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Commissioned by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Chorus, with funding assistance from the Friends of the Music of Gwyneth Walker, for premiere by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Dr. Dawn O. Willis, conductor, April 18, 2009, Colchester, Vermont
Journey on the Open Road is based on the familiar Walt Whitman poem, “Song of the Open Road.” The message is timeless, celebratory and powerful – the joy of setting forth on life’s journey. “Afoot and light-hearted, I travel the open road.”
The original poem is quite lengthy. Therefore, in creating this new setting, the composer has edited and focused the text, shaping it into seven distinct sections which alternate between chorus and soloists. In general, the role of the soloists is one of personal expression and reflection. “You road I enter upon and look around, I think you are filled with unseen life. You are so dear to me.” In contrast, the chorus is the voice of Everyman/Everywoman as they celebrate group sentiments such as “From this hour – freedom!”
The soloists and chorus continue in their alternating sections and then begin to merge, to travel together. The chorus adopts and comments upon phrases introduced by the soloists. “The soul travels, ever alive, ever forward.” Chorus and soloists join together for the final statement of “Arise! Let us go! Shall our lives be a journey on the open road!”
The music undertakes a journey of its own, moving along a “highway of shifting tonalities,” exploring many back roads of diverse textures. Ultimately, the voyage arrives at a heightened version of the opening section, coming full circle, but infused with energy from the adventure.
The composer selected the Whitman text for this composition due to the evocative and uplifting sentiments expressed in the poetry. Closing lines such as “my friend and companion, the road lies before us...” are a powerful reminder that life is filled with possibilities, both for the individual and for the joining together of souls sharing the journey. The musical interpretation is thus both exploratory and celebratory.
Notes by the composer