The Music of Langston Hughes

Daybreak in Alabama – SSAA ACAPELL


SKU: 50497641 Categories: , , ,

Product Description

Daybreak in Alabama


  •  Choral
  •  G. Schirmer, Inc.
  •  Kirke Mechem

With a special connection to the poetry of Langston Hughes, Kirke Mechem has written a new, a cappella spiritual. Opening with a musical statement by a soprano soloist, the soloist is featured throughout. In a typical, Mechem musical style, this tour de force is lush and new and emotional. Duration: ca. 3:00.

“Daybreak in Alabama” by Langston Hughes: A Poetic Masterpiece Set to Music by Kirke Mechem

Background on Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was a preeminent African American poet, novelist, playwright, and social activist. He played a significant role in the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural and artistic movement in the 1920s that celebrated African American culture and creativity. Hughes’s poetry often explored themes of racial identity, social justice, and the African American experience in a racially divided America.

His works, including “Daybreak in Alabama,” reflect the struggles and aspirations of African Americans during a time of segregation and discrimination. Hughes was known for his ability to infuse his poetry with both the pain of injustice and the hope for a brighter future.

“Daybreak in Alabama”

“Daybreak in Alabama” is a poignant poem by Langston Hughes that captures the essence of hope, beauty, and unity in the face of racial divisions. The poem paints a vivid picture of a tranquil morning in Alabama, where the dawn’s arrival has the power to transform the world.

The poem opens with an image of “Daybreak in Alabama” and describes how the sunlight gently touches the natural surroundings, like “the river and the ocean of the longleaf pines.” This imagery evokes a sense of serenity and beauty in the world, which can be seen as a metaphor for the potential for harmony and unity among people.

However, the poem takes a poignant turn when it speaks of those who have suffered due to racial injustice: “But the sun comes out like a thunderbolt and rips the dark from the bay and the river and the ocean.” Here, the sun is portrayed as a symbol of change and renewal, but it also symbolizes the struggle for justice and the need to confront the darkness of discrimination.

Langston Hughes uses powerful and evocative language in this poem to convey his message of hope and the desire for racial harmony. He masterfully juxtaposes the peaceful beauty of nature with the turbulent history of racial injustice, highlighting the potential for change and the importance of confronting social issues.

Kirke Mechem’s Musical Setting

Kirke Mechem, known for his versatility as a composer, set “Daybreak in Alabama” to music in a composition titled “Daybreak in Alabama.” Mechem’s musical setting brings Hughes’s poem to life through melody and harmony, creating a powerful emotional experience for listeners.

Mechem’s ability to set poetry to music is a testament to his deep understanding of the text and his skill in translating its emotional nuances into musical elements. In “Daybreak in Alabama,” Mechem’s music likely enhances the poem’s themes of hope and transformation, capturing the essence of both the beauty of dawn and the urgency of addressing social injustices.

By combining Hughes’s profound poetry with Mechem’s musical expertise, “Daybreak in Alabama” becomes a multidimensional work of art that resonates with audiences on both intellectual and emotional levels. Mechem’s musical composition likely amplifies the poem’s message, making it more accessible and memorable to listeners, and ensuring that Langston Hughes’s powerful words continue to inspire and provoke reflection for generations to come.


Product Details

  •  $1.95 (US)
  •  #HL 50497641
  •  9781480308701
  •  884088662738
  •  6.75″
  •  10.5″
  •  8 Pages


Kirke Mechem: A Journey Through the Life and Music of a Prolific Composer

In the world of classical music, where creativity and innovation converge, one name stands out as a symbol of dedication, artistry, and an extensive body of work – Kirke Mechem. His musical odyssey, characterized by a vast catalogue comprising over 250 titles, is nothing short of extraordinary. Born in Wichita, Kansas, on August 16, 1925, Mechem emerged as a musical prodigy whose influence would span continents and generations.

Early Years and Musical Education

Kirke Mechem’s captivating journey commenced at Stanford University, following his service of two and a half years in the army during World War II. At Stanford, under the mentorship of distinguished figures like Harold Schmidt, Leonard Ratner, and Sandor Salgo, Mechem’s talents in harmony, counterpoint, and orchestration began to flourish. The spark of his passion for music was ignited during these pivotal years, ultimately leading him to switch his major to music during his junior year.

The pursuit of his musical aspirations then led Mechem to Harvard University, where he earned his master’s degree in 1953. Here, he had the privilege of studying under renowned composers such as Walter Piston and Randall Thompson. His vocal compositions shone brilliantly, earning him the prestigious Boott Prize, setting the stage for his remarkable career.

