The new Orpheus Music Project has commissioned librettist/conductor Craig Fields and respected Twin Cities composer Craig Carnahan to create a major musical drama. The 90-minute work, to be presented in concert, will be based upon Sharyn McCrumb’s bestselling 1996 historical novel, The Ballad of Frankie Silver, which tells the true story of Frances Silver Stewart, an eighteen-year-old wife and mother, who was the first woman to be hanged for murder by the state of North Carolina in 1833. The public premier is planned for a major Twin Cities venue in fall, 2020.
Orpheus co-founder Kirk Hoaglund will produce the work, scored for narrator, soloists, full orchestra and MacPhail’s award-winning Minneapolis choral ensemble, Sonomento. Using Sharyn McCrumb’s new and riveting narration, the Requiem will incorporate folk ballad, hymns, requiem liturgy, aria and recitative with lyrics by Fields and all set to Carnahan’s evocative music, to pay final tribute to Frankie Silver’s brief life and tragic death.
Frankie Silver’s story is a gripping tragedy propelled by a series of unfortunate events that lead to a young girl’s murder conviction and hanging. Her fate is sealed by bigotry, ignorance, community outrage, a flawed system of criminal justice and a horrible family secret. Though a heartbreaking Appalachian tragedy, older than the hills, it helps us understand even today why, “The rich never hang – only the poor and friendless."