Gwyneth Walker

Review of "With Thee That I May Live" (1997) for SATB Chorus, Children's Chorus, and Organ (opt. Brass Quartet and Timpani)

by Neil Lieurance, The Choral Journal

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Read notes for With Thee That I May Live (1997) for SATB chorus and organ (plus optionals)

Church choir directors often express frustration in choosing something new for Easter Sunday. Gwyneth Walker's dramatic composition, With Thee That I May Live, may be for many a refreshing new alternative to the often-repeated standards. This work is unusual for many reasons: text, textures, and use of harmony among others; the result is thrilling. The poem by Anna Barbauld (1743-1825) begins with a quiet description of dawn on Easter morning, a reference to the gloom of the preceding days, gradually moving to the resurrection and the implications for humankind. The phrase "Then thousand different lips shall join to hail this welcome morn which scatters blessings in its wings to nations yet unborn," leads to vibrant expressions of thanksgiving and celebratory hosannas. The progressive elevation of dynamic levels and tempos adds to the drama. The choral parts require quite a bit of rehearsal for the average church choir to be able to accomplish them, but divisi occurs on only three of the twenty-one pages.

The two-part children's chorus interrupts the narrative words of the SATB choir with hopeful exclamations of "This is the day which the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and sing!" before joining into simultaneous singing with the full choir. Adult soli could be used to replace or support the children's parts. The organ part is very important and an accomplished player is required to do the piece well. Additional parts for brass quartet and timpani can be purchased from the publisher (#5280) as well as a part for the children's chorus (#5279) and a full score for the conductor (#5278).

From The Choral Journal, Spring 2000