This dramatic tone poem for concert band was written during the summer of 2007 after a moving visit to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. They Shall Run and Be Free portrays a daring and perilous slave escape. The opening main theme works its way through changing meters and dissonances and reflects running for one’s life while being chased and never knowing what to expect. The slow, middle section includes a setting of the beautiful Negro spiritual Oh Freedom, the simple yet poignant lyrics undoubtedly reflecting the attitude and desperation of many slaves.
Oh freedom over me!
And before I’d be a slave
I’d be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free.