The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

April Rain Song

A richly-textured lullaby sung by the rain itself

Music: Elizabeth Alexander

Words: Langston Hughes

April Rain Song is, in Langston Hughes’ words, a “sleep-song.” With an evocative vocal accompaniment crafted from the syllables of the word “lullaby,” this intimate song cradles listener in an experience of gentle, comforting rain.

April Rain Song is the first movement of the three movement work, Spring Revels.

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Composer Notes

Composer Notes

I composed April Rain Song when my sons were still babies and I was singing lullabies to them several times a day. I made up most of the lullabies on the spot using whatever materials presented themselves at the moment. I listed their stuffed animals, I embroidered fantastic stories, and I invented new lyrics to familiar tunes. But my favorite lullabies were created by playing around with the syllables of their names. While in the rocking chair I would spin their names into long melismas. While pacing with a tired wailer I would repeat syllables until a rhythmic pattern gave me a groove to dance to. And when the inevitable boredom of day-in-and-day-out caregiving set in I would make up outlandish rhyming ditties.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my setting of Langston Hughes’ “April Rain Song” was directly inspired by my children’s “name lullabies.” The complete text of the poem is sung by two or more soloists, while the choir itself creates a vocal accompaniment entirely from the syllables of the word “lullaby.” Starting out as a light rain, the vocal texture eventually gives way to an unhurried, gently rocking sleep-song.


April Rain Song

Let the rain kiss you.
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby.
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.

The rain makes running pools in the gutter.
The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night.

And I love the rain.

Langston Hughes
© 1932 by Alfred A. Knopf, renewed in 1960 by Langston Hughes. Reprinted by permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated, as agents for the Estate of Langston Hughes.



Premiere: Cayuga Vocal Ensemble / G. Roberts Kolb (Ithaca, NY)
Broadmoor Chamber Singers / Rebecca Kenneally (Natick, MA)
Brookline Chorus / William Cutter (Brookline, MA)
Cayuga Vocal Ensemble / Carl Johengen. (Ithaca, NY)
Chamber Singers of Iowa City / Martin Dicke (Iowa City, IA)
CoroAllegro / Jack Warren Burnam (Wilmington, DE)
From Age to Age / Peter Durow (Anoka, MN)
Hamilton College Choir / Rob Kolb (Rochester and Buffalo, NY; Cincinnati and Cleveland Heights, OH; Evanston and Kenilworth, IL)
Harmonium Choral Society / Ann Matlack. Geraldine R Dodge Poetry Festival (Waterloo Village, NJ)
Lesbian and Gay Chorus of Washington D.C. / C Paul Heins (Washington, DC)
Lively Experiment of University of Rhode Island / Mark Conley (Kingston, RI)
South Bend Chamber Singers / Nancy Menk (South Bend, IN)
Oriana Choir / Dominic Peckham. Bir Miftuħ International Music Festival (Gudja, MALTA)
Oriana Choir / Dominic Peckham. Sammy Ofer Gallery, Cutty Sark, Greenwich (London, ENGLAND)
Southern Nazarene University Chorale / Brent Ballweg (Okalahoma City, OK)
Festival Choir of Madison / Bryson Mortenson (Madison, WI)
VocalEssence / Philip Brunelle. Annual Witness Concert (Minneapolis, MN)