Church of St. Matthew and St. Timothy
piano trios by Daron Hagen & the spirituals that inspired them
Kwan Bin Park, violin | Kevin Krentz, cello | Tanya Stambuck, piano
Gilda Lyons, soprano & Elaine Valby, mezzo
Wayfaring Stranger (19th century)
— traditional, arr. Lyons/Valby
Ms Lyons; Ms Valby
Piano Trio No. 3: Wayfaring Stranger (2006) — Daron Hagen
- Wayfaring Stranger
- Aubade and Variations
Angel Band (19th century)
— Bradbury/Haskell, arr. Lyons/Valby
Ms Lyons; Ms Valby
Piano Trio No. 4: Angel Band (2007)* — Daron Hagen
- Waltz: The Violinist on the Pont Neuf
- Blue Chaconne
- Finale: Angel Band
* = new york premiere
Piano Trio No. 3: Wayfaring Stranger
The American folk spiritual Wayfaring Stranger is thought first to have been arranged as a hymn by John M. Dye in 1935, and may be found in The Original Sacred Harp (Denson Rev., 1936 ed.), paired with words from Bever's Christian Songster (1858). It has been reinterpreted by artists as diverse as Jerry Garcia and Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash and Anonymous 4.
I confess that, in June of 1997, when my brother Britt asked me to compose a set of variations on his favorite 'Mormon' hymn, Poor Wayfaring Stranger, I had never heard it, and didn't care for the tune. I crafted four rather uninspired variants on it for violin and piano, sent it along to him with my love, and forgot about it. Our final telephone conversation concerned itself in part with his account of how the little piece had gone over at his church that Sunday; he died a few days later.
Nine years later, near dusk one late afternoon in June of 2006, as my wife and I drove through the Virginia countryside, we were gripped by the words and melody of a spiritual playing on the radio. Moreover, we realized at that moment that we had for some time been driving through hallowed ground; the First Battle of Manassas, or Bull Run — the first major battle of the American civil war — had taken place in the surrounding meadows in July of 1861. The hymn on the radio was Wayfaring Stranger. I knew then that I would return to the hymn and try to do justice not just to my brother's memory but to the wonderful folk melody that he so loved.
The result was a return to the piano trio form after an interval of twenty years. It begins with a Mazurka in seven; marked 'gracious, pleasant, charming,' the customary triple meter pulse is divided into combinations of two and three beats. Wayfaring Stranger gives the folk tune, and follows it with three variations. Next follows a tricky Fandango, my take on an ancient Spanish dance in triple meter, probably of Moorish origin, that came into Europe in the 17th century. At the end of certain measures, the music halts abruptly and the dancers remain rigid until it is resumed. An Aubade, a poem or song of or about lovers separating at dawn, follows; it acts as an introduction to the finale, a set of eight more variations on Wayfaring Stranger. — Daron Hagen, 2006
Piano Trio No. 4: Angel Band
The Appalachian three-stringed Dulcimer and Bluegrass gospel hymn Angel Band was first arranged by William Batchelder Bradbury in 1862, and may be found paired with Jefferson Haskell's 1860 lyric Oh, Come, Angel Band in Bradbury's Golden Shower (1962).
The inspiration for this piano trio is the life story of Joyce Ritchie Strosahl, a violin prodigy whose childhood was spent during the Depression on the Troublesome Creek near the mining village of Hardburly in the back hills of Kentucky, youthful studies undertaken at the Cincinnati Conservatory and at Illinois Wesleyan, years as a young wife and mother spent in Alaska, and mature life pursued as a chamber musician, orchestral player, and prime force behind the idea and execution of The Seasons Performance Hall and Music Festival in Yakima, Washington. The composition's musical protagonist is embodied by the Angel Band tune. The work's emotional through-story begins with Youth, proceeds through Experience, and culminates in Old Age and is manifested musically by an evolving series of harmonic languages, musical styles, recurring motives, and especially, variations on the tune itself.
The first movement, Morning, is about childhood. Angel Band is presented at first with straightforward, bluegrass-flavored pan-diatonic harmonies that grow more complex as the tune is given four variations, setting the stage for the insouciantly Gallic harmonies of the Waltz which follows. The Violinist on the Pont Neuf is sophisticated by experience, nostalgia, and regret. The Rondo increases the level of dissonance, the middle-aged labors to balance and integrate the demands of one's 'outer life' (the march-like first theme, in four) and the poetic 'inner life' (the plangent, song-like second theme, in three) demanding a more rigorous musical rhetoric. The Blue Chaconne strikes a mature balance between the harmonic astringency of the Rondo and the more insipid sanguinity of the Waltz by intensifying the romantic harmonies of concert music with the lowered third, fifth, and seventh scale degrees of 1920's Bessie Smith-flavored blues. The chaconne repeats six times, each time more fervent; it moves through the circle of fifths until it lands on the seventh, at which point the Finale begins without pause as first Angel Band and then the Pont Neuf waltz tune are overlaid on the chaconne. All of the trio's ideas are revisited and combined in turn with the Angel Band tune in t he course of the Finale's eight variations. At the end, the original Kentucky Blue Grass flavor of the music returns, celebrating the delights of Youth, the wisdom of Experience, and the grace, force, and fascination of Old Age.
The trio was commissioned for the Finisterra Piano Trio in honor of Joyce Ritchie Strosahl and first performed on 29 September 2007 at the Seasons Concert Hall, in Yakima, Washington, by the Finisterra Piano Trio: Kwan Bin Park, violin; Kevin Krentz, cello; Tanya Stambuck, piano. — Daron Hagen, 2007