Gwyneth Walker

The Road to Freedom

for SATB Chorus and Piano (2003)

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Read Freedom Concert World Premiere Set by Richard Duckett, The Telegram & Gazette.

Download an MP3 file of a performance of this work by the Philovox Ensemble of Boston, Jane Ring Frank, conductor.

Download a PDF file of the choral score of this composition. For perusal only -- not printable.

Commissioned in 2003 in celebration of the 30th anniversary season of the Salisbury Singers of Worcester, Massachusetts, Michelle Graveline, Music Director

The Road to Freedom is based on the traditional song, "Follow the Drinking Gourd." Dating back to the time of the Underground Railroad, this African-American song provided a map to the runaway slaves. By heading toward the Big Dipper (the "Drinking Gourd"), the fugitives would head north, toward Canada and freedom.

The intent of the new choral setting is to highlight some of the characteristics of the original song. The theme of walking is reflected in the tempo marking of "at a steady tempo, as if walking on a long journey." The piano accompaniment is often very regular, within the spirit of even-paced walking. Occasional staccato chords may be heard as light footsteps.

The chorus portrays the Northern journey most prominently during the refrains. Footsteps, hand-claps (for joy) and "shooting stars" appear. The travelers are heading north, keeping their eyes on the sky. Near the end of the song, new verses are added to express their excitement:

I can see the light in the Northern sky.
My steps are weary, but my spirits are high!
The road to freedom is dark and long.
But every step I take brings me closer to the place where I belong,
in the land of freedom!

Notes by the composer