Autumn In the Valley - Liner Notes:
Barry Phillips's beautiful Prelude was inspired by one of our favorite American composers, Aaron Copland. Autumn in the Valley is my musical impression of the fall as it blankets the rolling hills and farms of the northeast. Fall has always been my favorite season, for its warm crisp days, and harvest-time barn dances -- it's a long farewell to summer, and a gentle way to ease into the coming season of cold and dark. Fiddlin' Bagpipes is a wonderful old tune known from Québec to Arkansas. I first heard it at at Jean and Lee Schillings' folk festival in eastern Tennessee, played by Byard Ray and the Smathers family. Byard learned it from his great-uncle Mitch, who called it "Fiddles Imitating Bagpipes."
I first heard the exquisite A Week in January on the album of the same name (Shanachie 65005) by the multi-talented virtuoso Seamus Egan. Seamus told me he wrote it as he reflected on a wintry week spent with friends in Nova Scotia.
Canary in a Coal Mine recalls the fact that Appalachian miners had few safety precautions available to them in their dangerous work. Taking a bird in a cage down the shaft was often their only way to detect a lethal gas leak -- if the little bird got sick, it was time to get out -- if it wasn't already too late. I look forward to the day when no living thing needs to be a barometer for how bad any aspect of our environment has become.
Canterbury Air is my soundtrack for an imaginary video of Chaucer's pilgrims as they journey to the cathedral -- one of the most extraordinary assortments of humanity, from the noblest to the sleaziest, ever depicted in medieval or modern times. I have some great casting ideas if the project ever comes to fruition.
Lament for Roe Owen O'Neill (Cumha Eoghain Rua Ui Neill) is Turlough O'Carolan's lament for the nephew of the great Earl of Tyrone who led the Irish to a victory over General Monroe's Anglo-Scottish army at Benburb in 1646. O'Neill's death three years later marked the end of the Irish hope of defeating Cromwell. I learned this version from the playing of the group Clannad. Foggy Dew is a beautiful Celtic air I learned from the inimitable harper Kim Robertson.
The Andante from Mozart's Quartet in A Major for flute, violin, viola and cello undergoes the folk process as we altered the instrumentation and transcribed it into the key of G, (but we have nothing but reverence for the great composer). The work inspired me to write the Bagatelle; a little later I was delighted to be commissioned to write music for Princess Furball, a children's video, and used the Andante as the theme music for the prince and the Bagatelle for the heroine. In the story, a Cinderalla variation, a brave little princess must slave in the kitchen but eventually wins the prince thanks to her dazzling beauty and excellent soup.
The Pavan for a Sleeping Beauty (Pavane de la Belle au Bois dormant) is part of Ravel's Ma mère l'Oye (Mother Goose), a suite of movements and interludes based on fairy-tales. It opens with a prelude and the first episode, in which the princess pricks her finger on the spindle bewitched by a bad fairy, and falls into a deep sleep. The Pavan depicts the sleeping princess, as her attendants lay her in a bower in the forest. The rest of the suite represents the princess' dreams, and concludes as she is rescued by her prince. I first heard this enchanting work on a recording by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra conducted by Hugh Wolff.
Canarios was written for guitar by Gaspar Sanz, an early baroque master, who, interestingly, was a older contemporary of Turlough O'Carolan. The tune is named for the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain; I learned it from guitarist William Coulter.
I learned the Gaelic Air from the playing of Alasdair Fraser and Paul Machlis on their album The Road North (Sona Gaia 155). The Forest of Garth is one of my long-time favorites, which I learned in my early dulcimer days in British Columbia from the great band Pied Pumpkin.
The folk ballad Rain and Snow has been recorded by everyone from Pentangle to the Grateful Dead. Our version has been inspired by the amazing variety of wonderful recorded and live performances. June Apple is one of the first tunes I learned from the playing of John Prisland, my earliest dulcimer guru in Vancouver, British Columbia in the early '70s. My French friend Marc Robine recorded this on his dulcimer album, and titled it, of course, "La pomme de juin." Paul Hostetter's cat Smith moved out to California with him from Detroit, and died sitting in his lap at the ripe old age of 15. The Last of Smith is Paul's tribute to her long and varied feline existence, from the inner city to the Santa Cruz Mountains.
I wrote Ninety-Pound Catfish, a rip-roaring dulcimer tune, while on tour in Tennessee, and it's based on a true story. I tried to sell it to television for a mini-series, but they refused to pay me scale. Battle Cry of Freedom, written in 1862 by George F. Root, soon became a favorite with Union soldiers for the duration of the Civil War. The Confederate armies took the same melody and wrote words for the "Southern Battle Cry of Freedom." When played as a slow air, this beautiful melody transcends its warlike origins.
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