Gwyneth Walker

The Rainbow Sign

for Orchestra (2007)

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Download an MP3 file of a performance of this work by the Santa Cruz Symphony, John Larry Granger, conductor.

Download a PDF file of the full score of this composition.

Commissioned by the Santa Cruz Symphony

The Rainbow Sign is the first in a planned set of American Songs for Orchestra. Each of these "songs" (which can function as an overture or separate orchestral selection) will be based on a familiar American song. The premise will be to expand upon the song, and explore its musical character, through orchestral presentation.

The song basis for this first movement is the spiritual, "Hold On" (or "The Gospel Plow"), specifically the line: "God gave Noah the rainbow sign." An interpretation of this message might be that the sign has been given to Noah (and to us all) that the world is a place of many colors, many races and many unique individuals. Accepting these is the path to peace. And this is the natural order of life.

Musical imagery in this overture focuses on the rainbow (many orchestral timbres, overarching phrases) and unification/resolution (the merging of harmonies and confluence of melodic lines). The underlying rhythm is an insistent, driving rhythm, as if working the fields with a plow. Somehow, with determination, the rainbow will appear and prevail.

Notes by the composer