Gwyneth Walker

From the Depths of the Soul

for Contralto and Viola (2016)
for Contralto and Piano (2016)

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Download a PDF file of the score (contralto and viola version) of this composition.
Download a PDF file of the viola part of this composition.

Download a PDF file of the score (contralto and piano version) of this composition.

The Contralto voice and Viola are characterized by depth of sonority. Similar in range, they speak with a deep, rich tone. Thus, From the Depths of the Soul was created to explore this powerful combination of low voices. (A version for contralto and piano was also created.) Each of the songs in this set contains the words deep or down in the title. These are dark songs -- traditional American spirituals which are rooted in sorrow and suffering.

"Go Down, Moses" is placed in the key of C Minor, with the Contralto often singing in the low range around G below middle C. The message is one of oppression. Starting quietly and sadly, the music grows in strength with emphatic statements of Let my people go! Accented chords in viola underline the conviction/command of the song.

"Deep River" features a flowing, arpeggiated viola accompaniment, as a river. Contrasting sections stop the flow briefly, rising to a higher range with thoughts of the Promised Land. There is some anxiety about the river travel (tremolo viola patterns), but with the Lord's blessing, the journey is taken in safety.

The tempo quickens for a swing rhythm version of "Down to the River to Pray." The trip is joyous, with a crescendo ending of "Lord, show me the way!" In the last measure, the viola slides down into the river (musically, with a glissando!).

This arrangement of the traditional Appalachian song, "Every Night, When the Sun Goes Down," focuses on the transcendence of faith over sorrow and of peace (through death) over suffering and pain:

True love, don't weep or mourn for me. The Lord has come to set me free.

A new verse is added at the end:

And when I rise up in the sky, if you look up quickly,
You will see me passing by. On wings of silver, I will fly.

During this verse, the listener might hear a fluttering of wings (gently repeated notes) in the accompaniment. This is to symbolize the spirit of a bird hovering close by.

Notes by the composer