High on a Mountain (2019)

Commissioned by the South Point High School Symphonic Band, Belmont, North Carolina

When I thought about composing a symphonic band piece for my niece, Sarah Ann Neil, as a tribute to her accomplishments as a clarinetist, I immediately thought of the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains that are so much a part of the culture of this region where Sarah grew up. In the Smithsonian Folkways World Music Collections, I found a folksong, High On a Mountain (lyrics below) that really fed into my musical inspiration with its message about the passage of time. My composition incorporates the beautiful melody of the song and threads it through a sonic landscape evoking the mystery tumultuous weather of these mountains. I want to acknowledge support for this project from the South Point High School Band Boosters and Timothy Hamilton, the Band Director who has encouraged her to excel as a young musician and who has truly inspired the students he leads in symphonic band over the years.

Sarah Ann Neil 

However, truly the greatest thrill is to be part of the mosaic of music inspiration that has blessed both sides of our family. Sarah, spent many hours in her grandfather’s workshop while he played the guitar. He was a generous and charismatic man who instilled a love of music in her. Sarah began playing clarinet at Belmont Middle School in 6th grade after also being inspired by her father, my brother, who played clarinet in his school years. In high school she joined the South Point High School Marching Band and Symphonic Band and worked her way up in the ranks to serve as Woodwind Captain of the Marching band and first chair in the Symphonic Band. As a clarinetist, she has earned a position in Gaston County Schools All County Band program in five successive years. Sarah will attend the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, majoring in Criminal Justice while continuing to feed her love of all music by being involved in the university’s music program.

High On a Mountain

High on a mountain, the wind blowin’ free,

Thinking about the days that used to be.

High on a mountain, standing all alone,

Wondering where the years of my life had flown.

As I looked at the valleys down below,

They were green just as far as I could see,

As my memory turned on how my heart did yearn,

For you and the days that used to be.

High on a mountain, the wind blowing’ free,

Thinking about the days that used to be.

High on a mountain, standing all alone,

Wondering where the years of my life had flown.

Oh I wonder if you ever think of me,

Or if time has blotted out your memory.

As I listen to that breeze whisper gently through the trees,

I’ll always cherish what you meant  to me. 

High on a mountain, the wind blowing’ free,

Thinking about the days that used to be.

High on a mountain, standing all alone,

Wondering where the years of my life had flown.