From the Mountains
(Three Traditional American Songs for High Voice and Piano)
From the Mountains (Three Traditional American Songs for High Voice and Piano) was composed in late December 1997 and early January 1998 and is dedicated to my Wake Forest University colleague, tenor Richard Heard. All three songs use traditional early texts and tunes, all anonymously created, that have for many years been a part of America’s folk culture. In addition to their folk roots, the imagery of the mountains is also a common thread that binds the cycle together. Although intended to be sung as a complete cycle, individual songs may also be excerpted.
Early America was fascinated by trains and railroads. The first song in the cycle, She’ll be Comin’ Around the Mountain, gives evidence to that fascination, yet its origin probably stems from a late 19th century plantation song entitled, When the Chariot Comes. The third song of the cycle, Go Tell It on the Mountain, is also likely rooted in plantation life as slaves, through this spiritual, proclaimed the hope and joy of Christmas. From the Mountains’ middle song, O Shenandoah, has its origins in a work chant known as the sea chantey. The version used here takes its name from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, an area of southern America that the Iroquois Indians referred to as the “land of big mountains.”
2.ca. 5’ 30”