12. The Desert
Originally titled “Keep Goin’, Soprano solo, The Desert, is introduced with a harrowing tale described in the narration preceding the song. As a party in 1843 struggled to cross what they thought was a 40-mile desert stretch, they began to suffer. On the third day, dying of thirst, and with the mountains still far off in the distance, they devised a terrible plan:
“The oxen were cut loose, in the hopes that some primal instinct would lead the beasts to water.
And the oxen did stampede wildly across the dusty desert towards the mountain range.
And then…and then, the men gathered canteens and water sacks and…looking at their wives and children, perhaps for the final time…the men walked off, following the oxen tracks.
And the women sat in those wagons…utterly stranded…and tried to comfort their children…as they watched their husbands walk off into the dust.”
Orchestral & Choral Version
Piano & Choral Version*
*Original Cast CD recording from August 1993:
Joy Bechtler, Soprano
Polly Kopituk, Mezzo-Soprano
David Ronis, Tenor
Martin Hargrove, Bass
Eric Houghton, Piano/Composer