As a male choir director I often struggle with finding successful SSA literature that does not talk about beauty, flowers, and/or butterflies. Though there are many great composers out there writing exciting pieces for treble choirs such as Stephen Hatfield, Andrea Ramsey, and Joan Syzmko; I stumbled upon a great piece of literature: And Ain’t I A Woman! by Susan Borwick.
This piece uses the text from Sojourner Truth’s (1797-1883) speech delivered at the Women’s Right Convention in Akron, Ohio in 1851. Sojourner Truth, was born into slavery in New York State as Isabella Baumfree. She was an active and powerful public figure in the abolition and Women’s rights movements of the mid-19th Century. I found that this specific text (displayed below) not only resonated with my female singers but also inspired them.
And Ain’t I A Woman! Look at my arm! Look at me!
No man fed me, no man could head me, Look at my arm! Look at me!
I’ve plowed and I’ve planted!
I could work as much and eat as much and bear the lash as much as a man.
And I done borne thirteen children, sold’t slavery.
And when I cried out and cried out and grieved like no man can,
No one but Jesus, nobody else heard my plea.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone,
Then these women here now can get together and turn it all back around.
Composer Susan Borwick expertly paints the text in a bluesy/gospel style. This piece offers an exciting look into the blues style while also allowing the teacher to work across the curriculum and talk about some important historical events. If you are looking for a fun and inventive piece that can be done by beginning – advanced level women’s choirs I strongly recommend this piece. It is available through Treble Clef Music Press and a preview can be found at www.trebleclefpress.com.