Shady Grove

Shady Grove, my little love,

Shady Grove I say,

Shady Grove, my little love,

I'm bound to go away.

I fell in love with this old American folk song many years ago, in a version by Clarence Ashley, I think. Or maybe Pete Steele. And while still in my early 20's, as a grad student at Wesleyan University (studying Ethnomusicology), I became actually haunted by it and, as is often the case with me, felt almost compelled to respond with music of my own.  I got only so far, however, composing what is now the intro, before I got stymied and could not figure out how to continue. This is an old problem with me, and there are many pieces of mine that were completed a long time after the initial conception. Finally, many years later, it occurred to me that the most logical way to continue would be to turn the thing into a theme and variations, with my initial inspiration serving as the intro. and also the basis for the coda. I took not only the tune, but also the banjo accompaniment, as my themes, and wove them together into this piece, which I initially wrote for piano solo and then adapted for piano four hands.

Around the time I was completing it, I "met" a very charming young woman on the Internet, and we struck up a very close email, chat and telephone-based relationship that lasted a few years. The moniker she used online was "Lacey," and because she came across as a really hyped up person, with a lot of energy, describing herself as "running with scissors" and continually "multitasking," I decided to dedicate this very frantic piece to her, nicknaming it "Racey Lacey." If you think of it as a portrait of this manic individual, racing from one task to another (which is often how she came across), you'll get my point.

Of course, the various performances of this song by country musicians that inspired me were more laid back, but I do find something very dynamic in the banjo picking style that usually goes along with such songs and that was definitely a part of what got me going. Here's a link to one of my favorite performances, picked (on the guitar) and sung by the great Doc Watson:

I don't see any place to upload my piece here, so I'll refer you to my member page on this forum, where you'll find it on the lower left, under "My Music":

By the way, if you listen carefully to Watson's performance you'll hear that the words to this song are just as wonderful as the tune. Here's my favorite stanza, dedicated to all you male chauvinists out there:

I wish I had a big old horse

And corn to feed him on

And Shady Grove to stay at home

And feed him when I'm gone.

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