This single movement is the final movement in a four-movement suite for viola and piano. (The complete suite is scored for viola, harp, string orchestra, and percussion.) The music commemorates and celebrates the perseverance of the founders of Clarion. It attempts to give musical expression to the dedication, determination, and faithfulness of these people. Important Old Testament scriptures are linked to each movement, and symbolically, to the events in Clarion. The Clarion episode should also have meaning and connection to many other events in Jewish history and to each of our own lives. This recording features violist, LeeAnn Morgan and pianist, Hilary Demske.
THE COMMEMORATION and COMMISSION:
On September 9th and 10th, 2011 a centennial celebration of the founders of Clarion was held at the Jewish Community Center in Salt Lake City, as well as in Gunnison, Utah. New stories, works of art, and music were created as part of this event. A single musical movement for viola and piano, “To Hallowed Ground: A Pilgrimage,” by Dr. Marden Pond, was commissioned for the Clarion centennial celebration by the Utah Pioneer Heritage Arts Association. Featured performers for the premiere were: Dr. LeeAnn Morgan, violist from the School of Music at Brigham Young University, and Dr. Hilary Demske, professor of piano at Utah Valley University. After completing the commissioned single movement, the composer created three additional movements, which now comprise a complete concert suite for viola solo, harp, string orchestra, and optional percussion.
NOTES ABOUT THE COMPLETE SUITE:
I. “Heritage Brought – Legacy Preserved” (To the Founders of Clarion)
Celebrates the deep spiritual roots, the desire to honor millennia-long traditions and beliefs, and the hopeful arrival of the settlers in a new and strange land. One account tells of “eleven Jewish colonists [who] rode an open wagon through Gunnison, Utah, singing Ukrainian folk songs on their way to their new settlement of Clarion, three miles to the southwest. They were the vanguard of what was to be a model Jewish farming community, signaling to the world and to Jews everywhere that the time had come for Jews to go ‘back to the soil’.” “I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search. . . . I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. . . . Thou [leadest] thy people like a flock . . .” Psalm 77:5-6, 11, 20. "Let [us] praise his name in the dance: let [us] sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp." Psalm 149:3.
II. “Strangers In a Strange Land” (To the Founders and Children of Clarion)
The immigration by these colonizers to a new wilderness follows a “type” that permeates the history of the House of Israel – seeking peace, security, and spiritual freedom by journeying to a new land. This puts these new inhabitants in the position of being strangers, hoping for new possibilities and blessings. This movement quotes from an anonymous Hebrew lullaby. “. . . and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.” Exodus 2:22.
III. “Strangers, Gentiles, Brothers” (To the Founders and Neighbors of Clarion)
A memorial to the blessed relationships that can be created with those who enter our lives and our world, this movement focuses on the positive impact that develops when we strive to learn from each other, serve each other, and honor the good in each other. The Clarion founders had a peaceful relationship with their neighbors, and those who look back on the dedication of these “dwellers in the wilderness” rejoice in the spirit of their endeavor. Curiously in Utah, the term “gentile” takes on an enlarged meaning. To the Jews, non-Jews are “gentiles.” To the Mormons, Jews may be “gentiles.” But in the larger sense, when we strive to understand each other, we can discover our commonalities and grow to love each other as brothers. We are not required to abandon our own legacy in order to find understanding and joy in the sacred heritage of others. “But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:34. “Then shall [they] rejoice in the dance, both young . . . and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.” Jeremiah 31:13.
IV. “To Hallowed Ground: A Pilgrimage” (To the Founders and Descendents of Clarion)
Learning of the sacrifices and diligence of those who came before us can give us a deeper sense of our own life’s meaning. We realize that others have been faithful in their life’s pursuits, have prepared the way for those who may follow, and have overcome – or at least persevered through – extreme obstacles. This gives us a reason to move ahead and a hope for a brighter future for ourselves. “My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.” Lamentations 3:19.
A HISTORY OF THE COMMUNITY OF CLARION:
As many Jews immigrated from Europe in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, fleeing the persecution and pogroms, a significant number of émigrés settled in the urban areas of New York and Philadelphia. However, the times were difficult, and many of the Jewish residents of these cities felt that their children were being “urbanized,” losing their important Jewish heritage and suffering from the ill-effects of sweatshops, slums, and crowded cities.
A new “back to the soil” movement became attractive to these refugees, enticing them with the potential for a more peaceful lifestyle, productive employment, and the cultural isolation that might help preserve their heritage. One particular group searched for land and opportunity in the West. This group, consisting chiefly of immigrants from Poland, Russia, Ukraine, and other eastern European countries, moved to a tract of land west of Gunnison, Utah. Encouraged by: the state of Utah (which was trying to attract new land owners); by the mistaken preliminary judgment that the soil would be good for agriculture; by the promise of adequate water from an under-construction canal; and by support from a group of Jewish philanthropists, the intrepid settlers founded a new community, Clarion. The town’s name reflected the hope that this group might be “the harbingers of the economic and social future of Jewish America.” (Robert Goldberg, Back to the Soil: The Jewish Farmers of Clarion, Utah and their World)
The first 11 or 12 colonists arrived September 10, 1911. By the Spring of 1912, 156 residents occupied the new town, living on 36 farms and cultivating almost 2,600 acres. The new residents had high hopes, determination, and a firm work ethic. “Largest both in population and in land area, this colony proved to be the most long-lived Jewish settlement west of the Appalachians.” (Goldberg) However, the town lasted only until 1915. The demise of the colony is attributable to the following factors: (1) The climate was harsh, with hot dry summers and cold lengthy winters. (2) The soil was not well-suited to agriculture, and the terrain was rocky and sloping, with gullies and washes crisscrossing the tract. (3) Anticipating sufficient water for irrigation, the canal that was under construction, provided an undependable flow and insufficient volume. The canal was not even completed until after the town’s demise. (4) It became readily apparent that the new residents of Clarion were ill-prepared for agricultural pursuits. Although they were skilled with manufacturing and business practices, few had experience with farming, animal husbandry, or other rural crafts. (5) There was some contention within the Clarion community concerning social and educational issues and varying degrees of religious orthodoxy. (6) The colony could not raise enough goods to pay its bills; financial support from their backers diminished. Ultimately the land was foreclosed on when payments were not made.
In retrospect, the sacrifices, courage, and determination of the founders of Clarion were remarkable. Their toil makes this historic episode a cause for our respect and admiration. The persistence and dedication of the 287 men and women (and unnumbered children) who called Clarion home, consecrates this spot as a hallowed place. “For its participants, the Clarion experiment was not an entirely negative experience. While the citizens of Clarion bickered amongst themselves, they formed a close friendship with the Mormons in Sanpete County, who considered the Jews their spiritual brethren. A few of the colonists were able to parley the skills they had learned in Clarion toward successful farming enterprises in more hospitable climes. Lessons gleaned from the colony’s brief tenure in Utah were also applied during the Jewish resettlement of their ancient homeland in Palestine, where farming conditions were equally difficult.” (Goldberg)