Program Notes: Gwyneth Walker (1947 - )

Our Dream of Freedom
The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere  

Though born in New York (1947), Gwyneth Walker grew up in New Canaan, CT, has spent most of her life in New England and considers herself a New Englander. A graduate of Brown University and the Hartt School of Music, Dr. Walker holds B.A., M.M. and D.M.A. degrees in music composition. After teaching fourteen years at the Hartt School, the Hartford Conservatory and Oberlin College, she resigned from Oberlin in 1982  to devote herself to composing full time. With that decision, Dr. Walker returned to New England and lived on a dairy farm in Vermont for almost thirty years.

Determined to write in a wide variety of genres, Walker has composed over 400 commissioned pieces for orchestra, chamber groups, solo instruments, solo voices, and chorus. The music you hear on this video reflects the typical energy, drama, occasional fragility and even humor evident in Walker’s work.

The four pieces in the choral sequence, Our Dream of Freedom, are all set to poetry written in the 1940s by Langston Hughes, African American author, social activist, and a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. The music of Freedom Will Not Come Today gives intense expression to Hughes’ powerful message of everyone’s right to freedom. Hold Fast to Freedom portrays the fleeting and fragile desire for freedom, while The Dream Keeper is a kind of hymn, asking, according to  Walker, for the “protection of dreams.”  Finally, Dream of Freedom  becomes a fight for freedom with energetic rhythms in the music, while the lyrics exhort all people to save the dream of freedom for everyone.

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere is an energetic and dramatic setting by Walker of the famous story of Paul Revere’s midnight ride as told in the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Just as Longfellow describes Paul Revere’s furious ride on horseback to warn Massachusetts citizens that the British are coming, Walker’s exciting rhythms and text painting evoke the drama of the story.

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