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Choral music for Civil Rights commemoration?

Hello, all.
I'm sure that some of you have- or are going to perform some pieces honoring the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. What suggestions have you?
I'm looking for something for my high-school SATB choir--something fairly simple, like a Level 2 or 3.
I'm already planning on "MLK" by U2 and maybe "Hope for Resolution". Also maybe "Both Sides of the Story" by Phil Collins.
I've looked at the list on the ChoralNet Repertoire page, and I got a few ideas. I'm looking for something with proven success and good epressive possibilities. It'd be nice to get something that honors the journey over the past 50 years--not only an arrangement of a 60's song or text.
Thanks much.
Replies (20): Threaded | Chronological
on July 21, 2014 6:13am
Tricky, but worth it: Jean Berger's Hope for Tomorrow (SATB [some div.], pno); G. Schirmer, on a text by MLK. Very effective and not "dated" in sound.
Hope this helps,
Robert A.M. Ross
Community College of Philadelphia
robertamross(a) <Robert Ross 11>
Applauded by an audience of 1
on July 21, 2014 6:20am
How about I Have Been To The Mountain by John Carter.  Very accessable and a moving piece!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on July 21, 2014 9:57am
Hello Eric,
Please give a listen to two of my songs, "The Spirit of America" and "Carry On" on my website Both have been performed across America to enthusiastic response. I have excellent SATB arrangements (not difficult), and available without charge.
Best wishes,
Hank Fellows
on July 21, 2014 10:21am
  Poem by Gerald Rich.  Music by Elizabeth Alexander
  A celebration of our skin's true colors, including "mahogany," "pale butter," "soft rose cream," and "ivoried saffron."  The vocal parts aren't difficult, but the piece requires a solid pianist.
Best of luck!
on July 22, 2014 6:33am
How about Make Them Hear You from the musical Ragtime? The musical itself starts at the turn of the 20th century; the lyrics of Make Them Hear You are timeless but very much focused on civil and human rights.  I have done it with high school aged kids and they absolutely adored the song. The parts are not difficult but very effective.
on July 21, 2014 2:41pm
I wondered idly if there was a good SATB arrangement of "We Shall Overcome". 
(I seem to remember an audience sing-a-long on a MLK-day celebration with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the visiiting Morgan State choir, a moving event.)
Looking at the JW Pepper catalog, there are two, oops three, one by Roy Ringwald, and one by Moore, U., and one by Robert DeCormier. 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on July 22, 2014 2:58pm
Harvey Milk: A Cantata
Harvey Milk: A Cantata by Jack Curtis Dubowsky. For SATB choir and piano. Choral. Text entirely by Harvey Milk, culled from both well-known speeches as well as rare documents.. Contemporary; secular; GALA; civil rights. Sheet music. Composed 2012. 64 pages. Duration 20:00. Published by De Stijl Music (D1.SM-12-0002).

Harvey Milk: A Cantata, is a 2012 choral work by Jack Curtis Dubowsky featuring unpublished texts by Harvey Milk.

