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Knoxville, Summer of 1915

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Samuel Barber

Samuel Barber (trans. Kenneth Singleton)

General Info

Year: 1949 / 2004
Duration: c. 15:35
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: G. Schirmer
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $125.00   |   Score Only (print) - $15.00


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Trumpet
Horn in F I-II
String Bass


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

This 1948 landmark piece for soprano and orchestra is a setting of poetic, nostalgic prose by James Agee. Transcribed for soprano and concert band in this edition, this lyrical, warm music is Samuel Barber at his best, evoking the highest aspects of Americana.

- Program Note from publisher

The title of Barber's "lyric rhapsody" Knoxville, Summer of 1915 was taken from a short prose piece of the same name written by American novelist, poet, screenwriter and Pulitzer Prize winner James Agee in 1935. Barber uses roughly one-third of Agee's text. "It has become that time of evening when people sit on their porches, rocking gently and talking gently and watching the street..." begins Barber's adaptation, hewing closely to Agee's richly descriptive, deeply nostalgic reverie of his growing up in the American South just after the turn of the twentieth century. Barber was drawn to Agee's words, which struck a chord in him regarding his own childhood, which unfolded several states to the north, but not without significant similarities. "I had always admired Mr. Agee's writing, and this prose poem particularly struck me because the summer evening he describes in his native southern town reminded me so much of similar evenings when I was a child at home [in West Chester, Pennsylvania]," Barber told a CBS radio interviewer in 1949. "I found out after setting this that Mr. Agee and I are the same age. And the year he described was 1915, when we were both five. You see, it expresses a child's feeling of loneliness, wonder and lack of identity in that marginal world between twilight and sleep."

Knoxville, Summer of 1915 begins with a gently rocking melody -- nearly a lullaby -- accompanying lyrics describing the warm summer evening in vivid word paintings rich in alliteration. The middle section, with the brief chaotic passage of a streetcar -- "raising into iron moan, stopping, belling and starting, stertorous" -- interrupts the reverie, but it, too, fades, melting into the coming night, described as "one blue dew." The narrator pictures himself and his family, lying on quilts over the "rough wet grass" and quietly talking of "nothing in particular or nothing at all." He recounts his family members, one by one, and stares up at the vastness of space.

As the piece draws to a close, the narrator turns serious, asking God to bless his people and "remember them in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away" -- hinting here not only of the personal travails of any normal family, but of the hard challenges of the years to come that would be faced by all Americans. But such dreadful contemplations too eventually cease, and the narrator is carried to bed, and Barber with a repetition fo the opening theme and then notes rising to the heavens above, brings the piece to an appropriately dreamlike end.

- Program Note by Joel Baroody for the U.S. Coast Guard Band concert program, 17 November 2019


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Southern Methodist University (Dallas, Tx.) Meadows Wind Ensemble (Jack Delaney, conductor; Bethany Jelinek, soprano) - 28 April 2023
  • United States Coast Guard Band (New London Conn.) (Adam R. Williamson, conductor; Megan Weikleenget, soprano) – 17 November 2019
  • Eastern Connecticut State University (Willimantic) Wind Ensemble (Kelly Watkins, conductor; Emily Jo Riggs, soprano)- 13 October 2018
  • Contra Costa Wind Symphony (Walnut Creek, Calif.) (Brad Hogarth, conductor) – 6 March 2016

Works for Winds by This Composer


  • Barber, S.; Singleton, K. (2004). Knoxville, Summer of 1915 [score]. G. Schirmer: New York.