Michael Dennis Browne on Stephen Paulus’s The Road Home


In the year 2000, Stephen Paulus asked me
if I would write some words for an old melody from the Southern Harmony Songbook of 1835
called ‘Prospect’. Dale Warland had commissioned Stephen to take
an older melody and to re-arrange it, to re-harmonise it, and he aske me to write the words. And by this time I had been working with Stephen
for a couple of decades, so it was a great joy once again to work with him. He played the tune on the piano at his house,
I recorded it on my little tape recorder, and for the next couple of weeks I walked
around humming the tune and gradually fitting words to it. It’s an awesome responsibility and a challenge
as well as a joy to try to match the beauty of music with a certain kind of language,
and I always aim for what I call a ‘significant simplicity’ – something that will be memorable,
sometimes a little close to the sentimental, but that enhances the music. So it’s a great responsibility to undertake
something like this. At the same to you know that, if you get it
right, it will be for the ages. So The Road Home is now seventeen years old,
it’s sung in many places, people love it. I love it too, it’s as if it doesn’t belong
either to Stephen or to me, or to the original Southern Harmony Songbook, it’s something
that’s out there, on its own, and we’ve been privileged, joyfully privileged, to contribute
this piece to the repertory, to the choral repertory.