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Shelter This Candle

Evocative vocal effects creating a world of utter darkness and dazzling light
Commissioned by VOICES Chorale / Lyn Ransom
Edna St. Vincent Millay

This atmospheric and evocative work creates a world of dazzling light, utter darkness, desolate solitude and joyful delight.  Sounds of wind and falling tears are woven throughout, with haunting whispers and vocal effects.  The song opens and closes with tender repetitions of the phrase “shelter this candle,” Edna St. Vincent Millay’s reminder to protect the bonds of community during our darkest times.

The chamber ensemble plays a major role in this piece, with a significant introduction and dramatic interludes.

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Look Listen Instrumentation/Voicing Duration Level Item Delivery Method Price Quantity SATB, oboe, horn, cello, harp - Conductor's Score
15' A SEA-080-00 Sheet Music
$12.00 SATB, oboe, horn, cello, harp - Conductor's Score
15' A SEA-080-00D Licensed PDF
SATB, oboe, horn, cello, harp - Choral Part
15' A SEA-080-01 Sheet Music
SATB, oboe, horn, cello, harp - Choral Part
15' A SEA-080-01D Licensed PDF
SATB, oboe, horn, cello, harp - Instrumental Parts
15' A SEA-080-02 Sheet Music
SATB, oboe, horn, cello, harp - Instrumental Parts
(Click on PDF icon to download parts)
15' A SEA-080-02F Free PDF

To The Wife Of a Sick Friend

Poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Shelter this candle from the wind.
Hold it steady. In its light
The cave wherein we wander lost
Glitters with frosty stalactite,
Blossoms with mineral rose and lotus,
Sparkles with crystal moon and star,
Till a man would rather be lost than found:
We have forgotten where we are.

Shelter this candle. Shrewdly blowing
Down the cave from a secret door
Enters our only foe, the wind.
Hold it steady. Lest we stand,
Each in a sudden, separate dark,
The hot wax spattered upon your hand,
The smoking wick in my nostrils strong,
The inner eyelid red and green
For a moment yet with moons and roses,—
Then the unmitigated dark.
Alone, alone in a terrible place,
In utter dark without a face,
With only the dripping of the water on the stone,
And the sound of your tears, and the taste of my own.

Composer's Note: 

Millay's dark but candlelit cavern is nothing less than our own beautiful but imperfect world, where our losses and hardships may leave us overwhelmed by grief or despair.  During times like these, leaving the cave is not an option - however, sheltering our communal candle is.

Reviews and Responses: 

"Using text from Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem "To the Wife of a Sick Friend," Alexander managed to sculpt light in sound, evoking the troubled winds of fate that threaten the flickering candle of life.  The piece begins with the instrumental quartet, building steadily with each instrument weaving in and out of the texture until suddenly, they are joined by the whispering chorus characterized as the threatening wind.  The [Kansas City] Chorale's rock-steady technique and vocal unity made their entrance in this piece and the subsequent clear-toned vocalization some of the most exquisite moments of the concert."  - KC Metropolis (Kansas City, MO)

"[Shelter This Candle] yokes a somber Edna St. Vincent Millay poem to gentle, ethereal music that leaves one feeling inspired and peaceful." - Kansas City Star (Kansas City, MO)


VOICES Chorale - Lyn Ransom, conductor   * Premiere

Kansas City Chorale - Charles Bruffy, conductor (Kansas City, MO)


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