Gwyneth Walker

Equality Is in the Air We Breathe

for SATB Chorus and Piano (2020)

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Download a PDF file of the score of this composition. N.B.: This work may be not be performed before March 28, 2021.


Commissioned by the "Singing Quakers" of Friends University, Wichita, KS; Rayvon T. J. Moore, Conductor

Equality Is in the Air We Breathe is based on the poem "Let America Be America Again" by American poet Langston Hughes (1901-1967). The poet wishes for his land to be a place where opportunity is real, and life is free. Equality is in the air we breathe.

These are truly inspiring words, and well-suited to choral expression. [The Tenors and Basses often have sustained chords on the word breathe.

The message of this song and poem is one of contrast. America is seen as a land of promise, of freedom, yet the promise is unfulfilled. And there is anger. I am the people, humble, hungry, mean -- hungry yet today despite the dream. Reality and optimism clash. America never has been yet -- and yet must be -- the land where everyman is free.

The musical setting is plain and direct, in the same character as the poem. A meter of 4/4 is maintained throughout. Rather than shifting keys (through modulations), the basic harmonic contrast is formed through alternation between major and minor tonalities. Rhythms are guided by the poem itself, in a natural yet forceful manner.

Words of affirmation are spoken as an introduction, and return within the song as the central pledge: in the air we breathe.on the earth we walk.in the lives we lead...EQUALITY.

Notes by the composer