West Virginia Music and Dance

“Martha Graham’s ‘Appalachian Spring'” –  (4 Parts)

Choreographed by Martha Graham    —   Original Score by Aaron Copland   —   Premiered 1944

“Springtime in the wilderness is celebrated by a man and woman building a house with joy and love and prayer; by a revivalist and his followers in their shouts of exaltation; by a pioneering woman with her dreams of the Promised Land.”

Dancers in this film:  The Bride: Martha Graham;  The Husbandman: Stuart Hodes;  The Revivalist: Bertram Ross;  The Pioneer Woman: Matt Turney;  The Revivalists’ Flock: Yuriko, Helen McGehee, Ethel Winter, Miriam Cole

Film Directed and Photographed by Peter Glushanok, Produced by Nathan Kroll, Presented by WQED Pittsburgh. Filmed in 1959.

Part 1     (8:05/2010 / danceonfilm)

  • 1st movement: Very slowly. Introduction of the characters, one by one, in a suffused light.
  • 2nd movement: Fast. Sudden burst of unison strings in A major arpeggios starts the action. A sentiment both elated and religious gives the keynote to this scene.
  • 3rd movement: Moderate: Duo for the Bride and her Intended; scene of tenderness and passion.

Part 2    (9:04/2010 / danceonfilm)

  • 4th movement: Quite fast. The Revivalist and his flock. Folksy feeling; suggestions of square dances and country fiddlers.
  • 5th movement: Still faster. Solo dance of the Bride.  Presentiment of motherhood. Extremes of joy and fear and wonder.
  • 6th movement: Very slowly (as at first). Transition scene to music reminiscent of the introduction.

Part 3    (7:32/2010/danceonfilm)

  • 7th movement: Celebration of marriage and newfound relationships. This is the iconic use of the ‘Simple Gifts’ theme that arguably makes this music piece famous.
  • 8th movement: Fast and manic. The revivalist warns the newlyweds of the perils of evil on the frontier.
  • 9th movement: Dramatic and deep. The husbandman seeks guidance from the pioneer woman.
  • 10th movement: Fast and folksy as before: A return to the flock admiring the preacher.

Part 4    (7:09/2010 / danceonfilm)

  • 11th movement: Fast and manic. The bride worries about her impending life on the frontier. We see her suggesting childbirth and rearing.
  • 12th movement: Slow and calm. The husbandman comes to the bride to console her with his newfound guidance.
  • 13th movement: Dramatic replaying of the theme. The “Simple Gifts” tune is played once again dramatically as all the characters celebrate the coming of the husband and wife to the frontier.
  • 14th movement: Slow and resolute: The characters’ recessional. We leave the bride and husbandman to their newfound future.

“In 1926, Martha Graham formed the Martha Graham Dance Company, which was founded on the principles of dance as inner expression. Therefore, she did not aspire for movement to be beautiful, as much of classical ballet demanded, but rather that it be significant… She often created works entirely from the roots upwards, including the costumes, music and choreography. She collaborated with and/or taught the foremost artists and dancers of her time, including dancers Alvin Ailey, Twyla Tharpe, and Merce Cunningham, composer Aaron Copland, and sculptor Isamu Noguchi.”

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