wanted raw and gritty textures, but there’s also beauty, representing the complicated lives of these characters. I envisioned this single in the story as a local group in 1821’s New Maryland, playing this song in a little tavern just after the duel occurred.”
“With nowhere to run / With nowhere to hide / Face to face with fear / Battling the pride / The darkness lives inside / The sun runs away with time / Guilt eludes us / The moon begs the question ‘why?’ / Until love begins to / Tear us down / With no way around / Stone hearts sinking to the ground / Take your final breath.”
Inspired by how Beethoven would write incidental music like the “Egmont Overture” or the “Coriolan Overture,” which were both based on plays, Greer’s composition unfolds chronologically with the events of the duel, as outlined in a digital booklet that accompanies the album. “This story that took place just outside of Fredericton is so surreal and people don’t realize what kind of history we have here in New Brunswick,” he adds. “To make a film of it would require a crazy budget and resources, so I felt this was a great opportunity to bring it to life with an instrumental album.”
History buffs – if you want to learn more about The Street-Wetmore Duel, be sure to review the historical summary as written by Connie Shanks, and published by the Atlantic Advocate in January 1991.