As Thanksgiving week begins to wind down, why not make a beautiful modern classic from American composer Stephen Paulus (1949–2014) part of the peaceful background of 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 then the maternal voice comes in to answer them at 2:10.
“The Road Home” has a wonderfully complex history, not unlike the history of many Christmas carols, and that makes it an excellent little artistic lesson for your students. The music is Paulus’ adaptation of an old hymn tune called “Prospect” that appeared in the famous 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 the great hymn-writer Isaac Watts (1674–1748). In 1925, Henry Richard McFadyen (1877–1964) wrote another set of verses for the tune, and that combination of words and music, “The Lone, Wild Bird,” has recently been the subject of a beautiful new 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,” created a new choral adaptation, and paired it with another new set of lyrics, “The Road Home,” by his frequent collaborator Michael Dennis Browne (b. 1940).
The Road Home
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.
Here’s a wonderful short interview with Browne in which he talks about working with Stephen Paulus and about the process of writing the words.
And that’s how we came to have this lovely work, which is well on its way to becoming a worldwide choral classic. But you can study all that next week. This week, just listen and enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving!
What marvelous musical discoveries have you and your students made in your homeschool this Cygnus Term? 😊
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