The Journey – Sym. No. 13
I. Perilous Journey
II. Christmas in Philadelphia
III. London Days
IV. America, the Promised Land
The incredible journey of Ellen Craft (1826-1891) and William Craft (1824-1900) tells the life story of fugitive slaves as abolitionists. They were both born and enslaved in Macon, Georgia. After traveling on a treacherous train and steamboat ride, they escaped to the free city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, arriving on Christmas Day. Ellen crossed the boundaries of race, class, and gender by impersonating a white male while her husband acted as her personal servant. Using racial passing, cross-dressing, and performing in a society where these social levels were thought to be distinct, she succeeded in her impersonation. This daring escape made them famous, and they were featured by the abolitionists in lectures thus gaining support to end the institution of slavery. After being pursued by slave catchers in Boston, they emigrated to England for the next twenty years, raising five children. Their biographical account, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; Oor, The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery, was a compelling slave narrative published before the American Civil War. The Crafts returned to the United States in 1868 and operated an agricultural school for freed slaves in Georgia.
The Journey of Ellen and William Craft contains four portraits or movements to commemorate their achievements under extreme circumstances.
I. Perilous Journey – From Macon, Georgia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The instruments form an integrated tapestry of sound yet retain their separate colors. The sinuous and rhythmic syncopations, led by two oboes and two clarinets, the frequent meter changes, loud outbursts, and passages for solo cello versus tutti, all depict the hazards of their treacherous journey and possible discovery as imposters. As the instruments fade away at the end of the movement, it is a sigh of relief for their safe arrival.
II. Christmas in Philadelphia – Variations on Adeste Fidelis or O Come All Ye Faithful. The text, originally in Latin, is usually credited to John Francis Wade. The tune has been attributed to several composers such as John Reading, G. F. Handel, Christoph Gluck, or Thomas Arne. The beloved and popular hymn would certainly have been sung in Philadelphia while the Crafts were there.
1. French Overture – The first variation is in the Baroque style of the first part of a French Overture, serving as the prelude, and always with dotted rhythms. The melody is carried by strings and woodwinds, with an ornamental trumpet part. A wide range of dynamics enhances the aura of majesty and nobleness.
2. Allemande – This variation is a German dance in duple meter. The strings are pizzicato, the entire movement, with the melody in the flute and oboe while the clarinet and bassoon do figurations. The brass and woodwinds join the melody for the chorus.
3. Trio – Three themes with imitation. Descending scales, rhythmic motives, and a decorated trombone melody followed by ornamented trumpet phrases, before all instruments join in the chorus.
4. Toccata – In the first part of the movement, the woodwinds play on the downbeat while the strings imitate a sixteenth note later. The brass and double bass have the melody while the trumpet plays a decorated melody line, then adding the horn. This first section displays key and unusual mode changes. In the second half of the movement, the bassoon reflects the dotted rhythms from the first variation, French Overture. Adding the brass presents a glorious and
triumphant close to the variations.
III. London Days – After their arrival in London, the Crafts would have heard a myriad musical influences, many of them new and exotic to their ears. This movement is in a loose rondo form of ABACADA.
A. Begins with a string elegy, depicting their thankfulness for their arrival, now safe in London. The woodwinds then double with the strings.
B. Leads to a faster section featuring sixteenth notes in the woodwinds with key changes. The strings take over the woodwind’s agitation and build to a climax with strings and woodwinds.
A. Returns to the opening melodic figuration, although this time with rising motives instead of descending ones.
C. The first half of C. portrays the streets of London, with playful, energetic motives with rests as important as the notes. The second half is a waltz with glissando strings and key changes.
A. The elegy melodies return, now with a hint of reminiscence for the Crafts’ homeland.
D. Begins as a sort of a rhythmic flamenco dance, with flourishes in the solo cello, and glissandos in the strings.
A. As in the beginning A., the strings begin their elegy, only to be interrupted by the flamenco before ending with a joyful and playful abrupt ending.
IV. America, the Promised Land – Reminiscent of the music that brass bands would gather and play on Memorial Day in Pennsylvania, honoring veterans of the wars. The addition of three trumpets, snare drum, with the brass section providing flourishes and scales, intentionally adds an 18th- century aura to the movement. Key changes and an interlude of a fiddle tune, along with a slower and mournful melody that honors all veterans, then concludes with a joyous acclamation for America, the Promised Land.