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Lonesome Valley Folk Suite

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James Stephenson

James Stephenson

General Info

Year: 2022
Duration: c. 19:00
Difficulty: IV (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: James Stephenson Music
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $400.00; (digital) - $400.00   |   Score Only (print) - $80.00


1. The Silver Dagger ("The Woeful Warning") - 2:35
2. Raccoon and Possum - 1:55
3. Down in the Valley - 3:45
4. Tom Sherburner's Bar Room - 2:55
The Murdered Wife (McFee's Confession) - 2:45
6. The Gum-Tree Canoe - 3:35


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Bass Saxophone (optional
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II
Bass Trombone
String Bass
Percussion I-II-III-IV-V, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Bubble Wrap
  • Chimes
  • Crash Cymbals (2)
  • Crotales
  • Drum Set
  • Finger Cymbals
  • Glockenspiel
  • Hi-Hat
  • Marimba
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tambourine
  • Vibraphone
  • Vibra-slap
  • Wash Board
  • Wind Chimes
  • Wood Block
  • Wood Slab (with dime and quarter)
  • Xylophone

Players stomping


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

I was approached by my friend Tim Hendrix (Bentonville High School band), with whom I had worked before, to consider writing the first work for the newly formed Arkansas Consortium Project. The group consisted of many esteemed university and high school bands, all located in the state of Arkansas.

Tim asked if I might visit the same thought-process as Percy Aldridge Grainger had for his iconic Lincolnshire Posy; in other words, to seek out American folk songs (not necessarily Arkansas-based) and create my own take on the material.

It was the sort of project I had wanted to do for a long time, so I immediately said yes, and let the idea simmer for a while.

The first thing I knew was that I would use the same instrumentation as Grainger. Therefore, with the exception of alto clarinet (which I omitted), and bass saxophone (which is optional), and some added percussion to modernize and "Americanize", the ensemble on stage is essentially the same as that of Posy.

When I started my search, I was immediately overwhelmed by the plethora of folk songs, many specifically from Arkansas. Luckily, the songs I found were already categorized into some groups that I found inspiring musically; those being:

Death, Animals, Love, Cowboy, Murder, and Water.

Following Mr. Grainger's lead, I listened to the now-70-year-old recordings, and in most cases, tried to imitate, or allude to, the intonations of the singer, and/or to the text being sung. This led to many fun orchestrations which I otherwise might not have considered, and was a really interesting process to undertake.

I added a few "text cues" in the score/parts, so that the performers might be aware of the folk song's meaning at that particular point. And in the case of The Silver Dagger, I even endeavored a clandestine transposition down a half-step at nearly the same point at which the singer starts going flat.

The last movement -- The Gum-Tree Canoe -- exhibits the furthest wandering from the source material. I felt the suite needed an exciting ending, and I thusly used the "chorus" material from the folk song to create odd-metered bright and jazzy material. Many snippets of the other five songs find their way back in to the finale, with The Murdered Wife getting the most use as solid backdrop material to undertone the bright punctuations on top.

Lastly, in an effort to distance myself from the Grainger, I used decidedly "American" harmonies much of the time, hopefully giving the piece the true American feel it deserves, with homage paid toward the many individuals who kept these tales alive over the years through the art of vocal storytelling.

- Program Note by composer


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of North Texas (Denton) Wind Orchestra (Andrew Trachsel, conductor) – 21 March 2023
  • University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) Wind Ensemble (Christopher Knighten, conductor) – 3 October 2022 *Premiere Performance*

Works for Winds by this Composer

Adaptable Music

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