The exciting rhythmic underpinning of the choir lays a energetic foundation for a enchanting melody that breathes life into a timeless text. The piece highlights the text “when all hate is turned to love, then heaven and earth shall blend.” A comparatively placid middle sections provides repose to consider the compassion’s role in freedom. The piece concludes with a rousing mixed-meter declamation, “When all are free, then freedom shall reign!” This setting was written for the University of Alabama, Birmingham Concert Choir under the direction of Dr. Brian Kittredge for a concert commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
All of Us Be Free
was performed by the combined choirs of Virginia Wesleyan College and the Concert Choir of the University of Alabama Birmingham. The concert series started in Birmingham on Martin Luther King Day and finished in Virginia Beach on Emancipation Day.
This work combines the text of William W. Brown, a fugitive slave and text inspired by the writings of seminal Methodist thinkers Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury. Written in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, this work uses the text alluded to in the work of Coke and Asbury as an rhythmic ostinato on which the rest of the piece is based. (Act’s 17:26“From one is made every nation, to live on all the face of the earth.”) The resounding chorus “Cease we not the fight of faith, till all of us be free,” is taken from the The Anti-Slavery Harp, 1848 and highlights both the considerable obstacles that have been overcome since the mid-19th century while at the same time gives voice to the continued struggle for freedom throughout the world.