Gwyneth Walker

The Promised Land

for Soprano and Piano (2009)
for Soprano and Orchestra (2010)

Return to Gwyneth Walker Music Catalog

Hear Gwyneth Walker on WFMT with Michelle Areyzaga, Jamie Shaak, and Lawrence Eckerling, Chicago, IL -- archived broadcast from January 28, 2011 in MP3.

Download an MP3 file of the first movement of this work performed by Michelle Areyzaga, soprano and the Evanston Symphony Orchestra, Lawrence Eckerling, conductor.
Download an MP3 file of the second movement of this work.
Download an MP3 file of the third movement of this work.
Download an MP3 file of the fourth movement of this work.

View a video presentation of a performance of the third movement ("All My Trials") of this work by Michelle Areyzaga, piano and Jamie Shaak, piano.

Download a PDF file of the score (soprano and piano) 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.
Download a PDF file of the full score (soprano and orchestra) of this composition. Non-printable -- For perusal only.
Download a PDF file of the score of an optional interlude to go between movements 3 and 4.

Premiered by Michelle Areyzaga, soprano, with the Evanston Symphony Orchestra - Lawrence Eckerling, music director -- January 30, 2011, Evanston, Illinois

The Promised Land is a set of arrangements and adaptations of traditional American folk songs and spirituals. The common element is the yearning for, or celebration of, the life beyond death -- the "next life." The songs express a variety of emotions, ranging from the sorrow of leaving thisworld, to the release from a life of suffering, and finally, to the joy of walking up to heaven.

"Every Night When the Sun Goes Down" is a sorrowful yet hopeful song, expressed in the lyrics "True love don't weep or mourn for me. The Lord has come to set me free." The sustained chordal accompaniment emphasizes the heaviness of the mourning. Ascending arpeggio patterns express the rising to heaven. Near the end of the song, the tonality shifts upward from Eb to E Major to reflect the lyrics "And when I rise up to the sky...on wings of silver I will fly." The voice and accompaniment ascend and fade away.

"The Morning Train" starts where the previous song ended -- in the high range, softly -- and then grows in dynamics and speed, like a train gathering energy. Special joy was taken in creating this accompaniment, with glissandi and active rhythmic underpinning in the style of a train speeding past! Train whistles may be heard in the minor thirds floating above the ensemble (either played by the trumpets or sung as vocal "ooh" sounds). The music takes a dramatic turn near the end when the vocal line rises to a high C, with glissando, on the words "Lord God Almighty, please hold my hand!" This use of virtuosic singing within a folk song is characteristic of the approach taken in creating The Promised Land.

"All My Trials" is the most poignant of the songs in this set. Phrases such as "Hush little baby, don't you cry, you know your mama was born to die" or "Oh my brothers, I must leave you here behind" view the approach of death in terms of those left behind. And indeed, the final notes in this song are held in the accompaniment rather than by the singer (who has departed).

"Walk On Up to Heaven" is a thoroughly joyous song. Therefore, it is presented in a "strutting" style, walking/bouncing steadily on up to heaven. The singer presents an ever-growing list of the things she is planning on doing when she arrives: "put on my shoes, shout the glory, follow my dreams, spread my wings and fly." She is filled with dreams, hope, joy and life -- all of these to enjoy when she arrives in the Promised Land.

Notes by the composer