Ashoken Farewell

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ASHOKAN FAREWELL. American, Air or Waltz (3/4 time). D Major. Standard tuning. AA'B. The tune was chosen by Ken Burns as the theme for 1992's celebrated PBS series "The Civil War." However, rather than a melody from that era, it is a 1983 Grammy winning piece by fiddler Jay Ungar (West Hurley, New York), who composed it at the end of an emotional year at the 1982 music and dance camp run by he and Molly Mason at Ashokan, New York. The tune has since become the traditional 'last dance' at the camp each year. "Ashokan Farewell" has become hugely popular, and can even frequently be heard rendered by school string programs. The name Ashokan first appears in Dutch records from the 17th century and may be a corruption of an Indian word. The town of Ashokan itself was largely inundated by the vast Ashokan Reservoir, one of New York City's watersheds in the Catskill Mountains. The 'folk process' has yielded several titles based on miss-hearings of the word Ashokan, including "The Choking Farewell," and "I'm Choking, Farewell." Various sets of words have been attached to the tune, including ones by Grian MacGregor, written in 1991 and sung by Priscilla Herdman, on her Flying Fish Records CD "Forever & Always."

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Barnes (English Country Dance Tunes, vol. 2), 2005; pg. 74 (appears as "Leah's Waltz", the name of a dance by Fried de Metz Herman composed in 1989 to the tune). Matthiesen (The Waltz Book), 1992; pg. 14. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), vol. 2, 1995; pg. 238.

Recorded sources: Flying Fish, Fiddle Fever – "The Best of Fiddle Fever" (1990).


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