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In the Lonely Midnight

"Shepherds in the Fields" by Joan Bohlig. Used by permission of the artist. www.bohliggraphics.com

A new setting of a classic and relevant Christmas lyric
Commissioned by Faith Partners Program of the American Composers Forum [Chamber version]
Commissioned by Marietta College Concert Choir / Daniel Monek [Orchestral version]
Poet/Lyricist: 
Theodore Chickering Williams

Theodore Chickering Williams' elegant stanzas, as sung to the hymn tune Lyndhurst, were well known in the late 19th and early 20th century. This graceful new setting of Williams' classic poem reflects the poignancy of the lyrics, with all their darkness, loss, warmth, and hope for our time.

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Chorus & Orchestra (1111, 2100, harp, perc, timp, strings) - Choral Part
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Chorus & Orchestra (1111, 2100, harp, perc, timp, strings) - Choral Part
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Licensed PDF

In the Lonely Midnight

Poem by Theodore Chickering Williams

In the lonely midnight on the wintry hill,
Shepherds heard the angels singing, “Peace, good will.”
Listen, O ye weary, to the angels’ song,
Unto to you the tidings of great joy belong.

Though in David’s city angels sing no more,
Love makes angel music on earth’s darkest shore;
Though no heavenly glory meet your wondering eyes,
Love can make your dwelling bright as paradise.

Though the Child of Mary, sent from heaven on high,
In His manger cradle may no longer lie,
Love is King forever, though the proud world scorn;
If ye truly seek Him, Christ your King is born.

Composer's Note: 

Although the “Christmas story” is a cherished and age-old tale, and central to understanding Christianity, I’m not particularly interested in writing holiday music which invokes the story’s well-known images in a naive fashion.  A lot of Christmas music makes reference to a sky full of angels and a baby in a manger, tacks on a couple of “Gloria in Excelsis Deos”, and calls it a night.  (Yawn…)

But Theodore Chickering Williams’ beautifully crafted lyric is really about loss, despair, love and hope.  I am especially moved by the line “Though in David’s city angels sing no more, love makes angel music on Earth’s darkest shore.”  It makes me think about places in the world which are plagued by war, poverty and habitual violence – and yet even in the midst of all that, we can be agents of love, becoming angels in today’s world.  Williams’ message transcends all Christmas clichés, allowing it to be powerful not only for Christians, but for people of all faiths.

Performers: 

Choir of Watertown Evangelical Free Church - Merijo Strandquist, conductor (Watertown, MN)   * Premiere
Choir of Arlington Street Church - Mark Buckles, conductor (Boston, MA)
Choir of First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati - Jera Cox, conductor (Cincinnati, OH)
Choir of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Des Moines - Moira Leu, conductor (Des Moines, IA)

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