Rose Riddle Rainbow (I’ve Got a Rainbow)


“I’ve Got a Rainbow” is the final movement of the three-movement suite Rose/Riddle/Rainbow, which was conceived as an exploration of the spiritual for the 21st century. Each movement’s original music and text include fragments of a companion spiritual.

“I’ve Got a Rainbow” is a song of hope and solidarity in the face of the long struggle for justice (Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder).

An SATB piano version is available upon request. Please contact

A licensed copy is required for each member performing.



For me, almost all composition projects begin with a quick glimmer of an important concept or fragment that the rest of the piece slowly forms around.  For the Rose/Riddle/Rainbow project, one of the very first galvanizing ideas was the phrase “I’ve got a rainbow” (which I knew from the traditional song “Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder”), coupled with the famous quote of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  I liked the idea of the “arc” of the rainbow relating to the “arc” of the Dr. King’s moral universe.

Gradually a song of justice formed around the repeated phrase “I’ve got a rainbow,” with three soloists describing their experience of long struggle to the vocal accompaniment provided by their “sisters.”  After the third verse, the voices unite in a section which builds in intensity, on the words “trouble ahead, trouble behind” — through which the assertion “but I’ve got a rainbow” continually breaks through.

Finally the intensity reaches a breaking point on text which reflected my sense of our country being at a true crisis point: “Truth be told, there’ll be rain; truth be told it’s raining NOW!”  But, at that moment, the women all unite in ecstatic vision:

But the sun is shining before me,
And I’ve got a rainbow
Wrapped around my shoulder.

Inspired by the visionary stage director Peter Sellars, I included optional stage directions that the singers at this moment link their arm to the shoulder of their neighbor, literally forming an arc — a rainbow — of support and solidarity in the face of all the forces that oppose them.

The piece ends with all the voices joining to sing the phrase “I’ve got a rainbow,” during which they start in unison and end in a rich nine-part chord, like a beam of light entering a prism, but shining out on the other side as a brilliant many-colored rainbow.

I’ve Got a Rainbow

I’ve got a rainbow…

Many miles have I come,
many more have I to go,
but I’ve got a rainbow.

Many tears have I cried,
Plenty tears upon my pillow,
but I’ve got a rainbow.

Many dreams have I dropped,
Dreams I’ve dropped along the road…
…but my friends gathered them up for me,
Till I could dream again (I thank you)

I’ve got a rainbow
(Your dream is my dream)
I’ve got a rainbow
(My dream is yours)

Trouble ahead, trouble behind
Trouble ahead, trouble behind,
But I’ve got a rainbow.

Truth be told, there’ll be rain,
truth be told, it’s raining now…
But the sun is shining before me,
and I’ve got a rainbow
wrapped around my shoulder!

I’ve got a rainbow!
I’ve got a rainbow!
I’ve got a rainbow wrapped around my shoulder!

And “it bends toward justice”
And it’s full of colors
And it shines with promise
And it feels like freedom

I’ve got a rainbow!
I’ve got a rainbow!
I’ve got a rainbow wrapped around my shoulder!

Additional information


SSA double choir and soloists

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