Vandalia, an Elegy for Appalachia
String Orchestra

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Vandalia, an Elegy for Appalachia is a programmatic work that attempts to articulate the complex set of emotions that I have towards my home state of West Virginia, located in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. Vandalia was the name of a proposed 18th century colony on the Ohio River, and the name was later considered as a potential name for the US state now known as West Virginia.

Appalachia has always been a fairly poor and undeveloped region, and recent economic changes have made life increasingly hard. Like many young college graduates from rural Appalachia, I have had to face the difficult decision of whether to stay and try to find work in an environment that is difficult both economically and politically, or to leave, taking with me any chance of making a positive change to the region. There are no easy answers to questions like these, and this piece attempts to capture that dichotomy and ambiguity.

The opening and closing sections use elements from blues and old-time Appalachian music to create a sense of place as well as hardship and weariness. The contrasting middle section is an appreciation of the natural beauty of the region. Looking out over mountains covered in oak forests, stands of redbud and dogwood trees covered in spring buds, or the broad Potomac River, for just a moment all the difficulties fade away, leaving nothing but the surrounding presence of nature. This cannot last, however, and the problems of life seem all the more deep and wearying for having been momentarily forgotten. The piece is tied together by short interjections by a solo violin, taking the role of an old fiddle player narrating the story, who introduces the primary melodic material of the piece, and plays an ambiguous ending statement that leaves the piece open to interpretation.

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