From Wilderness: The first full-length concert work inspired by the PCT

Over the years, the Pacific Crest Trail has inspired thousands of books, articles, YouTube videos and films. Now, the trail’s influence reaches into the concert hall with “From Wilderness: A Meditation on the Pacific Crest Trail.” Composed by Southern California native Jeffrey Derus, the work is scored for chorus, vocal soloists, cello, and crystal singing bowls—and features text from writers and poets such as John Muir, Lucy Eddy, Rumi, and others. Derus paints a series of vivid sonic landscapes inspired by places along the PCT. The work is structured in five major movements, each reflecting a section of the trail: Southern California, Central California, Northern California, Oregon and Washington.

The work was commissioned by the Choral Arts Initiative, a professional vocal ensemble based in Irvine, California and dedicated to commissioning and performing contemporary choral works by living composers. In mid-March of this year, shortly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders were in place, I interviewed Jeff Derus via Zoom and asked him how the PCT inspired his music. The video below was edited from that interview. (Note that the rehearsals shown in the video happened in early March, before social distancing guidelines were announced.)

Sadly, the April premiere performance of this spectacular work was canceled due to the pandemic. The Choral Arts Initiative hopes instead to record the complete work in the studio. In the meantime, you can hear more of the excerpt that opens the video above in this video (below):

Composer Jeffrey Derus is currently music director at Anaheim High School where he teaches choir, guitar, piano and songwriting. He received his musical training at Cal State Fullerton with degrees in choral music, education and conducting. An accomplished vocalist, Derus has performed throughout Southern California, the U.S. and abroad. And of course he’s also passionate about the outdoors and nature, and has hiked much of the PCT in Southern California and visited other parts of the trail.

To learn more about the work and Choral Arts Initiative, visit their website.

Author: Scott Wilkinson

Scott Wilkinson is the PCTA’s Content Development Director. A former professional musician, Scott has 20+ years of experience in almost every marketing role. Before joining the PCTA he was a marketing/creative director at West Virginia University and the University of Oregon. A serious outdoor addict, Scott is an experienced whitewater paddler, hang glider pilot, flyfisher, mountain biker, and (of course) hiker and backpacker.