Gwyneth Walker

The Dove

for String Quartet (2014)

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Download an MP3 file of the first movement of this work performed by Sandra McDonald, Leanne Day-Simpson, violins; Katherine Reynolds, viola; Stephen Feldman, cello.
Download an MP3 file of the second movement of this work.
Download an MP3 file of the third movement of this work.
Download an MP3 file of the fourth movement of this work.
Download an MP3 file of the fifth movement of this work.

Download an MP3 file of the first movement of this work performed by Lani Bortfield, Lisa Woodard, violins; Carlos Boltes, viola; Carolyn Schwartz Engel, cello.
Download an MP3 file of the second movement of this work.
Download an MP3 file of the third movement of this work.
Download an MP3 file of the fourth movement of this work.
Download an MP3 file of the fifth movement of this work.

View/download a PDF file of the full score of this work.
View/download a PDF file of the instrumental parts of this work.


The Dove is a set of five short pieces for string quartet, with the common theme of peace. The first four movements are based on traditional American folksongs and spirituals. The last movement is original.

"Peace Like a River" presents several verses, with interludes interspersed. The players start in unison with the theme. After expansion during the variations, the parts merge back to a peaceful closeness at the end.

"The Dove, She is a Pretty Bird" is an English song (known alternatively as "The Cuckoo") which has been adopted into the American folk repertoire. This new arrangement opens with "wings" motives in the violins. The melody is introduced in the cello, followed by the viola, while the "wings" float above. The final stanza, marked "plaintively," is presented by the upper strings in a high register. The cello, perhaps a "trembling dove," descends beneath. At the end, the dove flies away.

"From the Hills I Gather Courage" is based on the familiar American song, "Peace, I Ask of Thee, O River." A middle section, marked "flowing," combines descending (river flowing) lines in the lower strings with "feathery light" (waves) touches in the upper strings. These countermotives frame the theme, with the final lightness fading out.

The viola is the lead voice in "Study War No More." This movement is an arrangement of the spiritual, "Down by the Riverside." The introductory free section for viola may be heard to express the lyrics, "Gonna lay down my burden." The descending lines are emphatic! The other instruments join in this music, which is joyous and celebratory. Swing rhythm is featured. Near the end, the theme returns in "Grand March" style. The viola has a particularly triumphant cadenza near the end.

The last movement, "In the Spirit of Peace," was inspired by the peace songs of the previous movements. Set in the "gentle, string-friendly" key of A major, the opening section may be heard as a quiet prayer. The music then grows in tempi and dynamics, leading to a strong and intense statement. Upward leaps of octavos are gestures of hope. The ending is once again serene.

Notes by the composer