On this homeschool Thanksgiving Day, why not make a beautiful modern classic from American composter Stephen Paulus (1949–2014) part of the peaceful background for your little family academy. It’s scored (I like to say) for a chorus of adult children and their mother, all making their way home for Thanksgiving. This magnificent performance is from the Dale Warland Singers, for whom the work was commissioned. The adult children’s voices begin, and the maternal voice comes in at 2:20:
“The Road Home” has a wonderfully complex history, not unlike the history of many Christmas carols. The music is Paulus’ adaptation of an old hymn tune called “Prospect” that appeared in shape-note collection Southern Harmony in 1835. In Southern Harmony it was attributed to an otherwise unknown composer named Graham and was paired with verses by Isaac Watts. In 1925, Henry Richard McFadyen (1877–1964) wrote another set of verses for the tune; this combination, “The Lone, Wild Bird,” has recently been the subject of a beautiful arrangement by American composer Frank Glass. In 2004, in response to a commission from the Dale Warland Singers, Stephen Paulus returned to the original tune “Prospect,” devised a new choral adaptation, and paired it with another new set of lyrics, “The Road Home,” by his frequent collaborator Michael Dennis Browne:
Tell me, where is the road I can call my own,
That I left, that I lost so long ago?
All these years I have wandered,
Oh when will I know
There’s a way, there’s a road that will lead me home.
After wind, after rain, when the dark is done,
As I wake from a dream in the gold of day,
Through the air there’s a calling from far away
There’s a voice I can hear that will lead me home.
Rise, up, follow me, come away, is the call,
With love in your heart as the only song;
There is no such beauty as where you belong.
Rise up, follow me, I will lead you home.
And that’s how we came to have this lovely work, which is well on its way to becoming an American (and worldwide) choral classic. But you can study all that next week. Today, just listen and enjoy. 😊 Happy Thanksgiving!