I’ll Fly Away


A vibrant and intricately-arranged SSATBB setting of the gospel favorite by Albert Brumley.  A newly-composed introduction gives way to the antiphonal ostinatos that propel the piece through inventive verses and jubilant choruses.  A key change halfway through makes the optimism of Brumley’s song shine even brighter.  The ending of the piece is crafted to suggest a flock of birds taking wing, and, little by little, disappearing into the distant sky.

A licensed copy is required for each member performing.



I was invited by Jeff Brookey, for whom “I’ll Fly Away” has always been a favorite, to write this arrangement for his La Canada High School choir to perform at the 2016 Western Regional ACDA convention.

In all honesty, when I had considered arranging it in the past, I had balked at the chromatic notes in the opening line of the original melody.  (For some reason, I’m a bit like some bluegrass purists, who are suspicious of any other than I, IV, and V chords in their tunes; I kind of don’t like it when folk tunes go much beyond the pentatonic in their use of scale tones.)  But Jeff’s enthusiasm and of course the inevitable conclusion that “I’ll Fly Away” is a truly great song pushed me over.

In the process of working on the piece, I spoke by phone with Albert Brumley’s granddaughter, who stipulated that the notes of the original melody be used in the arrangement.  So, when one can’t beat them, one joins them; I immediately use a chromatic slide in the accompanying voices as the arrangement kicks into gear.

Certain songs arrange easily, and enjoyably.  When there’s a lot of “play” in the original material, things tend to work out readily.  In this case, a new, slow intro in 3/4 was just begging to be written, for which I used a non-contracted form of the basic text — “I will fly away.” This small modification immediately crept into the main section of the piece, as the phrase’s extra syllable allowed for a driving ostinato — a quick antiphonal exchange between the baritones and tenors on the text “I will fly away” —  that ended up being used in some form or other all through the piece, providing constant momentum and excitement.

I do like to use 6-parts whenever I can, as I do on my “Heavenly Home” suite, because it allows for so many possibilities, especially 3-part women’s and 3-part men’s textures.  For a bluegrass-loving person, nothing beats a good 3-part chord, ever.  And for a mind that likes to range freely through all manner of permutations, 6-parts gives you “plenty of pasture.”

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SSATBB a cappella

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