Composer Nicholas Gish has created a beautiful and evocative setting of the poem "Songs for the People" by poet and activist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.
Mrs. Harper was a noted author and activist, living from 1825-1911. The daughter of free African American people, she became active in helping to free slaves and the underground railroad, as well as being a vocal and prominent activist for abolition. As a writer, she became known not just for her poetry, but also her journalism, earnign her a reputation as the mother of African American journalism.
In ths setting, Gish employs a full chorus, with Soprano, Alto, and Tenor solos, and a sparing piano accompaniment, showcasing the power of the human voice.
Let me make the songs for the people,
Songs for the old and young;
Songs to stir like a battle-cry
Wherever they are sung.
Not for the clashing of sabres,
For carnage nor for strife;
But songs to thrill the hearts of men
With more abundant life.
Let me make the songs for the weary,
Amid life’s fever and fret,
Till hearts shall relax their tension,
And careworn brows forget.
Let me sing for little children,
Before their footsteps stray,
Sweet anthems of love and duty,
To float o’er life’s highway.
I would sing for the poor and aged,
When shadows dim their sight;
Of the bright and restful mansions,
Where there shall be no night.
Our world, so worn and weary,
Needs music, pure and strong,
To hush the jangle and discords
Of sorrow, pain, and wrong.
Music to soothe all its sorrow,
Till war and crime shall cease;
And the hearts of men grown tender
Girdle the world with peace.
|Instrumentation||Chorus & Piano|
|Length of Work||04:30|