The Way Forth

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The Way Forth, a new folk opera from Rachel Grimes, encompasses lush layers of voices and orchestrations in an experiential, non-linear investigation highlighting perspectives of Kentucky women from 1775 to today.

Inspired by a treasure-trove of family documents, photos, and letters spanning several generations, Grimes began in 2016 to research some of the more vexing questions that came to the surface about these people, places, and events. Fuelled by intuition, travel to visit family, photographing, and filming present day rural Kentucky life, the research led to many more questions: What is missing? What is not being said here? What did she really think and feel? Primary historical accounts routinely glossed over people without titles or voting rights, and dehumanised most others by referring to them as objects of desire, savages, or slaves. Further examination formed a framework for trying to reconcile her state’s history and how it relates to the westward expansion and settlement of the United States and ultimately how an era of domination, denial, and pain is reflected in the complex culture of today.

The songs that make up The Way Forth weave back in time through a postcard, a personal account of a long life on a farm, traces of folk tunes, names, places, and rivers, all woven into an emotional fabric of yearning, nostalgia, grief, and the rich intimacies of everyday life. Initially solo voices are heard above vivid orchestrations, expanding with the choral voices of the community through fragments of traditional church music and popular tunes. The scope widens to include a modern male narrator’s reflections on a place battered by greed, civil war, bigotry, and the exploitation of natural resources. Through music, voice, and film, The Way Forth honours the emotional legacy of the silenced, the holistic, the beauty in quotidian life, and explores the eternal grace and redemption of time, as symbolised by the great Dix and Kentucky Rivers.

Tracklist

1. Got Ahold of Me 
2. Postcard from Pauline 
3. Patsy 
4. Sisterhood of Man 
5. Red House School
6. The Hysterical Society 
7. Nowhere on Earth 
8. There Is No Other 
9. The Spells 
10. Fontaine Ferry 
11. For So Long 
12. Dix River Doxology
13. Dolly 
14. Bill of Sale
15. End of Dominion 
16. Sara 
17. A New Land