• Thea Musgrave
  • The Story of Harriet Tubman (1990)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Orchestrated by Julian Grant

  • fl.cl/hn/perc/pf(syn)/vn.va.vc
  • Soprano, Mezzo soprano, Tenor/Narrator, 2 Baritones, Bass, 3 Actors
  • 1 hr 30 min
  • the composer
  • English

Programme Note

A chamber music version of the full opera Harriet the Woman called Moses.

The Story of Harriet Tubman concerns an individual gifted with those rare qualities of courage and imagination which enabled her to overcome seemingly insuperable odds. She followed the North Star to freedom and then became herself a famous "conductor" on the Underground Railroad, helping many other slaves to escape. Her story is also a moving example of the age-old conflict between good and evil. Abraham Lincoln described it in very direct terms:

...slavery is the eternal struggle between two principles which have stood face to face since the beginning of time, and which will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of all humanity; the other is the divine right of kings. Slavery is the spirit that says 'You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it!' No matter what shape it comes in it is the same principle.

The remarkable seventeenth century Englishman, John Lilburne put it in another way: "For what is done to anyone may be done to everyone."

At one time or another, most of us have asked the question "but what can one person do?" Harriet Tubman is an inspiration to those of us who despair of being able to make any positive change in the world in which we live. Black people do not lack for heroes and heroines, but Harriet Tubman certainly deserves an exalted place in the history of mankind's struggle for human rights.

Thea Musgrave, 2017


Harriet has travelled North to escape slavery and is being sheltered by a Quaker station master along the Underground Railroad. Her dreams prompt her to return to the South to save her people rather than finding her true love Josiah.