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When the Song of the Angels Is Stilled

Pencil drawing by Jonathan Machen.
Used by permission of the artist.

A rhythmic and relevant best-seller about the true “work of Christmas”
Commissioned by Vox Femina of Los Angeles / Iris Levine [SSAA version]
Commissioned by Vancouver Men's Chorus / Willi Zwozdesky [TTBB version]
Named one of Creator Magazine's "Honored 10" Anthems
Howard Thurman

A rhythmically vital setting of Howard Thurman’s poem about the true “work of Christmas,” this piece lends a powerful relevance to Christmas which extends far beyond Epiphany. When the Song of the Angels is Stilled is a seasonal favorite at both sacred and secular events, as well as a call for social justice in our time.

Note: SEA-062-05 (SATB and flute) includes a 14-measure introduction and a slightly altered conclusion which are not in SEA-062-00 (SATB a cappella).  Otherwise, the choral parts in the two versions are identical. Mixed choruses wishing to perform this piece with flute should order a copy of SEA-062-05 for each singer.




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Look Listen Instrumentation/Voicing Duration Level Item Delivery Method Price Quantity SATB a cappella - Choral Score
3'00" M SEA-062-00 Sheet Music
$3.00 SATB a cappella - Choral Score
3'00" M SEA-062-00D Licensed PDF
$2.00 TTBB a cappella - Choral Score
3'00" M SEA-062-02 Sheet Music
$3.00 TTBB a cappella - Choral Score
3'00" M SEA-062-02D Licensed PDF
$2.00 SSAA a cappella - Choral Score
3'00" M SEA-062-04 Sheet Music
$3.00 SSAA a cappella - Choral Score
3'00" M SEA-062-04D Licensed PDF
$2.00 SATB, flute - Choral Score
4'00" M SEA-062-05 Sheet Music
$3.00 SATB, flute - Choral Score
4'00" M SEA-062-05D Licensed PDF
$2.00 SATB, flute - Flute Part
(Click on PDF icon to download part)
4'00" M SEA-062-06D Free PDF

The Work of Christmas

Howard Thurman

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

Composer's Note: 

I am amazed at the variety of recordings I've received of this work, and how well this piece adapts to vastly different tempos and tone qualities.  Of course, as the composer, I had an original vision for how this piece would be sung!  But as more and more choirs sing this song, I have come to welcome these different interpretations as a sign that people are making my song — and Howard Thurman's visionary words — their own.

Reviews and Responses: 

"...The most memorable moment might almost have been an afterthought: the second encore, received by a crowd of about 300, who seemed reluctant to leave at the end of the evening.  With delicacy and sincerity, the singers turned silence into stillness with Elizabeth Alexander's contemplative and hopeful When the Song of the Angels Is Stilled, set to Howard Thurman's poignant text."  — The Wednesday Journal (Chicago, IL)

"Here's a lovely, homophonic anthem...and what a text! Very well done." Creator Magazine

"Woo hoo!  Well done.  I love the new ending — just the ecstatic and hopeful feeling I was hoping for." Jonathan Miller, Artistic director of Chicago A Cappella (Chicago, IL)

"I want you to know that When the Song of the Angels Is Stilled was my "WOW" moment for this Christmas season.  What a beautiful poem by Howard Thurman and what a wonderful piece of music... and fantastically performed by Chicago A Cappella!!!  Thank you for your Christmas gift!" Linda McConnell, audience member (Geneva, IL)

"Thank you for this beautiful piece.  The choir loves it and it makes me cry."  Beth Norton, Music Director, First Parish in Concord (Concord, MA)

"This is one of the most beautiful and moving Christmas songs I ever heard and/or had a chance to work on.  Thank you so very much." Galina Barskaya, Music Director, Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church (Canoga Park, CA)

"Your setting does a beautiful job supporting and enhancing the text without getting in the way of the message.  In fact, it brings life to the message.  It was OUR honor to sing it [at the Michigan School Vocal Music Association Conference]."   Paul Eschmann, Director of Choirs, Valley Lutheran High School (Saginaw, MI)


