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Download an MP3 file of this work (high voice and piano) performed by Henry H. Pleas III, tenor and Carol Mannen Smith, piano.
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This song is an arrangement of a traditional African-American spiritual. There are two central images: breaking bread together in communion (with both liturgical and community references) and falling on one's knees in prayer (again, with both liturgical and community references). The first image speaks the message of healing, and the second reflects humility.
Verses one and two are familiar: Let us break bread together...Let us love one another. A new verse is added: Let us rise up together all as one. These words were added in a time of great divisions in our country, when there is a need for strength through unity.
The piano accompaniment contributes significantly to the musical expression, from the opening "falling tears" motive, to the repeated chords (as if to say, Lord have mercy), to the strong ascending scales beneath Let us rise up together.
The climax comes with the final repetitions of the refrain O, Lord, have mercy, marked "with intensity." The vocal line rises, while the piano provides added-tone "chords of strength." And then the music fades into a quiet ending...and bring us peace.
This work is dedicated to Heather Heyer, of Charlottesville, Virginia, who gave her life for our mission of tolerance -- of breaking bread together.
Notes by the composer