work details

Freedom's Plow

  • Instrumentation: SATB, cello, piano, and narrator
  • Completed: December 2009
  • Duration: 7 minutes
  • Texts: Langston Hughes and the traditional African-American spiritual "Hold On"
  • Audio:
    • Freedom's Plow

      Vocal Essence Chorus - G. Phillip Shoultz, III

      T. Mychael Rambo, narrator
      Nygel Witherspoon, cello; Jacob Dodd, piano

  • Commission:

    Commissioned by the Rhinebeck Choral Club, on their 65th anniversary.

  • Dedication:

    To the Rhinebeck Choral Club and their artistic director, Charles Kelley

  • Program Note:

    Freedom's Plow is a dramatic--and abridged--setting of a long poem by Langston Hughes. The narrator and cello work in tandem to create a sense of theatricality, with responses by the chorus. For most of the work, I've stayed true to the intentions of the African-American spiritual "Keep your hand on the plow, hold on!" - However, for the ending of the work, I've paid homage to a famous recording of the spiritual by Duke Ellington and Mahalia Jackson. This recording is swung in Duke's signature style, and I've incorporated that feel into my composition.

  • Performances:
    • June 12, 2010 (Premiere)
      Rhinebeck Choral Club
      Charles Kelley, director
      Poughkeepsie, NY
    • June 13, 2010 
      Rhinebeck Choral Club
      Charles Kelley, director
      Poughkeepsie, NY
    • October 20, 2012
      Houston Composers - Live!
      VOX: The Rob Seible Singers
      Rob Seible, artistic director
      The University of St. Thomas - Cullen Hall - Houston, TX
    • October 21, 2012
      Houston Composers - Live!
      VOX: The Rob Seible Singers
      Rob Seible, artistic director
      San Jacinto College-Central Campus - Pasadena, TX
    • January 20, 2013
      Bering Memorial United Methodist Church Choir
      Rob Seible, director
      Houston, TX 
    • February 19, 2017
      VocalEssence: Underground Railroad
      Featuring Melanie DeMore
      G. Philip Shoultz III, conductor
      Orchestra Hall - Minneapolis, MN