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In the Lonely Midnight

A new setting of a classic and relevant Christmas lyric
Theodore Chickering Williams
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’ 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.

Item Instrumentation/Voicing Duration Level Audio Peruse Delivery Method (Print vs. Digital) Price Quantity
SEA-108-00 SATB, piano - Choral Score
3' ME Sheet Music $3.00
SEA-108-00DEL SATB, piano - Choral Score
3' ME Licensed PDF $3.00
SEA-108-01 Chorus & Orchestra (1111, 2100, harp, perc, timp, strings) - Full Score
3' M Sheet Music $20.00
SEA-108-01DEL Chorus & Orchestra (1111, 2100, harp, perc, timp, strings) - Full Score
4' M Licensed PDF $20.00
SEA-108-02 Chorus & Orchestra (1111, 2100, harp, perc, timp, strings) - Choral Part
3' M Sheet Music $3.00
SEA-108-02DEL Chorus & Orchestra (1111, 2100, harp, perc, timp, strings) - Choral Part
3' M Licensed PDF $3.00

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.

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.


SATB and orchestra
Premiere: Marietta College Concert Choir / Daniel Monek (Marietta, OH)

SATB and piano
Premiere: Choir of Watertown Evangelical Free Church / Merijo Strandquist (Watertown, MN)
Choir of Arlington Street Church / Mark Buckles (Boston, MA)
Choir of Buxmont Unitarian Universalist Fellowship / John Hook (Warrington, PA)
Choir of First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati / Jera Cox (Cincinnati, OH)
Choir of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Des Moines / Moira Leu (Des Moines, IA)
Choir of Linden Hills United Church of Christ / Naomi Karstad (Linden Hills, MN)
Choir of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church Choir / Daniel Monek (Durham, NC)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lansing / Lyle H Brown (Lansing, MI)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook / Janet Hanson (Stony Brook, NY)

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