The River Home is a specialized piece that initially gave me great trouble. The text is that of the American folk song, Shenandoah, except I wrote an extra stanza that gave it my own little taste of why I named it The River Home.
The backstory belongs to an experience I had with Allegro Choirs of Kansas City’s premiere men’s ensemble, Spirito. We toured Italy for ten days in the summer of 2016, and it was an incredible time of brotherhood, laughable moments, and serious moments as well. Towards the end of the tour, we had the opportunity to spend a day in the ancient ruins of the city of Pompeii and climb to the summit of Mount Vesuvius. Being someone who was always fascinated with the Vesuvius eruption, this was quite a treat for me! Getting to see the cement casts of the bodies that littered the streets when the ruins were uncovered left me with an uneasy and sorrowful feeling that I just could not shake. On the ride home, I listened to an SATB arrangement of Shenandoah by the award winning group, Chanticleer. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of wanting to go home while listening. The line “Oh Shenandoah, I long to see you. Away, we’re bound away, across the wide Missouri.” gave me this sense of letting go of a loved one’s hand and watching them drift away from home. I knew then and there in that incredibly emotional moment I had that I would have to set the text for a women’s choir and piano accompaniment.
This particular arrangement gave me some trouble early on–where should the voices lie? What kind of emotional connection was I looking for? What kind of harmonies would invoke a sense of longing? After a few long months of deliberation, I completed the work and titled it The River Home because the entire idea of the original folk song is longing for one’s home.
Written for Allegro Choirs of Kansas City’s incredible female ensemble, Allegro con Brio, I look forward to hearing them perform it sometime in the near future. The extra stanza of text I added is as follows:
Oh Shenandoah, you are my homeland.
Mem’ries fade, but you still linger.
Oh Shenandoah, I long to see you.
Away, I’m bound away, ‘cross the wide Missouri.
This piece is recommended for an advanced women’s ensemble.
To my grandmothers, Alice and Marj, celebrating longevity of life and the joy they give to those around them