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  • Writer's pictureSteve Crowther

The Ashokan Farewell performed by Dave Webb (harmonica)

The name Ashokan means ‘place of many fishes’ or ‘where waters converge’ in the Iroquois language.

Iroquoian languages are a language family of indigenous peoples of North America. They are known for their general lack of labial consonants.

Labial consonants are consonants in which one or both lips are the active articulator…

Ashokan Farewell

The sun is sinking low In the sky above Ashokan The pines and the willows Know soon we will part There's a whisper in the wind Of promises unspoken And a love that will always Remain in my heart

My thoughts will return To the sound of your laughter The magic of moving as one And a time we'll remember Long ever after The moonlight and music And dancing are done

Will every song we've sung Stay with us forever? Will you dance in my dreams Or my arms until then?

Under the moon The mountains lie sleeping Over the lake stars shine They wonder if you and I Will be keeping The magic of music Or leave them behind

Ooooooh Farewell Mmmmm

The Ashokan reservoir is a huge expanse of water some 150 miles north of the city, and not far from where Jay Ungar and Molly Mason have run an annual ‘fiddle and dance’ camp for more than thirty years. A recent New Year’s dance in the Ashokan Centre boasted ‘blues, waltzes, contras, and squares’. It all happens amid the beauty of the Catskill Mountains, not too far from Woodstock. On the last night of camp, it is traditional to play Ungar’s tune The Ashokan Farewell (1982), a beautiful, slightly mournful D major waltz, in the style of a Scottish lament.

The tune was used as the title theme of the 1990 TV mini-series The Civil War. Indeed, Ungar wrote Ashokan Farewell with the Civil War in mind. He describes the song as coming out of "a sense of loss and longing" after the annual Ashokan Music & Dance Camps ended.

The most famous arrangement of the piece begins with a solo violin, later accompanied by guitar and upright bass. Another arrangement, featuring Ungar, Mason, and their family band, is performed with two violins, an acoustic guitar, and a banjo, with the piece beginning with a solo violin. The most famous arrangement that is… until now.

Here it is recorded and performed by Dave Webb as part of his delightful Dave Folk Harmonica YouTube series: Ashoken Farewell.

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