You are here

In the Lonely Midnight

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]
Theodore Chickering Williams

Theodore Chickering Williams’ lyric “In the Lonely Midnight” was first published in 1914, on the eve of World War I. The profound anguish and hope poured into his timeless verses still resonates in our time.

Over the years, “In the Lonely Midnight” has been sung to the Victorian era hymn tunes Lonely Midnight and Lyndhurst, as well as to the plainsong chant Adore te Devote. Elizabeth Alexander’s modern setting brings grace and poignancy to Williams’ heartbreakingly tender words, with all their darkness, loss, resilience and joy.

At the time of first publication, Williams was severely weakened by pneumonia and facing what would be his last Christmas. Although he did not live to see the end of the war, his poem offers a promise that love will triumph in the end.

Licensed PDFs are delivered by email. Sheet Music & CDs ship by UPS or USPS.
Orders are processed within 1-3 business days.
*More FAQs about Ordering Music*

Look Listen Instrumentation/Voicing Duration Level Item Delivery Method Price Quantity SATB, piano - Choral Score
4'00" ME SEA-108-00 Sheet Music
$3.00 SATB, piano - Choral Score
4'00" ME SEA-108-00D Licensed PDF
$2.00 Chorus & Orchestra (1111, 2100, harp, perc, timp, strings) - Full Score
4'00'' M SEA-108-01 Sheet Music
$12.00 Chorus & Orchestra (1111, 2100, harp, perc, timp, strings) - Full Score
4'00" M SEA-108-01D Licensed PDF
Chorus & Orchestra (1111, 2100, harp, perc, timp, strings) - Choral Part
4'00" M SEA-108-02 Sheet Music
Chorus & Orchestra (1111, 2100, harp, perc, timp, strings) - Choral Part
4'00" M SEA-108-02D 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 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.

*A note about the second verse: Well-meaning modern editors have sometimes changed the lyric to “earth’s farthest shore,” assuming that the original lyric referred to Africa. Given that this lyric was written while war was spreading like wildfire throughout Europe (not to mention the second line’s reference to “peace”), it is highly unlikely that Williams had the so-called “dark continent” on his mind. More likely, “earth’s darkest shore” would have spoken to the carnage of what we now call World War I.

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.


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)

Looking for similar titles?
These links will allow you to view all titles in a particular category!
Choral/Vocal Categories: 
Choral Voicings: 
Accompaniment Type: 
Religious Traditions: 
Cultural Influences: 

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer