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Grace

A reflection on the mystery and bounty of grace
Poet/Lyricist: 
Elizabeth Alexander

A reflection on the mystery and bounty of grace — that profound force transcending all transgressions, prejudices, and creeds. With lyrics grounded in the realities of life and an understated piano accompaniment, this intimate, conversational song is rooted in quiet compassion.

Vocal Ranges: Low: g-b'  Medium: b'-d"  High: c'-e"

A NOTE ABOUT THE LYRICS: If you purchased this song prior to October 2018, your score may have different lyrics in the second verse. It’s completely up to you about whether you wish to sing the original or revised lyrics, which are reprinted below.

The initial reason for the revision was that the second verse’s rhyme scheme was different from that of the first verse, and not nearly as elegant. I knew about this inconsistency even when I wrote the song, but I let it slide, and after a while I rarely noticed this weakness in the song. But every once in a while someone whose opinion I respected would mention it…and it would start bugging me again. During the rewrite I was happy to be able to improve the lyric in several other ways as well. In the revised lyrics, “two people” don’t just “stay together” – now they “keep their love alive” – a larger feat altogether! In addition, my generic “woman” and “man” are now more deeply layered souls: “the wounded” and “the down-and-out.”

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4' ME SEA-127-00 Sheet Music
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Grace

Elizabeth  Alexander

It’s how I hold my head up after I have missed the mark,
It’s how I know I’m loved when things are dark,
It’s how I stand when I am feeling small,
How I stand again after a fall –
It’s how I’m even standing here at all:
Some people call it Grace.

Falling down like rain on everyone,
So warm, like greetings from the sun,
Like a gentle snow it’s making every surface glow.
And I know I didn’t earn it:
That’s how I know it’s Grace.

It’s how two people keep their love alive through thick and thin,
It’s how a broken people sing again,
It’s the wounded set aside their blame,
How the down-and-out cast off their shame,
It’s how I know that holy is my name -
We’re all the same to Grace.

Falling down like rain on everyone,
So warm, like greetings from the sun,
Like a gentle snow it’s making every surface glow.
And I didn’t have to earn it.
No, I didn’t have to earn it:

I didn’t have to earn it through a word or through a deed,
Or through a trial or through a creed,
Or by denying what I need.
I only had to reach out my hand, and it was there.
But still it cannot take away the truths I have to face.
Oh no, that’s not how it works with Grace.

Falling down like rain on everyone,
So warm, like greetings from the sun,
Like a gentle snow it’s making every surface glow.
And I know I didn’t earn it.
No, I didn’t have to earn it.
I didn’t have to earn it:
That’s how I know it’s Grace.

Composer's Note: 

It took me five years to write Grace.  Every few months I returned to the song and eked out another couple of lines, but something essential was always missing.  Grace felt infinitely immense and infinitely intimate at the same time, making it impossible for me to get my hands around this powerful concept.

The very word “grace” came with cultural baggage.  Springing from the same Latin root which brought us words like “gratitude,” “gratis” and “gratuity,” grace is all about generosity freely bestowed, irrespective of whether that bounty has been earned.  But in our time, grace has become so closely associated with Christian doctrine that many people define the word narrowly – as something bestowed only by God, and granted only to those who hold certain beliefs.  I wanted my song to express how universal grace is, a gift and blessing far too precious to be limited to a chosen few.

However, my biggest challenge was that my lyrics kept making grace sound like a one-size-fits-all solution to all problems or a magical cure for all losses.  I couldn’t manage to balance the essential beauty of grace with the brutal heartbreaks of life.  But in my grieving days after the sudden death of a young family friend, I returned a final time to my draft.  And I finally found a way to sing about grace in a way that was both awestruck and real.

Read more about the composition of this song.

Reviews and Responses: 

“So excruciatingly beautiful, Elizabeth… I rejoice with you in the beauty of Grace.” Deborah Simpkin King, Artistic Director and Founder, Schola Cantorum on Hudson

“A wonderful, inspiring, heart-warming performance... I felt truly moved! And honestly, experiencing this music I felt encouraged in my own musical walking through the soul.” LIz Lupien, Owner and Teacher at The Piano Garden, Graduate of University of Spiritual Healing and Sufism

"Grace is from Grace, Elizabeth....through you.  Made me cry, so beautiful!!" Kelly Blackmarr, Music Director Unitarian Universalist Church of Savannah

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