McCarthy's virtuosically programmatic work for woodwind quintet tell the tragic tale of hardship experienced by the Donner party in their journey from Illinois to California.
Genre: Woodwind Quintet | # of Players: 5
Level: Medium Difficult | Duration: 12:00
In the year 1846, many families traveled west to California in search of a new life. George Donner, a German immigrant, organized one such expedition of 89 men, women, and children leaving Springfield, Illinois on April 16, 1846. The Donner party was to follow the California Trail nearly 2,000 miles across unpopulated prairies, up endless rivers, and through the Rocky Mountains over the Continental Divide. The more prudent immigrants swung north through present-day Idaho, though that was the longer way west. But the Donner Party, braver or more foolish than the rest, chose an untried route that would shorten the distance. They struggled through shortening days and chilling nights, and reached the brink of their destination, the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada. Then disaster struck.
For thirty years, the blizzard snows of winter had never came to the Sierra Nevada until the middle of November. In 1846, the blizzard came early for the first time in memory. Behind the Donner Party lay hundreds of miles of wilderness, seventy miles ahead lay California; in between, the canyons were buried in snow that soon piled thirty feet deep. They had food for a month, but it would be seven months before the snow thawed, and relief was far away.
What followed is an unforgettable story of terrible hardship and awesome courage: the suffering of men, women, and children, starvation, cannibalism, and madness. It is the story of humankind in their bleakest hour--a story that increases the understanding of what kind of people made this nation and the full, immeasurable price they paid.