Falling Creek

Copyright Paul C Hanson and Chris Wagoner 2015
Lyrics and melody by Paul C. Hanson
Arrangement by Chris Wagoner
Musicians: Chris Wagoner (violin), Mary Gaines (cello), Doug Brown (guitar), Erik Radloff
Sound engineer: Jake Johnson, PARADYMNE Productions

There are certain places you visit while traveling that capture your imagination and exert a lasting spell. These places fascinate us, compel us to think broadly beyond our own limitations, and provide an aura of magic that transcends the here and now. For me, one of those places is Falling Creek, a small reservoir.

I visited Falling Creek in June of 2015 as part of a scientific research trip.  This is one of the few times when the scene before me matched what was in my mind, the product of so many stories.   It’s wide at the base of the reservoir, perhaps a kilometer across as you stand on the dam and look upstream.  Mixed hardwoods overhang its banks, which on the left rise steeply to the mountain tops.  On the right, a bluff reaches partway across, hiding two thirds of the reservoir from view. Falling Creek is a man-made reservoir, which in some ways contradicts the essence of its natural beauty: the reservoir itself seems ageless, forgotten and isolated in the backwoods of western Virginia, yet it did not exist a century ago. Settlers haven’t lived on the shores of Falling Creek for almost a hundred years, so the abandoned stone walls marking old farms have faded into hillslopes overrun by oaks, hickory, and the occasional gnarled apple tree, lovingly planted once but now a remnant of a different time.

My day at Falling Creek was spent in scientific pursuit, but my mind wandered throughout the valley during my visit. The juxtaposition of the timeless setting and the lost passage of time captured my thoughts and are embodied in the melody of this piece. The harmonics plucked gently by guitar at the beginning evoke images of raindrops dripping off a tree.  A single, sustained note from the cello provides a foundation for the violin to grow the larger theme – one that harkens back to life in Appalachia on the frontier in the early 20th century.  As all three instruments converge on the relaxed pace of ¾-time, the story of Falling Creek emerges and pulls us, unendingly, back in time and to her Virginia hills.