Here performed by Lick Wilmerding High School in San Francisco CA
on July 23, 2014 5:41am
There are 3 by Dave Brubeck that I've done with my SATB community choir that may suit. Dream of Freedom, Hold Fast to Dreams, and Dusk. The texts of the last 2 are by Langston Hughes.
You might also consider a gospelish version of the St. Francis Prayer, called "Peace Prayer", by yours truly, which would suit the occasion. You can listen to 2 different choir recordings of it HERE and it can be ordered HERE at Cypress Choral Music.
on August 3, 2014 3:46pm
I have very simple arrangements of "We shall overcome" and "Oh, Freedom." We sang them on one rehearsal with my college choir last year for the 50th anniversary of the march. they're yours if you'd like them. I also have a setting of parts of MLK's Lincoln Memorial "I have a dream" speech, "Free at Last!" but it is probably more difficult than what you are looking for.
All best,
on August 4, 2014 8:07am
Hi, Eric -
Kirby Shaw here..go to On the home page, click on "View Catalogue". Then click on the style box and choose Inspirational/Better World/Martin Luther King Day and up will pop a LARGE list...with FULL recordings! Click on any title and you'll be good to go. Lots and lots of appropriate inspiration there, including Let There Be Peace on Earth and When Will We Be Free.
In harmony -
KIrby Shaw
Applauded by an audience of 1
on August 4, 2014 9:14am
I personally think that a Civil Rights commemoration is not complete without "Lift Every Voice and Sing."  There is a nice SATB hymn-like arrangement of it on cpdl.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on August 4, 2014 11:33am
     While all of those selections are wonderful pieces of music, I would also like to point out that none of the pieces you have mentioned are by African American composers. Given the role of spirituals and adaptations of spirituals from slavery up through the civil rights movement (and beyond), perhaps you might want to consider a spiritual that reflects some of the ideals of the Civil Rights Movement. I am certain that if you looked through the works of Moses Hogan and Rollo Dillworth, you would find some really excellent examples of music you could use. Both of those composers began their careers after the civil rights act was passed, and their works are almost universally praised. Further, looking at Moses Hogan's biography, he studied at Oberlin University where he received a full ride, and studied at the Julliard School. Conductors of all colors and varieties recognized his musical talent and performed his music with their choirs. I wonder if any of that would have happened without the civil rights act. 
     Certainly, include some music from non-African American composers, as the civil rights act had to be embraced by everyone. Don't forget to honor those who may never had a voice without the Civil Rights Act. Best of luck to you!
Applauded by an audience of 3
on September 22, 2014 3:08pm
I am an African-American composer, and it is indeed quite difficult to get my voice heard, as, with so many other genres, white males still recieve the top consideration. As I mentioned above, I just premiered my cantata "From Glory to Glory: The Life, Death and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr" at The University of Chicago last year, so hopefully, I will find things different in the future. After all, if anything should be inclusive, it should be the musical settings of one's own people.
Thanks for the thoughtful insight,
Marie Hunt (lots of Moses Hogan arrangements here!)
on September 20, 2014 11:19am
"Shed a Little Light" by James Taylor is always much loved by my congregation.
on September 21, 2014 5:37am
'I Dream A World" by Andre Thomas.  Great setting of a Langston Hughes text.  
Applauded by an audience of 1
on September 21, 2014 6:57am
This song "Shake this World" has been performed for various MLK celebrations, was included on the MLK celebration compilation CD, and seems to be a "hit" with choirs and audiences.
on September 21, 2014 10:29am
Hi, Eric
There is a very nice and accessible arrangement of We Shall Overcome by Robert DeCormier. Needs a good Baritone soloist, but otherwise simple four part harmony. There is a moving performance of it on youtube with two choir in Northern Ireland - one Catholic and one Church of Ireland - joining to sing together. Not perfect musically, but definitely displays the spirit of the song. The arrangement is published by GIA.
Susan Davenport
Southern Illinois University
on September 22, 2014 6:57am
From the ECS Publishing Group:
CONTE, David
Exhortation, An, (Barack Obama), #7391, (SATB), [Secular] 
HOFFMAN, Stanley M.
Prayer for the World, A, (Harold S. Kushner), #6328, (SATB chorus), [Tolerance]
Dream Goes On, The: November 4, 2008, (Barack Obama), #7371, (SATB, piano), [Secular]
Sermon from the Mountain (Martin Luther King, Jr.): Choral Score, #2766,(Baritone solo, SATB & Org or Perc, Guitar & Strings), [General] (Full score & parts on rental)
Excerpts and arrangements from the above work: Sermon from the Mountain: My Feets Is Tired, #5310, (A solo, SATB & Kbd), [General]
My Feets Is Tired, #6704, (MS solo, SATB), [General]
Stanley M. Hoffman, Ph.D.
Chief Editor
615 Concord Street, Framingham, MA 01702
e-mail: smhoffman(a) 
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on September 22, 2014 1:36pm
How about something sung by the Civil Rights demonstrators on the march, in the style that they sang it?  We Shall Overcome has been mentioned, and there are many others.  Spirited, in-tune unison singing is always appropriate, especially when historically accurate.  You could add simple harmonies worked out in advance in rehearsal, or let them happen spontaneously, depending on your group.   I have used Harry Belafonte's Banana Boat Song (also know as Day-o!), followed by the Freedom Rider's adaptation: "We took a ride on a Greyhound Bus; Freedom's coming and it won't be long..."  This also provides a salute to Belafonte, who financed the Freedom Rides and was a long-time supporter of the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King.  Read the Wikipedia article on Belafonte for a concise review of the movement, plus his many accomplishments and activities that you may never have heard of.
on September 22, 2014 3:01pm
My own cantata "From Glory to Glory: The Life, Death and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." (using the words of MLK himself) premiered last year at Rockefeller Chapel at The University of Chicago to a five minute tearful ovation. While some of the songs require a soloist, "Darkness Cannot Drive Out Darkness," "Eulogy for the Martyred Children" and "Truth Crushed to Earth Will Rise Again" are very simple SATB settings that would be appropriate for a high school aged group. Also, as part of the larger program, "Someday Soon" (a rousing slow build gospel-style number), "A Dream Deferred," and "Birmingham" (a kicky jazz number) would also fit the bill. And to respond to Seth Boyd's wonderful observation, YES, I'M AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMPOSER!!! marienhuntsoprano(a)
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