Samuel Barber was a prolific song composer, producing over 100 works for voice and piano. “Sure on This Shining Night” is one of the composer’s most famous and most frequently programmed contributions to the genre.
“Sure on This Shining Night” is the third song in the collection entitled Four Songs, which was published by G. Schirmer in 1940 as Barber’s op. 13. Unlike the composer’s earlier collection of Three Songs, op. 10, in which all three songs are set to poetry by James Joyce, Barber’s Four Songs features the texts of four different poets. The text for “Sure on this Shining Night” was based on an untitled lyric from James Agee’s first published collection of poems, Permit Me Voyage(1934). Barber eventually met and formed a lasting friendship with the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, but that was not until after he set Agee’s Knoxville, Summer of 1915 in 1948.