Fire-Flowers, on Emily P. Johnson’s poem for a cappella SATB chorus


Date of composing October 2017; June 2019 – revised

Genre choral song for mixed SATB chorus a cappella

Language English

Style neo-romantic, contemporary, ethnic

Duration [2’14”]

Level of difficulty intermediate to advanced

Copyrights music: © 2016 Natalia Pispini; lyrics: Emily Pauline Johnson’s poems from public domain

Idea and musical structure

B minor. Lento. The song has slightly severe and bitter mood affected by the poetic meaning of the verses. The strophic AA1 form follows the two couplets of the poem. The harmonies are of the romantic style, enriched by additional dissonant tones and dynamic modulations to distant tonalities. There are some features of Mohawk music as well: ‘trichord’ pitch sets, dotted rhythms and sung syllables. The ranges are: soprano – F4 – G5, alto – A3 – A4, tenor – D3 – E4, bass – G2 – A3.


For this choral song, I chose a remarkable poem ‘Fire-Flowers’ by Emily Pauline Johnson (1861-1913), Canadian and Mohawk poet, writer and performer.



by Emily Pauline Johnson

And only where the forest fires have sped,
Scorching relentlessly the cool north lands,
A sweet wild flower lifts its purple head,
And, like some gentle spirit sorrow-fed,
It hides the scars with almost human hands.

And only to the heart that knows of grief,
Of desolating fire, of human pain,
There comes some purifying sweet belief,
Some fellow-feeling beautiful, if brief.
And life revives, and blossoms once again.

Performance notes

No extended technique required.

Look at the score sample

Listen to the computer-generated sound version on YouTube:


! This work may be performed. For your inquiry please contact Natalia. In your message, kindly provide some information  (performer’s name  or collective’s title, website if any, contact details). The score, parts and the composer’s license (all free of charge) will be sent to you within a week.

Image of E.P. Johnson credit: Cochran / Library and Archives Canada, Acc. / no. 1952-010 / C-085125


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