Gwyneth Walker

For Peace and Hope

for Orchestra (2009)

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Download an MP3 file of a performance of this work by the Vermont Youth Orchestra, Andrew Massey, conductor.

Download a PDF file of the full score of this composition.


Premiered by the Vermont Youth Orchestra, Andrew Massey, Music Director, Burlington, Vermont – December 31, 2009

For Peace and Hope is the second in a set of American Songs for Orchestra. Each of these "songs" (wich can function as an overture or separate orchestral selection) will be based on a familiar American song. The premise will be to expand upon the song, and explore its musical character, through orchestral presentation.

For Peace and Hope, a benediction, is an orchestral interpretation of the American spiritual, “Let Us Break Bread Together.” This is a gentle, yet powerful, prayer of healing and uniting.

Let us break bread together on our knees.
Let us break bread together on our knees.
When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun,
O Lord, have mercy on me.

The music opens with peaceful brass chords (perhaps expressive of joining together in harmony), followed by cascading “tear-like” patterns in the winds. The theme then enters in the strings, with a solo flute, as the one, quiet voice of prayer.

Subsequent thematic entrances (verses of the song) grow in dynamics and tempi. The second verse, “Let us love one another,” is presented in the horns and trombones. And the third verse, “Let our tears flow together,” is heard in the woodwinds and strings.

A contrasting middle section has been created within this benediction. The texture thins down to arpeggio patterns in the celli, with soli winds in counterpoint above. This is a time for individual reflection, rather than communal prayer.

Soon, the strings re-enter and gather energy for final verse, “May our song rise together.” This triumphant statement features the brass with the melody. The strings and winds provide surrounding affirmation, and often play ascending phrases, expressive of the lyrics:

May our song rise together.
May our song rise together.
May our song rise together,
And bring us peace.

Notes by the composer