Trail of Tears for flute and orchestra | Michael Daugherty, composer

Trail of Tears
for flute and orchestra (2010)

I. where the wind blew free
II. incantation
III. sun dance

Instrumentation: solo flute; 2 horns, 2 trumpets; timpani, 2 percussion; harp, strings

Publisher: Boosey and Hawkes, Hendon Music (BMI)

Duration: 22 minutes

World Premiere: March, 25, 2010 / Holland Performing Arts Center, Omaha, Nebraska / Amy Porter, flute/Omaha Symphony / Thomas Wilkins

Program Note:

Trail of Tears (2010) for flute and orchestra was commissioned by a consortium consisting of the American Composers Orchestra, Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, Delaware Symphony Orchestra, Omaha Symphony and Tupelo Symphony. The world premiere was given by the Omaha Symphony under the direction of Thomas Wilkins, with Amy Porter, solo flute, at the Holland County Performing Arts Center, Omaha, Nebraska on March 25, 2010. It is scored for solo flute, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, percussion, harp and strings. Duration is approximately 22 minutes.

The composer writes:

“One of the tragedies of human history is the forced removal of peoples from their homeland for political, economic, racial, religious, or cultural reasons. In America, the forced removal of all Native Americans living east of the Mississippi River began with the passage of President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act of 1830. In 1838, 15,000 Cherokee men, women, and children were forcefully taken from their homes by the U.S Army and placed in stockades and camps in Tennessee. From November 1838 to March 1839, the Cherokee, with scant clothing and many without shoes, were forced to make an 800-mile march for relocation in Oklahoma during the bitter cold of winter. Suffering from exposure, disease, and starvation, nearly 4,000 Cherokee died during the five-month march known as the “Trail of Tears.”

My flute concerto is a musical journey into how the human spirit discovers ways to deal with upheaval, adversity and adapting to a new environment. The first movement reflects on meaningful memories of things past, inspired by a quotation from the Native American leader, Geronimo (1829-1909): “I was born on the prairies where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun.” The second movement, entitled “incantation,” meditates on the passing of loved ones and the hope for a better life in the world beyond. The third and final movement, “sun dance,” evokes the most spectacular and important religious dance ceremony of the Plains Indians of 19th-century North America. Banned for a century by the U.S. government, the dance is now practiced again today. I have composed a fiery musical dance to suggest how reconnecting with rituals of the past might create a path to a new and brighter future.”