If

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

SATB (div.) choir and piano

Winner, 2017-18 Lancaster-Lebanon Music Educators Association Composition Contest

Available through Santa Barbara Music Publishing, Inc. (SBMP 1500)

When I graduated from Luther College in 2000, my parents gave me a congratulatory card featuring Rudyard Kipling’s poem If. I saved and revisited the card many times, occasionally scribbling musical ideas and other thoughts on it. Eventually, fifteen years later, those musical ideas blossomed into this musical setting. The poem speaks about what it takes to be a good person, despite the obstacles life throws at us. Some of the values I hold most dear—tenacity, courage, stoicism, and humility—are the same values that Rudyard Kipling speaks of in the poem.


In writings late in his life, Kipling disclosed the inspirational source for If as Sir Leander Starr Jameson, a British colonial known for embodying treasured Victorian characteristics like fortitude and self-restraint.Kipling likely wrote the poem in 1895 for his soon-to-be-born son John, glorifying Jameson’s character traits in a way to impart some future fatherly advice upon his son on how to “be a man.” Tragically, John would not live long into adulthood–he died in 1915 at the age of 18 as a member of the Irish Guards in the Battle of Loos.

Featuring a heart-felt piano accompaniment, straight-forward homophonic choral parts, and effective dynamic shadings, this setting of If will push the dramatic and expressive capabilities of your choir to their fullest.

If - LVC Concert Choir
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Copyright M. Erpelding, 2020