It’s a Long Way (2020)

SATB choir. 2 1/2 mins.

Commissioned by Skylark Vocal Ensemble.
It's a Long Way album cover with black and white photographer of a feather
Hear Skylark Vocal Ensemble’s brand new studio recording of It’s a Long Way on their forthcoming album of the same name. Available for streaming & purchase on September 24, 2021.
Pre-order the album.

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

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.


“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
  • 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, World Premiere recording, online release; January 2021.