Gwyneth Walker

The Morning Train

for SATB Chorus and Piano (2011)
for SATB Chorus and Orchestra (2012)
for SATB Chorus, Brass Quintet, Percussion, and Piano (2012)

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Download a PDF file of the choral score of this composition. For perusal only -- not printable.

Download MP3 files of a demo MIDI realization of this work: #1, #2, #3, and #4.


This a set of songs (updated arrangements and new presentations) about trains. There are many colorful American songs on this topic. It is hoped is that this new work will capture the "train spirit" and bring it onto the concert stage with chorus and instruments. This music may be performed with piano accompaniment, chamber orchestra (winds, strings and percussion) or with brass quintet, percussion, and piano.

The first song in this set is "Going Home on the Morning Train." A train whistle (high notes in piano or piccolo) is heard in the distance. Then, the train draws closer as the music grows in dynamics and tempo. By the time that the chorus enters, the music is filled with energy. This is a celebratory song of going home "to the Promised Land...(where) all my sins been taken away!"

"Freight Train" combines the speed of the train with nostalgic remembrance of places traveled. "There's one more place I'd like to see...to watch those Blue Ridge Mountains climb while I ride Old Number Nine." The rider, perhaps a hobo, feels the most at home when riding the train. For his final resting place, he wishes to be buried where he can hear the train rumbling by. [The accompaniment (the train) is particularly lively and "mobile" in this song.]

A familiar American folk song is "A Man of Constant Sorrow." Adaptations exist for a maid of constant sorrow as well. This is a very simple melody, placed in the key of C major. The message is a mournful one. The soul is troubled, and not at rest. "All through this world, I'm bound to ramble...perhaps I'll take the very next train." Then, later, "perhaps I'll die upon this train." Some comfort is taken with the lines "I know we'll meet on God's Golden Shore." But the life on this earth is one of constant sorrow.

The closing song is perhaps the best known and most rousing of the set. The original title is "Worried Man Blues." But in this new arrangement, the women join in with the theme and sentiment. So, the title has been changed to "Worrisome Blues."

The story of this song is that "he" runs afoul of the law, and wakes up with shackles on his feet. [!] The judge sentences him to "twenty-one years on the Rocky Mountain Line." He accepts his fate with good nature, "I've still got ninety-nine (years)!" However, his girlfriend notes that during his twenty-one year absence, she will be in her "prime." She is not pleased with the idea of having to wait for twenty-one years for romance! Therefore, she boards a train which is "sixteen coaches long" and waves farewell to him. At the end, they part, singing "So long! So long!" - she triumphantly, he with resignation.

Notes by the composer