For Labor Day

Greetings, and Happy Labor Day to my readers!  Today has particular resonance in the world of classical music—over the last year we’ve had a number of orchestras and opera companies go through labor disputes, and several additional disputes are starting to bubble over.

For today however, I wanted to leave you with short piece of music that sums up this day and this time of year perfectly:  “The Promise of Living” from Aaron Copland’s opera, The Tender Land.  The setting is the Midwest during the Depression.  Two migrant farm workers have just arrived at a family farm… just in time for harvest.  In “The Promise of Living,” the workers and the family look ahead to the work of bringing in harvest, sharing in both the work and the bounty.  The song also celebrates family, community, and God’s blessings.

There are many videos of the song out there, as Copland’s later choral arrangement has become a bit of a stand-alone hit.  But I wanted to share this one that keeps the original context intact.  Enjoy, and Happy Labor Day!

* * *

“The Promise of Living”
Music by Aaron Copland, text by Horace Everett (pseudonym of Erik Johns)

The promise of living with hope and thanksgiving
is born of our loving our friends and our labor.

The promise of growing with faith and with knowing
is born of our sharing our love with our neighbor.

For many a year we’ve known these fields and known all the work that makes them yield.
Are you ready to lend a hand? We’ll bring in the harvest, the blessings of harvest.

We plant each row with seeds of grain, and Providence sends us the sun and the rain.
By lending a hand, by lending an arm, bring out from the farm,
bring out the blessings of harvest.

Give thanks there was sunshine, give thanks there was rain.
Give thanks we have hands to deliver the grain.
Come join us in thanking the Lord for his blessing.
O let us be joyful. O let us be grateful to the Lord for His blessing.

The promise of ending in right understanding
is peace in our own hearts and peace with our neighbor.

O let us sing our song, and let our song be heard.
Let’s sing our song with our hearts, and find a promise in that song.
The promise of living.
The promise of growing.
The promise of ending is labor and sharing our loving.



2 thoughts on “For Labor Day

  1. Copland used a “revivalist song” titled “Zion’s Walls” (from his Old American Songs) for this “multi-voiced aria” (can you till I’m not a singer?) in the Tender Land. Having said that, I have to tell you it is the one piece of Copland more than any other that makes me stop what I am doing and almost brings me to tears. I can’t explain this; it just is!


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