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Echoes from the Journey for soprano and piano (1990) by Zenobia Powell Perry

Echoes from the Journey for soprano and piano (1990) by Zenobia Powell Perry

  • Echoes from the Journey for soprano and piano (1990) by Zenobia Powell Perry.  26 pages. Originally for soprano and chamber orchestra. 

    Duration: 14 minutes. A midi-version of this score is available.

    This piece contains “Field Hollers” and Spirituals “Wade in the Water,” “I Want to Die Easy,” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” It was premiered by the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, conducted by Edwin London, at John Carroll University, Cleveland, Ohio, in February 1991. Originally composed in 1988, the piece was revised in 1990. A reconstruction was done by Jeannie Gayle Pool in 2021, by combining the original orchestrations and the piano part for the revised version. A full score and parts were not found after Miss Perry’s death in 2004. The original orchestration also included piccolo, bass clarinet, timpani, tambourine, and gong—none of which were used in the revised version. The original score was called “Ships That Pass in the Night,” named after a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Thanks to Bonnie Janofsky and Ronald Royer for their assistance with the reconstruction and music copying.

    Zenobia Powell Perry wrote the following notes for the 1991 performance:

    “The continuing civil rights struggle of black in the United States plays a large part in my frame of reference. There is no way to live without pain. But then there is music. Music contributes to the animating principle of mankind and has the revolutionary power of healing, expanding, and revitalizing. All people are aware of inward explorations of black music only to the extent they comprehend the metaphysical urges that are part of every Afro-American.

    Echoes from the Journey is the resultant composition of conversation with Dr. J. Lanyé, soloist for the premiere. It begins with a simple tune that was sung by blacks during years of the reconstruction, that is phrased regularly and offered with an instrumental accompaniment made more interesting by a polyphonic duet announcement. In the next musical period, the voice emerges with an independent melody and instruments are used only for rhythmic and harmonic punctuations. Words seem like disjunct outbursts spoken in irregular meter rather opposed to song. “Well, Well, Well, So I Can Die Easy,” a late 19th century favorite, follows with its mood and rhythmic drive ushering in the 20th century blues with a jazzy use of instruments. Turbulence of the sixties and frustrations of the seventies and eighties are presented in an uneasy waltz setting of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.” The last “Echo” is created by a change of musical imagery which is similar to the beginning tune in simplicity, heralding hope for future successes in the quest for freedom. Echoes from the Journey was commissioned by the Cleveland Chamber Symphony. This work is made possible in part by a grant from the Ohio Arts Council’s New Works Program.”

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