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Thy Silver Pinions | STACY GARROP • COMPOSER

Thy Silver Pinions

The commissioners have exclusive performance rights until November 30, 2023.


SATB (div.), piano

Emily Dickinson and John Keats


National Collegiate Choral Organization


In the early fall of 2020, the world was out of sorts on many fronts: the rising of COVID-19 cases throughout the world, the ongoing inequity of race in America, and a U.S. presidential election unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetimes. Amid so much anxiety and uncertainty, the word “hope” kept coming to my mind. Hope is what gives each of us the power to momentarily hold the rest of the world at bay. Hope helps us realize that things won’t always be as they are right now, and each of us can have an active role in shaping our collective future.

In my search for poems about hope, I found Emily Dickinson’s beautiful poem “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” in which she depicts hope as a bird whose unending song enheartens all who hear it. I was struck by this image, particularly when I came upon John Keats’ poem “To Hope” in which he uses the same feathered imagery. In
Thy Silver Pinions, I set Dickinson’s poem, and threaded two lines of Keats’ poem among Dickinson’s lines.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

- Emily Dickinson

Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

-John Keats