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“I Have a Dream”

TITLE: "I Have a Dream"
AUTHOR: Pamela J. Pettitt
COMPOSER: Charles Hubert Hastings Parry
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3127
SCRIPTURE: Romans 8:22; 14:19; 2 Corinthians 3:12; Hebrews 12:12-14
TOPIC: affliction; diversity; faith in action; freedom; Human Relations Day; liberation; Martin Luther King, Jr.; peace; Peace with Justice; persecution; reconciliation; struggle; tribulation; unity; vision


The Rev. Pamela J. Pettitt (b.1954-8/14/2005) was a minister in the Methodist Church of Great Britain. She entered candidacy for ministry in 1983 from Palace Avenue Methodist Church in Devon, England. Her academic degrees included a Bachelor of Education and a Bachelor of Divinity. She died in Forest Holme Hospice, Poole, Dorset, England, following a lengthy battle with cancer.

Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (2/27/1848–10/7/1918) held honorary doctorates from Cambridge, Oxford, Dublin, and Durham Universities. He authored a number of books, including: The Art of Music (1893), The Oxford History of Music, Vol. 2 (1902), Style in Musical Art (1911), and others. He was a professor of music history and composition at the Royal College of Music (1883) and that school's director (1894-1918). He was a gifted composer, leading some of his contemporaries to rate him as "the finest English composer since Henry Purcell." Among his many works are five symphonies, an opera, two oratorios (Judith, 1888, and Job, 1892), cantatas, anthems, organ works, and hymn tunes. He contributed 123 articles to the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. His best-known hymn tunes are JERUSALEM (1916, United Methodist Hymnal, no. 729) and REPTON (1888, Worship & Song, no. 3127).

Parry's oratorio, Judith, contained a contralto aria, "Long Since in Egypt's Pleasant Land," which in 1924 was arranged by Dr. George Gilbert Stocks, director of music at Repton School, and set it to the John Greenleaf Whittier poem, "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind," a marriage of text and tune that remains popular today in Great Britain.


Parry's tune is a strong tune, in a major tonality with a large range (Bb below Middle C to high Eb). There is no repetition in the melody, although there is a brief one-bar melodic sequence in phrase three. The fifth phrase echoes the first. The sixth phrase of the melody requires the repetition of the fifth phrase of text.


The hymn's title, "I Have a Dream," derives from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous speech delivered to over 200,000 civil rights supporters on August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In his speech, King called for racial equality and an end to racial discrimination. Pettitt's hymn contains phrases that are very nearly quotes from King's speech as well as more general topics of equality, justice, and freedom.

  • Stanza 1: Echoes King's speech, calling for all races and genders to stand together in peace, freedom and love.
  • Stanza 2: The light of Christ is often hidden, and the dream fades in the reality of bitter strife.
  • Stanza 3: Through persecution, war, and hate, God calls us to struggle and sacrifice for the right.
  • Stanza 4: We may dream and sing, but we should never be content with our thoughts and words; we must move on through deeds and actions.
  • Stanza 5: A prayer for God to give vision and strength to realize God's will for humanity united in peace.


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