Rolling River has become a new American classic.”
John Morris Russell

Rolling River (Sketches on “Shenandoah”) was commissioned by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and its conductor John Morris Russell. It is Boyer’s first orchestral setting of an American folk tune. It was premiered on the Fourth of July 2014, conducted by David Charles Abell (perhaps best known for conducting the Les Misérables 10th and 25th anniversary concerts, seen worldwide). The CPO, under JMR’s direction, performed and recorded Rolling River at Cincinnati’s historic Music Hall on January 23, 24 & 25, 2015, as part of an ambitious project entitled American Originals, which focused largely on the legacy of seminal American songwriter Stephen Foster. The recording was released on Fanfare Cincinnati, the in-house record label of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Pops, in September 2015. That recording debuted at #5 on the Billboard Classical Album Chart.

Instrumentation

picc.2.2.corA.2.bcl.3(III=cbsn)—4.3.3.1—timp.perc(3)—harp—cel—strings

Duration

5:00

Composition Date and Commission

Composed 2014
Commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for the Cincinnati Pops

View Performance History

— Premiered by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, David Charles Abell, conductor, at Riverbend Music Center, July 4, 2014
— Performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, John Morris Russell, conductor, July 18, 2014
— Performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, John Morris Russell, conductor, September 10 & 11, 2014
— Performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, John Morris Russell, conductor, at Music Hall, Cincinnati, January 23, 24, & 25, 2015; recorded live by these performers for American Originals album, released on Fanfare Cincinnati (#FC-005, distributed by Naxos), September 2015
— Performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, John Morris Russell, conductor, July 1, 2015
— Performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, John Morris Russell, conductor, at the Lumenocity Festival, August 5-9, 2015 (five performances)
— Performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, John Morris Russell, conductor, September 18 & 20, 2015
— Performed by the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of New York, Phil Preddice, conductor, at Carnegie Hall, May 15, 2016
— Performed by the National Festival Orchestra, John Morris Russell, conductor, at the National Orchestral Institute and Festival, May 28, 2016
— Performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, John Morris Russell, conductor, November 4, 5 & 6, 2016; filmed live in concert by CET Public Television for release in the American Soundscapes video series, July 2017
— Performed by the National Symphony Orchestra, John Morris Russell, conductor, on the West Lawn of the United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., September 3, 2017
— Cincinnati Pops Orchestra recording broadcast extensively on WGUC, Cincinnati, beginning August 2015

Read Program Note

Though I’ve composed many original orchestral works, I’d never before created an orchestral setting of an American folk song, so this invitation from John Morris Russell and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra came as something of a surprise, and a challenge. I was aware of Shenandoah, and had heard various vocal versions of this folk tune, but had never studied it. My approach in creating Rolling River (the title comes from a lyric in the song) was to put this beautiful tune front and center, and to use the richness and colors of this marvelous symphony orchestra to surround and highlight that tune. JMR asked for something sweeping and “cinematic,” and I attempted to deliver that in my setting, including some “tone painting” suggesting a rolling river in the woodwind writing. — PB

Rolling River has become a new American classic and core repertoire for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Peter’s eloquent variations on Shenandoah are masterfully woven into a work of profound beauty and heart. The centerpiece of the latest Cincinnati Pops recording “American Originals,” Rolling River displays sophisticated orchestration that is both virtuosic and subtle, and an innate sense of quiet drama that has left no audience unmoved.” — John Morris Russell

Rolling River (Sketches on “Shenandoah”)

Cincinnati Pops Orchestra
John Morris Russell, conductor

With David Charles Abell, Sam Strater, and John Morris Russell