Waverley Turner Carmichael was an African-American poet born in Alabama in the late 19th century. His poem ‘Keep me, Jesus, keep me’ has an attractive
call-and-response structure which lends itself ideally to song and particularly to a setting for double choir. Indeed, a collection of Carmichael’s poems was published in 1918 under the title, “From the Heart of a Folk: A Book of Songs”.
The repetitive use of language in this poem is almost meditative. This new setting reflects this in the serenity of the majority of the music: openly spaced harmonies, calmly lilting time signatures and frequent pauses to hear the voices resonate and fade. In this respect, the work is particularly suited to cathedral performance. The same music is used to set the two strophes, with recurrence of the line, “Keep me, Jesus, keep me,” forming an imploring refrain. Preview the score.