“Vermont, My Own True Friend”

It didn’t win and didn’t even place, but, 16 years later, here’s the song I submitted for Vermont’s State Song Competition. It’s called “Vermont, My Own True Friend”.

My goals for the song (aside from, y’know, winning the contest) were:

  • It had to refer to our natural beauty
  • It had to refer to our values
  • It had to refer to our history
  • It had to refer to what makes us actually different
  • It had to be anthemic

The last criterion was the “music-y” part, and I imagined that any state song would end up being sung by crowds of people in classrooms, ballgames, and the Statehouse. Never mind the song’s language or symbolic content; above all, the song had to be designed to be performed by multiple people, with average ears and voices, yet still sound stirring and anthemic. That meant it needed a more structured meter and some larger-interval (but not TOO large!) leaps at the right point to catch attenton.

A big inspiration was Maine’s state song, which my fianc√© (now my wife) used to launch into spontaneously. That was another hope for my song’s musicality: It should inspire the singer to swing their bent arms back and forth in front of them, as if they were so inspired that they wanted to march in a parade.

In case you’re wondering, here’s the song that was selected as Vermont’s official State Song, “These Green Mountains”, words and music by Diane Martin and arranged by Rita Buglass Gluck; this rendition is from Victoria Tomkinson with Bob Ray on guitar.

Here’s a more gussied-up version performed by the Vermont Youth Orchestra Choir at the Statehouse.

As far as the words go, I’d like to think they met my criteria. I’m grateful to be able to say I live in this wonderful state, and I hope I can continue to do so for a long time to come.

Vermont, My Own True Friend

From the sleeping chin of Mansfield,
Where the granite touches sky,
To the shores of Lake Champlain,
Where the sails and salmon fly

Through the blazing autumn treetops
And the snowy slopes so wide,
The thought of so much majesty
Fills my heart with pride

Vermont,
Across your mountains green
Vermont,
Where independence sings
Vermont,
Where rivers, glittering
Over valleys, bend
Vermont,
This land will always be
My own true friend

The state where dreadful slavery
First met its legal end,
Where the farmer and the artist
On fertility depend

Where unity and freedom
Reach out with welcome hands,
And precious common sense,
Like the mighty maple, stands

Vermont,
Across your mountains green
Vermont,
Where independence sings
Vermont,
Where rivers, glittering
Over valleys, bend
Vermont,
This land will always be
My own true friend

© Copyright 2014 Nate Orshan

“granite” – I may be going out on a geological limb here.

“salmon” – Yup, we got ’em!

“unity and freedom” – OK, so our state motto is actually “Freedom and Unity“, but sometimes ya gotta mix things up a bit to get a line to fit.

“precious common sense” – AKA “Yankee horse sense”, a virtue of longstanding repute, e.g., “[US President and Vermonter Calvin] Coolidge was New England – or, as his Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover put it, ‘the incarnation of Yankee horse sense.’

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