This is a setting of a passage from Wendell Berry's short novel, Remembering (used by gracious permission of the author). The music was written while I was staying at the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences, nestled in the Southern Appalachians near Rabun Gap, Georgia.
This lovely recording by Alison Rowe and Taylor Ackley is from the 2018 album Songs from the Bitterroot, the debut recording by Taylor’s Deep Roots Ensemble. (All the other songs on this remarkable CD are by Taylor.)
I have loved Wendell Berry’s writing for a long time. Here is the text as it appears in his novel, together with excerpts from the passage that introduces it:
"Andy, here's something you ought to see." Burley Coulter says, handing him a page, folded and worn, brown with age, the ink on it brown. Burley is sitting in his chair by the stove in the living room with a shoebox open on his lap…The box contains his keepsakes – the family's from long back, but his because after his mother's death he continued to keep them and to add to them the odd relics of his own life that he could not bring himself to part with…
"Boys," he says, "your great-great-great-grandmother wrote that. She was married to the first Nathan Coulter. Way back yonder. She was a McGown. Letitia. Letitia McGown. Read it, Andy. My eyes have got so I can't make it out."
And so Andy reads the script, not much used since it was a schoolgirl's of an old woman dead before the Civil War:
"Oh that I should ever forget We stood by the wagon saying goodbye or trying to & I seen it come over her how far they was a going & she must look at us to remember us forever & it came over her pap and me and the others We stood & looked & knowed it was all the time we had & from now on we must remember We must look now forever Then Will rech down to her from the seat & she clim up by the hub of the wheel & set beside him & he spoke to the team She had been Betsy Rowanberry two days who was bornd Betsy Coulter 21 May 1824 Will turnd the mules & they stepd into the road passd under the oak & soon was out of sight down the hill The last I seen was her hand still raised still waving after wagon & all was out of sight Oh it was the last I seen of her that little hand Afterwards I would say to myself I could have gone with them as far as the foot of the hill & seen her that much longer I could have gone on as far as the river mouth & footed it back by dark But however far I finaly would have come to wher I would have to stand and see them go on that hand a waving God bless her I never knowd what become of her I will never see her in this world again"