Appalachia (composed 1902) was the second work to be given this title by Delius, following an 1896 work for orchestra subtitled ‘American Rhapsody’. This later, much more expansive work for large orchestra, baritone soloist, and chorus shares some melodic material with the earlier rhapsody. Both works were inspired by Delius’s experiences living in Florida as a young man.
Delius’s description of his inspiration for the piece and his explanation of the work’s title reflects the essentialised racial thinking that was common at the time:
'Appalachia’ is the old Indian name for North America. The composition mirrors the moods of tropical nature in the great swamps bordering on the Mississippi River, which is so intimately associated with the life of the old negro slave population. Longing melancholy, an intense love of Nature, childlike humour and an innate delight in singing and dancing are still the most characteristic qualities of this race.
The sounds of African American music also inspired a number of other works including his opera Koanga and the Florida Suite.