Charlie Haden: Wayfaring Stranger

The sound of a string orchestra blossoms, ascending to a melody that floats, suspended in time. The wayfarer’s path starts on a poignant Bb major sound. Strings begin a slow, aching journey, wandering through harmony that becomes progressively darker. The orchestra settles on an ominous D minor. Charlie Haden sings,

I am a poor wayfaring stranger . . .”

A low pedal tone broods like the dark thoughts of a wayfarer, lost in an unending valley.

“. . . a-wanderin’ through this world of woe . . .”

The low D pedal remains while strings sway through searing recollections of things the wayfarer has witnessed on his journey.

And there’s no sickness, toil, or danger / In that bright world to which I go . . .”

The strings swell out of the shadows. The wayfaring stranger steps into the light.

“I’m going home to see my father . . .”

On the word “home,” a single, beautifully placed pizzicato bass note—a Bb on the G string—rings out, changing the wayfarer’s world to a place of promise.

“I’m going there no more to roam / I’m only going over Jordan / I’m only going over home.”

A solo cello punctuates the story, climbing from the depths toward a beacon in the sky. Haden sings about life—and death. His path had taken him around the world, through bright moments and gloomy times.

Charles Edward “Charlie” Haden passed away on July 11, 2014, at the age of 76. He will be remembered as a singular, defining voice in the world of modern bass playing.

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