The Canyon Black: The Meaning Behind the Music

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The Canyon black

Vocals and Lyrics by Maria Hathaway

Music by Chas Hathaway

The Canyon Black is an abridgment of the poem, “The Valley of the Canyon Black,” by Maria Hathaway.  The poem is a parable of the Cain and Abel story.

The song is abridged, but the words to the original poem are written out in full here.


The Valley of the Canyon Black

by Maria Hathaway

Where the road follows the path of the stream

dividing the valley with one great seem

there cottonwoods in sunlight gleam

a morning wakes from twilight’s dream

in the Valley of the Canyon Black
Follow this road of dusty cloud

with rocks and boulders well endowed Continue reading The Canyon Black: The Meaning Behind the Music

The Ancestor: The Meaning Behind the Music

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The Ancestor

ancestor(art by Maria Hathaway)

I served my mission in South Africa.  I loved learning about the people, the history, and the culture.  I was also fascinated by their religious views.  The native African religion – the one that was present before Christian missionaries ever came to South Africa, and which is still quite popular, has a very strong focus on one’s own ancestors.

Africans hold a great esteem for their ancestors.  Those practicing the native traditions would gather together annually with family to sacrifice a cow or sheep to their ancestors, and petition them for help, rain, protection, or whatever they felt they needed.  The major part of their religion focused on their ancestors.

When Christians of other faiths came and proselyted Africans, they told the people that their ancestors did not exist, that they had died, and were gone forever.  I don’t know if those Christians didn’t believe in an afterlife, or if they just said it to reject African tradition.  Either way, they taught the people that their ancestors no longer existed.

What a joy it was to be able to tell these people that their ancestors most certainly did exist, and that though we did not need to call on them for help, they were in need of our help.   They needed the help of their living descendants to perform the essential ordinances of the gospel in their behalf.  Because of their strong feelings towards their ancestors, most Africans received this news with great joy.

Setswana is the native language of Botswana, and while serving in that area, I made an interesting discovery about the Setswana word for God.  I had known throughout my mission that the word for God was Modimo.  Sometimes we would tell people we were barumua ba Modimo (messengers of God).

In Setswana, the word Motswana meant a Tswana person, or a person of the Tswana tribe.  To say Botswana would be the plural form of the same word – “Tswana people” or “people of the Tswana tribe.”  The prefix “mo” was singular form, and the word “bo” or  “ba”  was plural.

This fact became very interesting to me when I learned that the word for ancestors is badimo.  If I was understanding correctly, the word for God, Modimo, and the word of ancestors, badimo, were simply different prefixes for the same word – ancestor.  What insight that holds!

I suspect that the word Modimo was adopted by Africans because grasping the concept of worshiping someone besides an ancestor may have been difficult to understand.  But over time, this connection was likely forgotten as Christianity became the dominant religion in South Africa.

I think the connection is significant.  It would be hard to grasp the idea of honoring a great and powerful being who has no real relation to us.  If we were merely a clay or wood project God is working on, why should we want to emulate Him?  A statue can never take on the real characteristics of its model.

But if we are God’s children, and I testify that we are, then we can become like our Heavenly Father, if we will but follow the steps that He teaches.

Joseph Smith taught that “If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves” (History of the Church, V. 3, pg. 303).  I believe that until we know and seek to fulfill our potential to become like Him, we cannot become all that He wants us to be.  We are children of God, and as children, we are also heirs of all that He has and is, if we will live according to His word and commandments.

President Boyd K. Packer has said:

“You are a child of God. He is the father of your spirit. Spiritually you are of noble birth, the offspring of the King of Heaven. Fix that truth in your mind and hold to it. However many generations in your mortal ancestry, no matter what race or people you represent, the pedigree of your spirit can be written on a single line. You are a child of God!”
Boyd K. Packer, “Your Test of Courage,” New Era, Mar 1990, 4

So I think the word Modimo is a very appropriate name for our Father in Heaven.  Truly, to each and every one of us, He is The Ancestor.

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To hear the music without my voice, scroll  to playlist on the sidebar called, “The Ancestor CD,” and click on The Ancestor

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25 Second Teaser from the New CD

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25 Second Sample

Here’s another 25 second teaser from my newest CD to be released in the next few weeks.  The name of the CD is The Ancestor, and this is a sample from the song that bears that name.  Enjoy!

By the way, the Deseret News has a section known as Mormon Times which wrote an article about my music this week.  Check it out at the Mormon Times Website.

Also, thanks to L.T. Elliot for her kind words in a blog post about my music.  Thanks, L.T.!

See More posts with music from The Ancestor CD

Bet You’ve Never Heard This One Before! Then again… neither have I



You know, I wish there was a better word for improvisation.  It’s so overused.  And there are so many kinds of improvisations.  I was playing around with my flute and recorded what I played.  It’s never been played before, and if it’s nothing special, it will probably never be played again!  Somehow the word improvisation sounds too musical jargon for that.  Jam session?  Maybe.  But that sounds like a group band…

Any ideas?  What term do you use for improvising a new melody?

Anyway, so here’s my flute improvi-jam session…

CONTEST: Name that Tune

Name that Tune

This is a contest!  I have recorded 6 flute tunes, and you can use whatever means you need to figure out the correct answers.  The first person to list all 6 tunes (or what movie they’re from) gets 3 free MP3s of their choice from my Dayspring CD.  I will personally email them to you.

Give your answer by leaving a comment with your guesses.  If you already have my CD, you’re welcome to play anyway!  You can give the MP3s to someone else if you’d like.

Flute Improvisations

Flute Improvisations

I recorded myself improvising on the flutes – the sopranino recorder and the tenor Jake-made flute. I love the program Garageband. I recorded these from the comfort of my own bedroom’s walk-in closet. Then I tell it to add echo, and I’m ready to go!


How Firm a Foundation

How Firm a Foundation

This is my wife’s favorite hymn.  I’ve always loved it, too – if there is anything people need to do today, it is build the foundations of their lives on the Savior Jesus Christ.  If everyone would simply do that, it would solve most of the world’s problems.

Creative Commons License
How Firm Foundation by Chas Hathaway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at

Silent Night

Silent Night

Here’s an accompaniment arrangement of Silent Night with my favorite tenor flute on the melody.  As stated earlier, hymn and Christmas arrangements are free downloads.  If you have any requests, I’d gladly give your suggestion a try.

Silent Night – Accompaniment only

Creative Commons License
Silent Night by Chas Hathaway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at