The Gift to Sing

SSAAB, piano | Duration c. 4'00"

Hewitt Hill Music


The Gift to Sing  is a setting of a poem of the same name by African American poet and civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson. The work was commissioned by The Ridgefield Chorale of Ridgefield, CT in honor of the 20th season of its artistic director, Daniela Sikora, whom I met at the Choral Institute at Oxford University in 2014. In this piece, harmony and modality are used as a means of conveying the ability of the human spirit to endure through times of adversity via the simple act of singing. This message is in keeping with the spirit of The Ridgefield Chorale, whose dedication to the betterment of their community through singing and volunteerism is an important part of their broader mission.


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

The Gift to Sing
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