The Soul of America

"Soul of America" is a song by Jerrell R. Gray on the poetry of John Lewis.

Date: 2021Composer: Jerrell R. Gray

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    Program Note

    Program notes written by the composer, explain the song’s origin and purpose:

    Rep. John R. Lewis, longtime Georgia lawmaker and famed civil rights activist wrote a final essay for The New York Times prior to his July 17 death, which the newspaper was instructed to publish on Thursday — the same day his funeral was held in Atlanta. Lewis, who was 80 when he died from pancreatic cancer, wrote that he made it a point to visit the recently painted Black Lives Matter mural in Washington, D.C.’s newly named Black Lives Matter Plaza last month before he was taken to the hospital the following day. Lewis wrote that he was “inspired” during his final days by the ongoing protests sweeping the nation against racial injustice and police brutality, following the killing of George Floyd on May 25. When I read Rep. Lewis’ last words, I immediately felt an urge to compose “The Soul of America”. This piece was commissioned by the Cincinnati Song Initiative in partnership with The National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Inaugural Composer Mentorship Program.

    “The Soul of America” was composed to not only pay homage to the memory and legacy of Rep. John R. Lewis, but to also revive the love and hope of America through song. This text, thoughtfully adapted from the last words of Rep. Lewis, sheds light on the journey he embarked as a Civil Rights Activist. The text also mentions the names of innocent Black Lives taken by heartless police. The soloist in this piece portrays Rep. Lewis in his last moments of life.

    Sheet Music

    The Soul of America

    Composer(s): Jerrell R. Gray

    Voice Type: Baritone

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