In my setting of Shenandoah I was inspired by the freedom and
beauty of the folk melody and by the natural images evoked by the words,
especially the image of a river. I was less concerned with the sound of
a rolling river than with its life-affirming energy -- its timelessness.
Sometimes the accompaniment flows quietly under the melody; other times
it breathes alongside it. The work's mood ranges from quiet reflection,
through growing optimism, to profound exaltation.
The Shenandoah Valley and the Shenandoah River are located in Virginia.
There is disagreement among historians concerning the origins of their
names. Some claim that the river and valley were named in the 1750's by
the Cherokee as a friendly tribute to a visiting Iroquois Chief named Skenandoah.
Others suggest that the region was named not by the Cherokee, but by the
Senedo Indians of Virginia Valley. In the Senedo tradition, Shenandoah
means "Daughter of the Moon," and bears no relation to the Iroquois
The origins of the folksong are equally obscure, but all date to the
19th century. It has been attributed variously to a coal miner in Pennsylvania,
to a young protégé of Stephen Foster, and to a housewife
in Lexington, Kentucky. Many variants on the melody and text have been
handed down through the years, the most popular telling the story of an
early settler's love for a Native American woman.
First Statement (low register)
Second Statement (full texture)
New Theme (Theme B), derived from main melody
Transition to development section
"Pulsating" chords, and variant of Theme B
Main melody in 3-part canon (flutes)
Retransition to final statement
Final Statement (climax)
Coda (brass chorale)
Let the melody sing through at all times, and always in a legato,
expressive fashion. Tempo indications may be interpreted with some degree
of freedom. The tempo changes indicated at structural points throughout
the work are subtle, and the conductor should not attempt to overdramatize
The pitches marked "ten." (tenuto) at the beginning,
and in measures 8 and 76 should be held slightly longer than the indicated
rhythmic values This marking should not be confused with the tenuto-legato
markings (such as on the downbeat of measures 6 and 28), which are indications
of added weight or stress.
The dynamic marking "n" is the indication for niente
(meaning nothing in Italian). This marking is used at the end of
passages which diminuendo to silence.
First statement of the melody (measures 1-11): The initial statement,
sounded by the horns and solo euphonium, is in a dark register, but should
sound quietly reflective, not foreboding. The euphonium soloist should
lend support to the horns without overpowering them. The first note of
the piece is low in the horns' register for young players, and they must
strive to play it with a clear, focused tone. If necessary, some of the
horn players may tacet until the second note.
Second statement of the melody (measures 12-22): The melody is stated
in a brighter register, and freely imitated at the octave by the flutes
and oboes. Because of the rich texture, the players may be tempted to play
the passage louder than indicated. Discourage this temptation. With the
exception of the phrase's dramatic high point (measure 19), the entire
passage should only be moderately loud.
Theme B (measures 23-30): This theme is derived from the main melody,
but is different enough in character to be recognized as an independent
theme. The clarinet accompaniment (parallel thirds) must sound seamless
throughout this passage. If the clarinet players must sneak a breath, they
should do so as inconspicuously as possible.
Transition (measures 31-34): This passage modulates by ascending thirds
from Eb, through Gb, to the dominant key (Bb Major). The two ritardandos
in this section are subtle, and should begin precisely where indicated.
Pulsating chords (measures 35-40): The development section begins with
a series of "pulsating" quarter-note chords whose wide-registered
scoring gives the effect of a solemn church organ. These chords represent
life - they breathe, they have a heartbeat. The pulsations will be more
vibrant and lifelike if the first note of each slurred pair is stressed.
Three-part canon (measures 41-51): This is the most ethereal section
of the piece. The music now lingers at its slowest tempo, as though floating
timelessly. The three flute 1 soloists play the main melody in canonic
imitation. They should play with only slight vibrato in order to
preserve the intended ethereal mood. (All three flute 1 solos appear in
flute 2 as cues, but should be played only if necessary.) In addition to
the three-part canon, several other ideas appear in this section. The first
clarinets whisper the main melody in augmentation. A quiet echo of the
"pulsating" quarter-note chords returns at measure 47. At measure
48, trumpet 1 and trombone 1 enter with a variant of Theme B, sharing the
foreground with the flutes (now reinforced by the oboes and clarinets.)
The meditative mood slowly dissipates, and yields to a rising level of
Retransition from Bb via Gb back to Eb (measures 52-55): The mood becomes
more optimistic as the intensity slowly increases. The "pulsating"
quarter-note chords become somewhat more prominent, but the most important
idea in this section is built from fragments of the main melody, stated
boldly by the brasses, flutes, and oboes.
Final statement of the melody (measures 56-68): The return to the home
key is articulated by a glorious return of the main melody, now doubled
at the octave, and accompanied by an exuberant countermelody in the clarinets,
alto saxophone 2, and horns. Underneath this, the quarter-note chords are
still pulsating, still growing, still representing the life force. The
music swells to an exalted climax, then quietly recedes.
Coda (measures 69-end): The piece ends with a brass chorale -- a kind
of prayer -- a final moment of deep reflection.
CD: Simple Gifts:
The Music of Frank Ticheli (Volume 2)
Contains a recording of SHENANDOAH
and other works by Frank Ticheli. Click the CD for a complete list of works