Jonathan David: "II. Song of the Crewman" from Gitchee Gumee
Daniel Neer, baritone
Trudy Chan, piano
from "The Persistence of Song" (Centaur Records CRC3723)
II. Song of the Crewman
III. Song of the Son / Postlude
Gitchee Gumee is a song cycle for baritone and piano inspired by the tragedy of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a Great Lakes freighter that sank on Lake Superior during a storm on November 10, 1975, resulting in the loss of all 29 crewmembers. The title is derived from the Ojibwe (Chippewa) Indigenous tribe of North America, who used the term to describe Lake Superior as “Big Sea” or “Huge Water”. The term first gained prominence in 1855 when it was used in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha, and found a renewed audience when Gordon Lightfoot used it in The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which dominated FM radio during the autumn of 1976.
The cycle is composed of three sets of lyrics, sung by three generations of men belonging to the same family, each in first-person narrative. Although the specific characters depicted are fictitious, the lyrics use an amalgam of various crewmembers’ narratives during the period of the Edmund Fitzgerald, including colorful stories of working on the Great Lakes, the close bonds among fellow crewmembers, and the mysterious allure of a maritime career.