“Ashokan Farewell” is a piece of music composed by Jay Ungar in 1982. It has served as a goodnight or farewell waltz at the annual Ashokan Fiddle & Dance Camps run by Ungar and his wife Molly Mason, who gave the tune its name, at the Ashokan Field Campus of SUNY New Paltz (now the Ashokan Center) in upstate New York. The tune was used as the title theme of the 1990 PBS television miniseries The Civil War, as well as the 1991 compilation album Songs of the Civil War.
The piece is a waltz in D major, composed by Jay Ungar in the style of a Scottish lament (e.g., Niel Gow’s “Lament for His Second Wife”). Jay Ungar describes the song coming out of “a sense of loss and longing” after the annual Ashokan Music & Dance Camps ended. The most famous arrangement of the piece begins with a solo violin, later accompanied by guitar and upright bass. Another arrangement, featuring Jay Ungar, Molly Mason, and their family band, is composed of two violins, an acoustic guitar, and banjo, with the piece beginning with a solo violin.
Before its use as the television series theme, “Ashokan Farewell” was recorded on Waltz of the Wind, the second album by the band Fiddle Fever. The musicians included Ungar and Mason. It has served as a goodnight or farewell waltz at the annual Ashokan Music & Dance Camps that Ungar and Mason run at the Ashokan Center in the Catskill Mountains of New York.
Ashokan was the name of a Catskill Region village that is now mostly covered by the Ashokan Reservoir.
The sun is sinking low in the sky above Ashokan.
The pines and the willows know soon we will part.
There’s a whisper in the wind of promises unspoken,
And a love that will always remain in my heart.
My thoughts will return to the sound of your laughter,
The magic of moving as one,
And a time we’ll remember long ever after
The moonlight and music and dancing are done.
Will we climb the hills once more?
Will we walk the woods together?
Will I feel you holding me close once again?
Will every song we’ve sung stay with us forever?
Will you dance in my dreams or my arms until then?
Under the moon the mountains lie sleeping
Over the lake the stars shine.
They wonder if you and I will be keeping
The magic and music, or leave them behind.