Sycamore Rapids (2002)
Album Liner Notes
1. Sycamore Rapids (for James River and Shenandoah River State Parks) --- Paddle down a Virginia river among the massive pied Eastern Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) and the Red Maples (Acer rubrum)! The Trout (F. Schubert) --- We pause in late morning to fish for trout.
2. Forest Succession: Chestnut to Chestnut Oak (for Hungry Mother State Park) --- Besides replacing old fields with successive species groups, succession also carries out its pattern through time in mature forests: For example, on Virginia’s upland slopes where the legendary American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) once dominated but then was conquered by disease, the similar-looking Chestnut Oak (Quercus montana) has succeeded it. In this dulcimer improvisational duet, a repeating pattern of chords and notes passes through a succession of keys --- C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and again to C --- to signify the forest’s process over generations. Many thanks to forest management specialist Stanley Warner at Cumberland State Forest for marvelous insights on the topic.
3. Three Ravens in a Mountain Pine (Elizabethan --- for Shenandoah National Park) --- Climb Hawksbill Mountain and watch from a Pinus pungens the Blue Ridge ravens’ rustic delighted wind-dancing!
4. Courante (J.S.Bach) --- From the third solo cello suite is this new transcription for the extended range hammered dulcimer with dampers. (The French dance “Courante” means “running.”) Ro Running Through the Dogwoods --- Every spring my wife Rowena parks the car in the Queens Lake neighborhood here in Williamsburg, and runs through the magnificent eye-feast of Flowering Dogwoods (Cornus florida), the Virginia state flower. Thanks again to pianist Paul Sullivan for inspiration.
5. Shady Groves (for Sky Meadows State Park) --- The bracing early autumn at Sky Meadows promises the ideal idyllic walk from grove to grove: Shady Grove (trad. Appalachian); Child Grove (trad. Eng.); Ash Grove (trad. Welsh) --- Make sure you visit the great noble ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanicus) below the Walnut Grove along the South Ridge Trail! (Another large grove of Black Walnuts (Juglans nigra) is down the hill from the historic Mount Bleak house.)
6. Wind in the Maples --- Acer rubrum leaves shudder in gusts from across meadowlands and ridges! Sugartree Branch (for St. Mary’s Wilderness) --- Acer saccharum leaves are among autumn’s highlights, and its namesake stream as it sparkles across rocks in George Washington National Forest is a bright private trackless highlight too for the solo backpacker.
7. Hiking in the Highland Firs (for Grayson Highlands State Park) --- Fraser Firs (Abies fraseri) live wild in the high places of the Mount Rogers area! The day-hiker andAppalachian Trail thru-hiker wonder together at the sun-soaked bald ridges, masses of rhododendrons, and panorama-engulfed rock peaks.
8. Crabtree Falls --- (American Crabapple: Malus coronaria) High on the mountain The Priest, Crabtree Creek springs, slides, then rushes over cataracts and waterfalls --- the highest in the eastern U.S. --- among oaksand deceased Eastern Hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) before joining the Tye River.
9. A Deep Breath of Wilderness Air (J.S. Bach --- for Mountain Lake Wilderness) --- The greatest musician of all time wrote this for a casual coffeehouse setting, yet it is the height of the sublime; as I play this new transcription I once again stand at War Spur in Jefferson National Forest among primeval hemlocks, singing alone at the top of my lungs.
10. Clinch Mountain Quickstep (trad. Am. --- for Natural Tunnel State Park) --- This vast long ridge overlooks much of Southwest Virginia; nearby is a natural wonder that is host to many old-time good times!
11. We Hung Our Harps the Willow Trees Upon (trad. Am. --- for Highland County) --- The Appalachian folk hymns “Babel’s Streams” and “Samarantha” contain my new title’s words (the tree is Salix babylonica) --- and the lyric “His voice, as the sound of the dulcimer sweet, is heard through the valley of death; the cedars of Lebanon bow at his feet, the air is perfumed with his breath.” (J. Swain)
12. O the Hickory Leaves! (from Brahms --- for Shenandoah National Park) --- The burnished gold of hickory (a name from a Virginia Algonquian language) is among the most vibrant of the fall foliage that astonishes us all each October along Skyline Drive. (This theme, adapted from Brahms’s first symphony, was itself adapted from the Westminster chimes.) Do You Love an Apple, Do You Love a Pear? (trad. Eng.) --- Let’s take a delightful family trip to the mountain orchards to pick our own fall apples! The crisp morning’s frost greets the sun as it tops the hill.
13. Sky Through the Pines (for False Cape State Park) --- Brilliant winter azure meshes in contrast with sunlit Loblolly needles (Pinus taeda) above vibrant brown boles. Feel the fresh wind!
14. Wondrous Love (trad. Am.) --- Certainly this great folk hymn (“love that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul”) can be prelude to a happy dance! Gentle Waltz in Red Cedars (for Chippokes Plantation State Park) --- Chippokes, granted in 1619, was “just across the street” --- the James River --- from the Jamestown settlement. Today ancient Eastern Red Cedars (Juniperus virginiana) line the mansion’s long lane, where I picture our contented dancing as the sun touches the western horizon opposite the dawning full moon.