Lonesome Valley Folk Suite



For wind ensemble

LISTEN (UNT Wind Ensemble; Andrew Trachsel)


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James M. Stephenson
Lonesome Valley Folk Suite
for Wind Ensemble

Commissioned by The Arkansas Consortium Project

1. The Silver Dagger (“The Woeful Warning”)
2. Raccoon and Possum
3. Down in the Valley
4. Tom Sherburner’s Bar Room
5. The Murdered Wife (McFee’s Confession)
6. The Gum-Tree Canoe

duration: approximately 16 minutes
Full instrumentation below:

Program notes:

I was approached by my friend Tim Hendrix (Bentonville HS band), with whom I had worked before, to consider writing the first work for the newly formed Arkansas Consortium Project. The group, whose members are listed below, 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 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. The following pages have QR-code links to the original songs, as well as the texts, so that the performer or interested person might see where I derived my inspirations.

~ Jim Stephenson; June, 2022

Special thanks to the following individuals and institutions for their support of “Lonesome Valley Folk Suite”:


Timothy Hendrix, Bentonville (AR) High School ( lead consortium member )
Dr. Tim Oliver, Arkansas State University

Dr. Daniel Belongia, Arkansas Tech University
Dr. Ricky Brooks, University of Central Arkansas
Dr. Chris Knighten, University of Arkansas
Albert Ortiz, Bentonville West (AR) High School

Rusty Hart, Cabot (AR) High School
Clay Hooten, Dardanelle (AR) High School
Brett lawson, Fayetteville (AR) High School
Jeremy Ford, Springdale Har-Ber (AR) High School
Greg Bruner, Highland (AR) High School
Grant Harbison, Jonesboro (AR) High School
Richie Williams, Paragould (AR) High School
Jon Shultz, Lake Hamilton (AR) High School


piccolo, flute 1-2, oboe 1-2, English horn, bassoon 1-2, contrabassoon
Eb clarinet, Bb clarinet 1-3, Bb bass clarinet
Eb alto saxophone 1-2, Bb tenor saxophone, Eb baritone saxophone, Bb bass saxophone (optional)
Bb trumpet 1-3, French horn 1-4, trombone 1-2, bass trombone, baritone (Bb tenor clef), euphonium (bass clef), tuba double bass, timpani
5 percussion:

Percussion 1: Glock., Vibes, Crotales, Xylophone, Bubble-wrap, Slap-sticks
Percussion 2: Marimba, Vibes, Bubble-wrap, Glock.
Percussion 3: Chimes, Sus. Cymb., Cymb. a2 (crash), Hi-Hat, VibraSlap, Snare Drum, Vibes, Tambourine, Glock., Dr. Set, Triangle Percussion 4: Sus. Cymb., Triangle, Tam-tam, Marimba (shared), Snare Drum, Cymb. a2 (crash), Wood Block,

Wood slab (with dime and quarter), Slapsticks, Bubble-wrap, Finger Cymbals
Percussion 5: Bass Drum, Triangle, Tambourine, Sus. Cymb., Washboard, Bubble-wrap, Chimes (shared), Wind Chimes


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