Father of Waters

The composition “The Father of Waters” was written by my friend the Ohio composer Rick Sowash. I’ve been fortunate to get to know Rick through email over the years and think he is one of the nation’s great composers. Each Sunday, Rick sends out one of his compositions to his subscription list I’m on. The lastest piece is his tribute to the great Mississippi River. I decided to make a short film using Rick’s gorgeous music. I’ll let Rick provide some background on his piece.


In 2011, the Heartland Symphony Orchestra (a spirited community orchestra serving Brainerd and Little Falls, Minnesota) commissioned me to write an orchestral suite in honor of the orchestra’s 35th anniversary.

The result was my five-movement North Country Suite. Seein’ as how the Mississippi originates in northern Minnesota, I decided to portray that storied river in the suite’s third movement, titled “Father of Waters,” one of the great river’s manifold monikers.

Taking a cue from Smetana’s “The Moldau,” the movement begins with tentative, trickling fragments of tunes, an evocation of the bubbling of springs and the coalescing of little streams. This being an American river, listen, too, for a scattering of telltale “Blue” jazz notes foretelling the river’s eventual destination in “N’awlins.”

The fragments come together at 1:20 in a broad, rolling pentatonic theme with a distinctively American feel, like the main title theme from a Hollywood western. The tune swells, depicting the widening of the river as it flows south. The movement seems to end at 3:30, but then comes a surprise: the music goes Dixieland! After the tub lays down the bass, the trumpet takes the lead, an homage to Louis Armstrong, New Orleans’ greatest musician. The Dixieland music is familiar-sounding because it is written in a very familiar style – but the tune is original, I assure you. In fact, it’s a Dixieland variation on my piece “Gelato per Dio.”


To sign up for Rick’s Sunday piece, email Rick at rick@sowash.com, sending just one word: “Yes.” He’ll know what it means. To unsubscribe, reply “unsubscribe.”

Rick Sowash

Cincinnati, OH


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