Commissioned: Georgetown Middle High School
Text: James Weldon Johnson
Duration: three minutes
Difficulty: high school
Instrumentation: SATB mixed chorus and piano
The Gift to Sing
Sometimes the mist overhangs my path,
And blackening clouds about me cling;
But, oh, I have a magic way
To turn the gloom to cheerful day—
I softly sing.
And if the way grows darker still,
Shadowed by Sorrow’s somber wing,
With glad defiance in my throat,
I pierce the darkness with a note,
And sing, and sing.
I brood not over the broken past,
Nor dread whatever time may bring;
No nights are dark, no days are long,
While in my heart there swells a song,
And I can sing.
- James Weldon Johnson, from Fifty Years & Other Poems
That they describe the act of singing as a tool to get through troubled times, these words seemed like the ultimate thank you note to honor a retiring music teacher, Laura Laflamme.
I treated the refrains as a representation of the joy Laura brought to generations of students, each spreading further than the last, through escalating repetition and expanding texture.
The final, unaccompanied statement is a reassuring declaration that these students are better prepared for life’s challenges, thanks to this dedicated teacher.