gitchee gumee

Gitchee Gumee 

Song for Baritone Voice and Harp  |  Song Cycle in Three Movements for Baritone and Piano

Commissioned by Daniel Neer and NeerSighted Productions

Poetry: Daniel Neer

Music: Jonathan David


I grew up in Northeast Ohio when the Edmund Fitzgerald sank on November 10, 1975 into the stormy depths of Lake Superior. The event captivated my eight year-old mind, as details of the tragedy seemed to be swept up in a shroud of mysteriously unanswered questions – many of which remain to this day. Several crewmembers were from such Ohio towns as Fremont, Fostoria and Port Clinton – just a stones throw from my home in neighboring Bellevue. As I became an adult, the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald continued to haunt me. For a time I was a church soloist at Mariners’ Church in downtown Detroit, whose Pastor, Reverend Richard Ingalls, was intrinsically linked to the event and the family members of the lost crew members. And, in a more bizarre turn, I once learned that my Fifth grade teacher, a wonderful woman by the name of Joyce Hayward, retired from teaching to pursue other interests and became one of the leading experts on diving to shipwrecks in the Great Lakes with many notable dives to her name, helping her to garner the nickname “Lady of the Lakes”.

In 2011 I wrote the text for ‘Gitchee Gumee’ and approached friend and collaborator Jonathan David to see if he had an interest in writing a setting for voice and harp, to be featured in a multimedia staged chamber recital called ‘NARKISSOS’. This song became the inspiration for establishing the ‘Gitchee Gumee’ setting as a centerpiece of a trilogy of songs in a cycle, each depicting life on the Great Lakes representing three generations – Grandfather, Father and Son.   This song cycle, for voice and piano, is set to make its premiere in July, 2015 at the Bar Harbor Music Festival in Bar Harbor, Maine.

The term Gitchee Gumee was first coined by the Ojibwe tribe, who originally coined the term gichigami “be a great sea” as their name for Lake Superior. Henry Wordsworth Longfellow adopted the name as Gitche Gumee in The Song of Hiawatha, and the singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot included the term in his hit song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, changing the spelling slightly to Gitchee Gumee.


Performance History

Solo Song for Voice and Harp:


April 27 and 29, 2012

World Premiere, Narkissos, multimedia recital

The Tank Performance Space

Daniel Neer (baritone), Alyssa Reit (harp)


May 11, 2012

Narkissos, multimedia recital

The Secret Theater

Queens New Music Festival

Daniel Neer (baritone), Alyssa Reit (harp)


Song Cycle for Voice and Piano:


July 8, 2015

World Premiere

Bar Harbor Music Festival, Maine

Daniel Neer (voice), Marijo Newman (piano)