Why the Caged Bird Sings


Digital score (PDF).
9:30. SATB choir, unaccompanied.
Commissioned by the Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble.
Craig Hella Johnson, conductor.

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SKU: JR0042 Category: Tags: ,

About the Work

Commissioned by Craig Hella Johnson and the Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble, this work sets a powerful poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar.


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Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar

I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals —
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting —
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer…
I know why the caged bird sings!


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