Gwyneth Walker

Were You There?

for SSA Chorus and Piano (2014)

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View a PDF file of the choral score of this composition. Non-printable -- for perusal only.


Commissioned by Eleanor Bach, Choral Director - Baton Rouge, Louisiana

This new arrangement for women's chorus with piano focuses on the inherent drama of this passionate spiritual song. Each verse expresses a different reaction to (question about) the crucifixion:

1. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
2. ...when they nailed him to the cross?
3. ...when the sun refused to shine?
4. ...when they laid him in the tomb?

At each new verse, the piano accompaniment varies within the mood of the lyrics -- from simple chordal support at the beginning, to harsh rhythms ("nailed him to the cross"), to rapid "sunburst" patterns ("the sun refused to shine"), to sorrowful descending lines ("laid him in the tomb"). The choral expression is articulated in similar manner tothe accompaniment.

Between the verses, interjections are inserted of "My Lord, My Lord, he was my Lord..." These phrases provide the personal, individual statements ("my Lord") to balance with the group singing of the verses.

The piano accompaniment plays a featured role in this music. Often the tone of the ensuing verse is established in the piano. At the end, as the chorus descends into the lower range on the words "laid him in the tomb," the piano line ascends, marked "the spirit rising." These delicate patterns drift to heaven.

Notes by the composer