It’s a Long Way (2020)

SATB choir. 2 1/2 mins.

Commissioned by Skylark Vocal Ensemble.

Hear Skylark Vocal Ensemble’s brand new studio recording of It’s a Long Way, featured as the title track of their newest album! Available for purchase directly from Skylark and streaming on SpotifyApple Music, and Amazon Music.

Watch a concert film of It’s a Long Way performed by Skylark Vocal Ensemble.

Listen to the World Premiere virtual quartet recording, made for educational use by Skylark Vocal Ensemble:

Watch a performance by the Massachusetts Music Educators Association Southeastern District (SEMMEA) Senior Festival Choir of 2021:

Perusal Score

Score is available for purchase. Please direct inquiries to Nell Shaw Cohen at nell@nellshawcohen.com.

Program NOte

William Stanley Braithwaite was a self-taught, African American writer, editor, and critic, celebrated for his contributions to the development of 20th century American poetry. His poem “It’s a Long Way,” although published in 1904, speaks powerfully to me in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us have had to put dreams on hold for an unknown length of time—delaying pivotal steps in our personal lives, careers, or education, awaiting the day we may be reunited with loved ones. In this moment of widespread uncertainty and personal yearning, we’re also experiencing a powerful collective yearning for a just society to emerge from the crucible of current events. Braithwaite gives voice to a sentiment I’ve been holding onto these past months, in light of all of the above: “It’s work we must, and love we must, / And do the best we may, / And take the hope of dreams in trust / To keep us day by day.” I’ve sought to honor Braithwaite’s bittersweet words of hope and determination with a choral setting for all of us striving to safely arrive at our journeys’ shore.

TEXT

“It’s a Long Way”
by William Stanley Braithwaite (1878-1962)

It’s a long way the sea-winds blow
    Over the sea-plains blue,—
But longer far has my heart to go
    Before its dreams come true.

It’s work we must, and love we must,
    And do the best we may,
And take the hope of dreams in trust
    To keep us day by day.

It’s a long way the sea-winds blow—
    But somewhere lies a shore—
Thus down the tide of Time shall flow
    My dreams forevermore.

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Performance History
  • Skylark Vocal Ensemble (Matthew Guard, Conductor), Concert video release; 10/29/21.
  • Skylark Vocal Ensemble (Matthew Guard, Conductor), Album release tour: Falmouth Academy, Falmouth MA, 10/8/21; Belleville Church, Newburyport, MA; 10/9/21; First Parish Church in Weston, Weston, MA, 10/10/21.
  • Musica Viva NY, All Souls Unitarian Church, New York, NY, Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez, Conductor; 10/03/21.
  • Skylark Vocal Ensemble (Matthew Guard, Conductor), Studio recording, title track of album It’s a Long Way; 9/24/21.
  • Muhlenberg College, Baccalaureate Commencement, Christopher Jackson, Conductor; 5/22/21.
  • Massachusetts Music Educators Association Southeastern District, Senior Virtual Festival, Christopher Jackson, Conductor; 1/09/21.
  • Skylark Vocal Ensemble (Matthew Guard, Conductor), Studio recording, online release; January 2021.