Choir of Unitarian Church of Harrisburg / Sparkie Radcliffe (Harrisburg, PA)  * Premiere    
Brookfield Central High School Choir / Phillip Olson (Elm Grove, WI)
Camerata Singers of Muskegon / Floyd Farmer (Newburyport, MI)
Candlelight Chorale of First Religious Society / Jay Lane (Newburyport, MA)
Chamber Singers of United Church of Chapel Hill / Milo Fryling (Chapel Hill, NC)
Chancel Choir of Myers Park Baptist Church / Jonathan Crutchfield, (Charlotte, NC)
Chicago A Cappella / Jonathan Miller (Oak Park, Naperville, Evanston and Chicago, IL)
Choir of Camrose United Church / Darryl Dewalt (Calgary, Alberta, CANADA)
Choir of Christ the King Lutheran Church / Laura Stransky (Durango, CO)
Choir of College Street Congregational Church / Yona Yellin (Burlington, VT)
Choir of Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church / Galina Barskaya (Canoga Park, CA)
Choir of First Parish Church of Weston / William Sano (Weston, MA)
Choir of First Parish in Concord / Beth Norton  (Concord, MA)
Choir of First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church / Emma Jean Moulton (Milton, MA)
Choir of First Presbyterian Church of Delaware / Ruth Rabby (Delaware, OH)
Choir of First Unitarian Church of Ann Arbor / Sarah Albright (Ann Arbor, MI)
Choir of Grace Baptist Church / Wanda Fennell (Richmond, VA)
Choir of Hennepin Methodist Church / Bill Mathis (Minneapolis, MN)
Choir of Jefferson Unitarian Church / Keith Arnold  (Golden, CO)
Choir of Kollupitya Methodist Church (Colombo, SRI LANKA)
Choir of Seosung Church / Samuel Choi (Daegu, SOUTH KOREA)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville / Ruth Lewis (Gainsville, FL)
Choir of New England Congregational Church / Ina Heup (Aurora, IL)
Choir of Plymouth Congregational Church / Philip Brunelle (Minneapolis, MN)
Choir of Saint Peters by the Sea Presbyterian Church / Jean Gothold (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA)
Choir of Saint Peter's Church of Philadelphia / Peter Hopkins (Philadelphia, PA)
Choir of Saint Peter's Episcopal Cathedral / Edward Barbieri (Saint Petersburg, FL)
Choir of Second Unitarian Church of Chicago / Blake Adams (Chicago, IL)
Choir of Sierra Foothills Unitarian Church / Christopher Winkler (Auburn, CA)
Choir of The Church of the Messiah / Rick Rosen  (Gwynedd, PA )
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis / Betsy Jo Angebrandt (Annapolis, MD)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville / Ruth Lewis (Gainsville, FL)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Church / Ray Elliot  (Corvallis, OR)
Choir of Valley Unitarian Universalist Church / Kellie Walker (Chandler, AZ)
Choir of Williamsburg Unitarian Universalists / Jamie Bartlett (Williamsburg, VA)
Community Choir of Detroit's Noel Night ~ Midtown Detroit's Cultural Center (Detroit, MI)
Concordia University Christus Choir / David Mennicke ~ Orchestra Hall (Minneapolis, MN)
Deep River Community Choir / Bobbi Thompson (Detroit, MI)
Kellogg Singers / Iris Levine ~ California State Polytechnic University (Pasadena, CA)
Reading Choral Society / Peter Hopkins (West Reading, PA)
Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Milford / Carolyn McCreary (Littleton, MA)
University of Manitoba Combined Choirs / Elroy Friesen (Winnipeg, Manitoba, CANADA)
University of Washington University Chorale / Giselle Wyers (Seattle, WA)
Utah All-State Choir / Geoffrey Boers, conductor ~ Mormon Tabernacle (Salt Lake City, UT)
Valley Lutheran High School "Golden Voice" / Paul Eschmann ~ Michigan School Vocal Music Association (Saginaw, MI)

SATB, flute:
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Congregation of St Johnsbury
/ Steve Finner (St Johnsbury, VT)   * Premiere
Chapel Hill Community Chorus / Sue Klausmeyer (Chapel Hill, NC)
Choir of North Shore Unitarian Church / Wayland Rogers (Deerfield, IL)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Rochester / Joe Mish (Rochester, MN)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Spartanburg / Keith Plumley (Spartanburg, SC)
Choir of Unity Church-Unitarian / Ruth Palmer (Saint Paul, MN)

Vox Femina Los Angeles
/ Iris Levine (Pasadena, CA)  * Premiere
Centre Women's Voices / Barbara Hall ~ Centre College (Danville, KY)

Vancouver Men's Chorus
/ Willi Zwozdesky  ~ (Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, CANADA)  * Premiere
Canadian Men's Chorus / Arlene Jillard (Toronto, ON, CANADA)
Choir of Home Moravian Church / Lynda Alexander (Winston Salem, NC)
Cincinnati Men's Chorus / Patrick O Coyle (Cincinnati, OH)
Cordus Mundi / Rick Rosen (Gwynned, PA)
De Profundis / David Poole (Albuquerque, NM)
Male Ensemble Willamette / Paul Klemme ~ Willamette University (Salem, OR)
Ohio University Singers / Peter Jarjisian ~ Ohio University (Athens, OH)
San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus / Katherine McGuire (San Francisco, CA)
The Plymouth IV Mens Quartet ~ Plymouth Congregational Church (Minneapolis, MN)
The Singing Men of Ohio / Peter Jarjisian  ~ Goucher College (Baltimore, MD)


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