The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

Be Grateful, My Soul

A passionate testament to life’s worth, even when facing adversity and oppression

Music: Elizabeth Alexander

Words: Norbert Čapek

In 1941 Unitarian minister Norbert Čapek was imprisoned by the Gestapo, tried for treason, and executed despite being found innocent. A poem from his final letter from prison, cast here as musical outpouring of gratitude and acceptance, is a passionate testament to life’s worth and beauty even when shrouded in darkness.

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Composer Notes

Composer Notes

On March 28, 1941 Norbert Čapek, minister of the Unitarian Church in Prague, was arrested by the Gestapo, along with his daughter Zora. In addition to being accused of listening to foreign broadcasts, several of Norbert Čapek’s sermons led him to be singled out for “high treason.” Zora was sent to a forced labor camp, from which she was subsequently released. Although Norbert was found innocent of the treason charge, the Gestapo ignored the court’s recommendation, sending him first to Dachau and later to Hartheim Castle in Alkoven, Austria. There he was executed in a gas chamber along with 300 other clergy over the course of the war.

Zora’s last visit to her father was on March 31, 1942 in Dresden, the day before his trial. During that visit, he gave her a letter containing a poem he wrote for her. The prayerful stanzas from the core of that poem were adapted to create the lyric of Be Grateful, My Soul.


Poem in a letter written from Hartheim Castle, March 31, 1942

Even though a thousand times disappointed
and fallen in the fight,
even thought faced with a world which now seems worthless,
I have lived amidst eternity.
Be grateful, my soul,
Be grateful, my soul,
I have lived amidst eternity.

Norbert Čapek

English translation by Zora Čapek
Adapted by Elizabeth Alexander

© by Ron Frederick. Reprinted by permission



Premiere: Voiceprint. Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network National Conference (Madison, WI)
Aurelia of Webster University / Stuart Chapman Hill (St. Louis, MO)
Canadian Mennonite University Women’s Chorus / Janet Brennaman (Winnipeg, MB CANADA)
Choir of First Unitarian Society in Newton / Anne Watson Born (Newton, MA)
Choir of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville / Jaie Tiefenbrunn (Nashville, TN)
Choir of UU Fellowship of the Peninsula / Janet Gecowets (Newport News, VA)
Ladies Night Out Women’s Chorus / Lucy Allen Tenenbaum (Proctor Union, Wallingford, West Rutland & Castleton, VT)
New York School Music Association All-State Women’s Chorus / Christine Howlett (Peru, NY)
The College of William and Mary Women’s Chorus / Jamie Bartlett. Family Weekend Concert (Williamsburg, VA)
Vassar College Women’s Chorus / Christine R. Howlett (Poughkeepsie, NY)
West Chester University Cantari Donne / Ryan Kelly (West Chester, PA)
Women in Harmony / Catherine Beller-McKenna (Portland, ME)