I am pleased and honored that composer Craig Carnahan and librettist/conductor Craig Fields have created a musical drama inspired by my novel The Ballad of Frankie Silver. Frankie Silver, an eighteen-year old girl unjustly hanged for murder in 19th century North Carolina, had long been forgotten until my novel revived interest in her story, a tale of a legal system that failed a desperate young woman on the Carolina frontier. After her execution in Morganton on July 12, 1833, Frankie’s body was collected by her father and brother, who buried it that night in an unmarked grave deep in the woods far from her mountain home. She had no funeral, and more than a century would pass before a local historical society would erect a grave marker.
Aside from this musical work’s greater ambitions to underscore the cause of justice for the poor and friendless, I see it as a requiem for that young frontier girl, and as I wrote the narration for this musical drama, I tried to express what she would have wanted to say. As we look forward to the October 2020 premier performance, we are mindful of the fact that after nearly two centuries Frankie Silver will be formally mourned and consigned to eternal peace with beautiful music. One cannot restore her life or even secure her a posthumous pardon, but at least she will be shriven in song, and long remembered.