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Be Grateful, My Soul

A passionate testament to life's worth, even in times of darkness
Norbert Čapek

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

The five voice parts in this prayerful song have identical ranges, with a lower tessitura in the alto parts.

(To learn more about Norbert Čapek's letter, see Composer's Note below.)

Be Grateful, My Soul was originally composed as part of the concert-length work, Go Out!

Excerpt from untitled poem, in a letter dated March 31, 1942.

Poem by Norbert Čapek
English translation by Zora Čapek
Adapted by Elizabeth Alexander

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.

Composer's Note: 

On March 28, 1941, Norbert Čapek, minister of the Unitarian Church in Prague, was arrested by the Gestapo, along with his daughter Zora.  They were accused of listening to foreign broadcasts and BBC transmissions; in addition, Norbert Čapek was accused of "high treason," with several of his sermons cited as evidence. 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, where he was executed in a gas chamber.

Zora's last visit to her father in Dresden was on March 31, 1942, the day before his trial.  During that visit, he gave her a letter containing a poem he wrote for her.  Several stanzas from that poem make up the the lyric of Be Grateful, My Soul.

Reviews and Responses: 

"A lovely haunting melody.  I'm thrilled you captured the spirit of my grandfather so well."  Ron Fredrick, grandson of Norbert Čapek

"I love the format for this score.  It's a beautifully put together publication, and all the information I'm looking for is in here.  I wish more composers and publishers would dedicate space in the publication for the backgrund and context of the text!"  Marion Dolan, Artistic Director, The Choir Project (Naples, FL)


Voiceprint ~ National Conference of Unitarian-Univeraslist Musicians Network (Madison, WI)   * Premiere

Choir of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville / Jason Shelton (Nashville, TN)

The College of William and Mary Women's Chorus / Jamie Bartlett (Williamsburg, VA)

Vassar College Women's Chorus / Christine R. Howlett (Poughkeepsie, NY)

Women in Harmony / Catherine Beller-McKenna (Portland, ME)





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