The Transformative Sojourn in Vienna

Vienna, often hailed as the epicenter of classical music, beckoned Kirke Mechem in two significant periods, 1956-57 and 1961-63. It was in the heart of this musical crucible that Mechem delved into the intricacies of chamber music, crafting compositions that would later captivate audiences across the globe. Notable among these creations was his Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano, which marked the beginning of an exciting chapter in his musical journey. This was followed by a Divertimento for Flute and String Trio and his first String Quartet.

Mechem’s time in Vienna proved to be transformative, offering him a unique perspective on classical music that would infuse a fresh dynamism into his compositions for many years to come.

The Symphony Maestro

In 1965, the world witnessed the premiere of Kirke Mechem’s Symphony No. 1 by the San Francisco Symphony, conducted by Josef Krips. This marked the inauguration of his symphonic legacy, as Krips was deeply impressed and commissioned Mechem to create a Second Symphony, which debuted in 1967. These performances solidified Mechem’s status as a distinguished composer in the pantheon of musical greats.

Championing the Choral Realm

While Mechem’s symphonies soared to the heights of acclaim, it was his choral compositions that truly set him apart. His early works for choirs, created during his undergraduate and graduate years, were nothing short of masterpieces. Notably, pieces like “Make A Joyful Noise” (later recorded by the illustrious Mormon Tabernacle Choir) and “Give Thanks Unto The Lord” garnered critical acclaim, with the latter even securing the tri-annual SAI American Music Award in 1959.

Throughout his illustrious career, Mechem maintained his unwavering commitment to the choral realm, composing commissioned choral suites, cantatas, and other vocal works. In 2007, the American Choral Directors Association honored him with a retrospective concert, a testament to his five decades of contributions to choral music.

Opera: The Crown Jewel of Kirke Mechem’s Artistry

Mechem’s foray into the world of opera represented a pivotal juncture in his musical journey. Inspired by Molière’s timeless satire, “Tartuffe,” he embarked on a mission to create his own opera, further showcasing his versatility as a librettist. The outcome was “Tartuffe,” which premiered in 1980 at the San Francisco Opera.

This opera experienced international success, captivating audiences not only in the United States but also in countries as diverse as Canada, China, Russia, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Hungary, and Japan. Mechem’s opera centered on the life of abolitionist John Brown, although it took years to come to fruition, premiered in 2008. Between these monumental works, Mechem composed numerous other pieces, including “The Rivals” and “Pride and Prejudice,” both of which received acclaim in the opera world.

Awards and Honors: Acknowledging a Lifetime of Contribution

Kirke Mechem’s contributions to the world of music have not gone unnoticed. He has received recognition from prestigious organizations, including the United Nations, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Choral Directors Association, and the Music Educators National Conference. His lifetime achievements have been celebrated, with the National Opera Association and the American Choral Directors Association Western Division presenting him with distinguished awards.

In a pivotal moment in 2012, the University of Kansas bestowed upon him its first honorary degree of Doctor of Arts, cementing his status as a trailblazing composer in the annals of music history.

Global Recognition and Influence

Kirke Mechem’s musical influence transcends borders and resonates on a global scale. His connection with Russia, then still the Soviet Union, in 1990 marked the beginning of a profound international connection. He was invited as a guest of honor at the Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow, an event that left an indelible mark on both him and the Russian audience.

In 1991, the USSR Radio-Television Orchestra dedicated an entire concert to his symphonic works, marking a historic moment in classical music as it was the first time a Soviet orchestra had devoted an entire concert to a living American composer. Additionally, he was invited to attend the Russian-language premiere of “Tartuffe” by the Mussorgsky National Theater for Opera and Ballet in St. Petersburg.

The Timeless Resonance of Kirke Mechem’s Music

In the grand tapestry of classical music history, there are few composers who can boast a career as illustrious and diverse as Kirke Mechem’s. With a vast catalogue that spans symphonies, choral works, and operas, his music transcends geographical boundaries, captivating audiences worldwide. His unwavering dedication to the art of composition, coupled with a multitude of accolades and honors, firmly secures his place as a true luminary in the world of classical music.

Kirke Mechem’s timeless compositions continue to resonate with audiences, serving as a testament to the enduring power of his music and his unwavering commitment to the world of classical music, where innovation, dedication, and creativity converge in harmony. His legacy is not only a source of inspiration but also a reminder of the profound impact that music can have on the human soul.


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The Music of Langston Hughes

Inspired by his messages of justice, freedom, and the hope that a brighter future lies ahead, notable composers and arrangers have beautifully coupled Langston Hughes' passionate words with equally captivating music.

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