When I Rise Up (2021)

For SATB choir, cello, and piano
Duration: ca. 7'
Winner of the Stephen Paulus Emerging Composers Competition 2021.

Recorded by True Concord Voices and Chamber Players as part of "The Trailblazers" concert series on April 15, 2021.

The poem “When I Rise Up,” written by notable African American poet and playwright of the Harlem Renaissance, Georgia Douglas Johnson, speaks of the author rising high above those who would attempt to hinder her. The fluttering cello and piano parts of the opening phrases depict birds as to symbolize Johnson literally soaring up to the clouds beyond the ties of the Earth. The final ending sequence calls back to the beginning when the choir repeats the phrase “When I rise,” but now it has turned into “I rise” symbolizing an immediate and almost apotheotic ascent. The final quasi-cadenza is taken up to the absolute highest note on the piano, representing Johnson’s ascension far beyond the grasp of anyone who has ever tried to impede her.

Perusal Score

Text by Georgia Douglas Johnson – 1880-1966

When I rise up above the earth,
And look down on the things that fetter me,
I beat my wings upon the air,
Or tranquil lie,

Surge after surge of potent strength
Like incense comes to me
When I rise up above the earth
And look down upon the things that fetter me.