Gwyneth Walker

Songs of the Spirit

for Soprano and Piano (2013)
("Were You There?" is also available for contralto and piano.)
("Steal Away" is also available for medium voice and piano.)

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Download a PDF file of the score of this composition. This file of excerpted sample pages is for perusal only and is not printable. To hear MP3 files of the complete songs, see the above links.

Songs of the Spirit are contemporary adaptations of familiar American spirituals. The original songs date back to the era of African-American slavery in the southern United States. With their power and genuine message, these songs have now become well-known and beloved throughout the world.

The repertoire of American spirituals is varied and extensive. Topics range from self-directed humor - It's me, O Lord, standin' in the need of prayer or I can't sit down, 'cause I just got to Heaven, gonna look around - to the anguish of Were you there when they crucified my Lord? There is exuberance and celebration in Come and go with me to that land where I'm bound. Comfort is mixed with sorrow in Steal away to Jesus. I ain't got long to stay here.

A common element in all of these songs is personal expression. These are sacred folk songs intended to speak directly of one's faith. They convey one's dialogue with God. And thus, the songs are inherently dramatic.

The focus in creating these new arrangements has been to emphasize the character of each song. Swing rhythm piano accompaniments propel the lively music forward. Vocal cadenzas allow for time to dwell on specific phrases. Additional words are inserted to heighten the personal expression. Were you there when they crucified my Lord extends into phrases of My Lord, my Lord, He was my Lord.

This has been a process of melding folk repertoire with concert repertoire.

Notes by the composer