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The Story Behind the Songs

I'll be On My Way - Shawn Kirchner

Composer Shawn Kirchner’s name frequently appears in Susquehanna Chorale concert programs, and with good reason. His stirring composition, I’ll Be on My Way, underscored by a dazzling fiddle accompaniment, will close each of our spring concerts this year, and its text helped inspire the theme for the Chorale’s 2022-2023 season, Experience the Inspiration, the Joy, and the Journey.

Kirchner is a well-known classical pianist and choral conductor, who has served as composer-in-residence with the LA Master Chorale. As a Christian musician, Kirchner’s prolific output ranges from bluegrass and gospel tunes to jazz ballads to concert suites and oratorios. The Chorale performed his Brightest and Best at Christmas; other Kirchner compositions sung by the Chorale in recent years include Angel Band, Sweet Rivers, and Unclouded Day. His signature style is reflected in complex instrumental writing and melodic lines designed to inspire the singers’ artistry and to encourage a deeply emotional and engaging vocal expression.

Bringing Light from Tragedy

I’ll Be on My Way originated with the composer’s dark musings on a fatal bus accident at a notoriously dangerous intersection near his church. Kirchner explains, “Looking down that long street as far as I could see—and feeling the sense of freedom one gets on the open road—my immediate response was ‘Well, I’d be on my way.’ Instantly, the idea for the song sprang into my mind because sometimes they just come like that—fast, easily, all at once.”

Kirchner also noted that the words reverberate with a sense of healing and spiritual freedom. The song lyric “What pain there might have been will now be past” conveys a hopeful message that it really is possible to lay down a burden that no longer needs to be carried and that our final milestone will be filled with joy.

The intersection that inspired Kirchner’s song now has a traffic light, thanks in part to his gift for musical expression. Kirchner says he imagined the tune as Dolly Parton might have rendered it, and he hopes that someday she will record it. In the meantime, make sure to hear Kirchner’s choral version performed by the Susquehanna Chorale as a spectacular finale to our spring program, Songs for the Journey.


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