Finalist in Cantus Vocal Ensemble’s 2021 Young & Emerging Composer Competition
Let Us Sing!, a TTBB setting of Ellen Watkins Harper’s poem, “Songs for the People,” was among the top four finalists in the Cantus Vocal Ensemble’s 2021 Young & Emerging Composer Competition. The group gave me this feedback: “Let Us Sing” was a wonderful piece that the artists of Cantus thoroughly enjoyed reviewing. The Harper text is compelling language, and you set it beautifully.
As a choral accompanist, I have the privilege of rehearsing and performing music with a wide variety of people from all ages and backgrounds who come together to rehearse and perform with a single-minded purpose: to share our joy and love of music with our audience, thus building up our community. Some of my most favorite pieces are those in which choral groups sing about singing, and I often look for that sentiment when choosing texts. I am delighted to
bring to life Ellen Watkins Harper’s beautiful poem, “Songs for the People” in which she extols the power of music to soothe hurting hearts, facilitate peace, and help us transcend our current circumstances.
“Songs for the People”
By Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911)
Let (us sing) 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 song to thrill the hearts of (all)
With more abundant life.
Let (us sing) the songs for the weary,
Amid life’s fever and fret,
Till hearts shall relax their tension,
And careworn brows forget.
Let (us) sing for little children,
Before their footsteps stray,
Sweet anthems of love and duty,
To float o’er life’s highway.
(We will) 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 sooth all its sorrow,
Till war and crime shall cease;
And the hearts of (all) grown tender
Girdle the world with peace.
*words in parentheses were changed by the
composer to update the poem slightly for the piece.