Dem Green Pastuh (In Green Pastures) by William West
"I listened to with much, much pleasure. I am impressed with the clarity, cogency, and translucency of the writing."
This composition was begun the first week in January 2005, based loosely on a tune that I had written a year earlier for Where the Cool Waters Flow. Not only was work to be done on the orchestration itself, but also more importantly was the need to develop thematic material that would carry the piece through to the end.
Organization of the themes and their progression were the most difficult for me to work through. I honestly did not know where the piece was leading me, and though it tried, I was reluctant to follow. Misha was there every step of the way lending guidance, and keeping me on the straight and narrow - to my dismay, he would not let me take any short cuts. The longer the process drug on, the more Misha and I were both convinced that I would never get to the end.
The title “Dem Green Pastuh” comes from the Gullah Language once spoken on the “Sea Islands” along the South Carolina and Georgia Coasts. Today the Gullah people, descendants of the slaves that worked in South Carolina's rice plantations, are a distinctive group of African Americans that have traditionally spoken an English based creole language with retentions of African speech unknown elsewhere in the United States.
From the early 1800s on, the Gullah, greatly outnumbered their often-absent white masters, were allowed a greater latitude of self-sufficiency as they were more isolated than their counterparts on the mainland. Even after the sea islands were freed in 1861, the Gullah speech and culture flourished because access to the islands was by water only until the 1950's.
I was blessed to grow up on one of these Sea Islands where Gullah was spoken to a large extent. The culture, food, traditions, and superstitions of the Gullah had great influence on my day to day life.
Now, that world is gone and can never be recaptured. As with many minority languages the world over, television, education and increased social contact have all undermined Gullah to a large extent. Gullah speakers now use various Black American English dialects in dealings with non-Islanders, though Gullah is the language of home, family and community.
Whatever its fate as a living vernacular, Gullah will live on with the general public as the language of Uncle Remus in Joel Chandler Harris's Bre'r Rabbit tales and of the fiction of South Carolina's Ambrose E. Gonzales.
1 English Horn
12 First Violins
14 Second Violins
4 Double Bass
Instruments complements of the Garritan Personal Orchestra
Sequenced and Recorded on Finale
Mastered on Steinberg's Wavelab (65 Tracks)
Special thanks to Misha Stefinuk for his guidance and tutelage on this project – I could not have done it without him!
Traddstreet Music, BMI