Prairie Schooners –
A Fantasy of the Oregon Trail
A three-movement work depicting scenes, occurrences, and moods of pioneers traveling on the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City. Oregon. This Trail of 2000 miles was most active from 1830 to 1860 although some still used it in the 1890’s. In those years more than 300,000 migrants moved westward on two main trails, the Santa Fe Trail and the Oregon Trail.
For this new piano work, I used themes and motives from an early work, Prairie Schooners, written for my high school junior recital. I spent my high school years in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Nearby in Osage country was the Woolaroc Museum of Indian Cultures including much information about the western movement of settlers. Prairie Schooners was an expression of my fascination with these histories. My new work performed today arose from renewed interest in the Oregon Trail as trips to Oregon became a regular occurrence. My sister lived in Eugene. My son moved to Portland.
The scenes of the first movement are of the organization of a wagon train, starting the journey through the Great Plains. The wagon train theme is prominent. The second movement calls forth the scene and mood of a night encampment on the prairie. There is a full moon, stars are visible, sounds of insects and animals are heard. There is an interruption by a torrential rain storm, passing quickly. Tranquility and peace return. In the final movement the wagon train resumes its journey at the foothills of the Rockies. Many hazards are encountered as the wagons move on. There are rest periods, followed by the climbing through treacherous mountain passes. Finally, there is a spectacular view at the high region of the Columbia River, down which many will raft to Oregon City and to new farmland in the Willamette Valley.
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Works Inspired by Vincent Van Gogh
Composed by Charles Goodhue | Performed by Dr. Terresa Stallworth
at the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas
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