On Freedom's Ground

for Baritone, Mixed Chorus and Orchestra

William Schuman

Text: Text by Richard Wilbur
Publisher: Merion Music, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

From the start, Mr. Wilbur and I decided not to write a piece for an occasion but, rather, to use the occasion for a work of which America itself would be the subject ? the things that are right and some that are wrong ? a land always with the possibility of change. Mr. Wilbur has been quoted as saying that ours was a ?true collaboration, involving many consultations ? not just a matter of one person first writing first and another following along later. It was give and take all the time, with never a harsh word.? I echo his sentiments completely. The text he has created speaks for itself, but it spoke to me as a composer with astonishing immediacy.

Richard Wilbur and I first discussed the project at the beginning of 1984, and by July of that year he was well into his text, which was completed by the end of October. As material arrived, I would begin sketching the composition while continuing my frequent conversations with him. The work so absorbed me that I finished it in February, 1985, some twenty months before the scheduled premiere.

Little need be said about the music, other than the basic fact of its conceptual unity. Whether written for chorus, soloist or orchestra, or various combinations of these three elements, the music was always a single entity in my mind. It might be noted that the melody sounded by the trumpet at the very opening appears in a variety of ways in each movement of the work. In the fourth movement, "Come Dance", I have introduced some traditional materials: ?National Schottische,? ?The Gobby O-jig? (or ?Jefferson and Liberty?), ?Paddy O?Rafferty?s Jig,? ?The Storm Polka,? and ?Da Vinci Waltz.? The jigs are from "Ryan?s Mammoth Collection of 1050 Reels and Jigs", published in 1883 by Ellias House, Boston. The schottische and the polka were chosen from an unidentified collection, published circa 1880 (the polka is credited to a Bohemian composer, Anton Wallerstein, 1813-92. The waltz dates from circa 1932, when Frank Loesser and I started and abandoned an operetta based on the life of Leonardo Da Vinci; the waltz fragment, not previously notated, came to mind.

"On Freedom?s Ground" is dedicated to my family; my wife, son, daughter, grandson, sister; and to the memory of my parents and brother.

Available on Rental

Additional Information

Commission Commission Information: New York Philharmonic, Crane School of Music of Potsdam College and a consortium of Symphony Orchestras: Albany, Atlanta, Chicago, National, Oregon, Pittsburgh and St. Louis
Composition Date 1986
Duration 00:40:00
Orchestration 3(3Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 2 - 4 3 3 1; Timp. 4Perc. Pno.(Cel.) Str.
Premiere October 28, 1986. Sherrill Milnes, Crane Chorus, New York Philharmonic, Zubin Mehta


I Back Then
II Our Risen States
III Like a Great Statue
IV Come Dance
V Immigrants Still