For some time I had wanted to create a work using my favorite American folksongs. The opportunity presented itself when Elisabeth Bryant approached me to write a work for wind ensemble. After picking out four folksongs, Bird's Courting Song, Johnson Boys, A Bachelor's Song, and I Never will Marry, I discovered their connecting theme: courting. Each song contains the same basic plot telling the trials and tribulations of a bumbling person's attempt at courting. After some time I decided to bring these four together creating, a new folksong tone poem, whose story is told through melodies rather than words.
To tell the story each folksong melody becomes a character. Johnson Boys is the theme for a bumbling but confident young man setting out to court a young lady. When he bemoans his sorry state and insecurity A Bachelor's Song is heard. The object of his desire, is represented by I Never will Marry. Bird's Courting Song, heard throughout the piece, plays the role of fate for-telling the inevitable outcome of the story. These melodies are intertwined and developed to form one big folk-song, Johnson Boys.
Johnson Boys was commissioned by and premiered by the South Shore Conservatory (MA) All Star Band under the direction of Elisabeth Bryant.
The South Shore Conservatory All Star Band, Elisabeth Bryant, conductor, Hingham, Massachusetts.