Highlands Invocation


Henry Leck stands as one of the leading figures in the youth choir movement of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. During that time, he founded and built the renowned Indianapolis Children’s Choir (ICC) into one of the most remarkable community youth choir organizations in North America. By 2015, ICC had blossomed into an extraordinary program serving singers between preschool and 18 years old from 300+ schools throughout the Indianapolis metro area as well as satellite choirs and service to nearby rural communities.

In 2015, Henry invited a group of his composer friends to each write a piece to be performed at the 2016 Thirtieth Anniversary Concert of ICC. It was also his farewell concert as he retired and passed the baton to his successor. It is a tribute to Henry’s leadership, musicianship and entrepreneurship that ICC continues to thrive and have a profound impact on the arts in Indiana and the broader choral community of the world.

When Henry asked if I would compose a piece for the celebration, I could think of no better way to thank him for his influence in my life as a composer and choral conductor than to say yes.

I began looking for the right text for the occasion by focusing on words of blessing. I was introduced to a fascinating collection of  “prayers, hymns, charms, incantations, blessings, …’ titled Carmina Gadelica. Alexander Archibald Carmichael (1832–1912)  gathered the collection in the Gaelic-speaking regions of Scotland between 1860 and 1909 and translated them from the original Gaelic oral tradition to English. Although his methods are regarded as less rigorous than modern scholarship standards require, Carmichael’s effort to preserve vast amounts of folklore, rites, songs and other cultural observations resulted in several published volumes of his findings.

An invocation is a type of prayer asking for help, protection, or spiritual presence in a ceremony or in worship. It may be directed to God or another higher power. The text for Highlands Invocation is the third verse of a poem titled The Guardian Angel, to whom the poet is appealing.

I hope this expression of the universal desire for guidance and light provides moments for reflection and connection for your choir and audience alike.

Peter Robb

Read more Read less
Voicing: SSAA
Duration: 4'10"
Level: M
Instrumentation: Piano

For choral teachers and directors looking for beautiful writing for upper voices, consider Peter Robb’s “Highlands Invocation.”


Judith Herrington
Founder/Artistic Director
Tacoma Youth Chorus



Be thou a bright flame before me,
Be thou a guiding star above me,
Be thou a smooth path below me,
And be a kindly shepherd behind me,
To-day, to-night, and for ever.

The text for Highlands Invocation is excerpted from a larger poem (below) titled The Guardian Angel.

Thou angel of God who hast charge of me
From the dear Father of mercifulness,
The shepherding kind of the fold of the saints
To make round about me this night;

Drive from me every temptation and danger,
Surround me on the seas of unrighteousness,
And in the narrows, crooks, and straits,
Keep thou my coracle, keep it always.

Be thou a bright flame before me,
Be thou a guiding star above me,
Be thou a smooth path below me,
And be a kindly shepherd behind me,
To-day, to-night, and for ever.

I am tired and I a stranger,
Lead thou me to the land of angels;
For me it is time to go home
To the court of Christ, to the peace of heaven.

Read more Read less