Freedom Suite for String Orchestra
I. Harriet Scott – A Strong Woman
II. Eliza and Lizzie
III. Freedom – At Last
I. Harriet Scott – A Strong Woman is inspired by her memories as a child in Minnesota and St. Louis. She would have heard spirituals and dance music as an adult, and they, hopefully, would have reminded her of the good memories she had as a child and a young woman.
A brief introduction ushers in The Good Lord is Comin’ for Me, a new spiritual based on the traditions of the 18th and 19th century American spirituals. Dance reels follow, in imitation of the Virginia Reels that were popular in the 19th century and in St. Louis, Missouri. The poignant spiritual Don’t You Weep When I’m Gone, composed by Harry (Henry) Thacker Burleigh (1820-1869) has the melody in the cello that so wonderfully portrays the rich somberness of Burleigh’s melody. The dance tunes and The Good Lord is Comin’ for Me return and rush exuberantly toward the close.
II. Eliza and Lizzie – Let My People Go!
The second movement is inspired by two spirituals – Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child and Go Down, Moses. The movement seems to open with random-like pitches in long notes, but is built on the circle-of-fifths utilizing the notes in the chromatic scale. The first section features Sometimes in G Minor with a triple canon among the two violins and viola. An interlude of the opening material then precedes a combination of the two melodies in F-sharp Minor although the melody Go Down predominates. The final section combines as well as alternates between the two melodies.
III. Freedom – At Last opens with a rising and ecstatic fanfare. A joyous four-voice fugue begins. Even amid the celebration of freedom is the ache of memories from the past – Many Thousands Gone – a new spiritual melody inspired by the words of the spiritual of the same name. The fugue melody is then combined with Many Thousands Gone. With each return of the fanfare, excitement builds…but always touched by the memories of the many that have gone, until the feeling of freedom is wholly embraced.