Gwyneth Walker

I've Known Rivers

for SATB Chorus and Piano (2007)
for TTBB Chorus and Piano (2008)

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Download an an MP3 file of the first movement of this work (SATB version) performed by the Holland Chorale, Gary W. Bogle, conductor.
Download an an MP3 file of the second movement of this work.
Download an an MP3 file of the third movement of this work.
Download an an MP3 file of the fourth movement of this work.

Download an an MP3 file of the first movement of this work (TTBB version) performed by the River City Men's Chorus, David Blaze, conductor/piano.
Download an an MP3 file of the second movement of this work.
Download an an MP3 file of the third movement of this work.
Download an an MP3 file of the fourth movement of this work.


(Photograph of Suzanne Tiemstra, music director of the Grand Rapids Cantata Choir; Pamela Pierson, music director at West Ottawa High School; Gwyneth Walker and Gary Bogle.)

A photo of in Holland

Commissioned by the Holland Chorale, premiered by the Holland Chorale, Gary W. Bogle, music director, March 15, 2008, Holland, Michigan

I’ve Known Rivers is a set of four songs based on the poetry of Langston Hughes (1902-67), an African-American poet who lived much of his life in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. However, Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, birthplace also of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). And, like Twain, he held a fascination for the Mississippi River and rivers in general. The theme of water is present in many of his writings.

“My Soul has Grown Deep” reflects upon rivers of historic and geographical importance – the Euphrates, the Nile and the Mississippi. As the rivers have endured over time, so has the human soul. The waters – the blood – runs deep.

In contrast to the universal message of the first song, “Troubled Water” is contemporary and personal. Water becomes an image of the unsettled and uncertain nature of love. The journey of love is a journey of troubled water. There is no resolution.

Undaunted by the elusive nature of love, the poet (chorus) turns flippant, displaying a persevering and humorous outlook in “Jump Right In!” (to the river). Romantic misadventures will not conquer the spirit. “I could've died for love, but for livin’ I was born.”

“In Time of Silver Rain” is a song of healing. “In time of silver rain, the earth puts forth new life again.” And with the regeneration of Spring, the poet marvels at the wonder of life.

Notes by the composer