The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

Infant Holy, Infant Lowly

A beloved Polish carol with two different arrangements: “Soulful Close Harmony” and “Classical Chorale”

Music: Polish carol, arr. Elizabeth Alexander

Words: Traditional, additional lyrics by Elizabeth Alexander

Two different a cappella arrangements of the beloved Polish carol Infant Holy, Infant Lowly. The “Soulful Close Harmony” version is caressed with folk inflections and pentatonic embellishments. The “Classical Chorale” version contain rich inner voices and poignant suspensions.

In both arrangements the traditional English lyrics by Edith M. Reid are followed by an original third verse which speaks to the blessing ushered forth by all births.


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Composer Notes

Composer Notes

I created what I now call my “Classical Chorale” arrangement of Infant Holy, Infant Lowly in 1997 for a Christmas service at my church, where it was performed by a trio of high school girls. Revisiting the same carol twenty years later, I wondered how this Polish carol might be interpreted in the Carolinas and Appalachian Ohio where I spent my childhood. This thought experiment led to the creation of the “Soulful Close Harmony” arrangement!

In my own Unitarian Universalist faith, Christmas is a time to celebrate the inherent sacredness and worth of all children everywhere. For this reason I crafted an original third verse which speaks to the holy potential in births of all children everywhere.


Infant Holy, Infant Lowly

Infant holy, infant lowly,
For his bed a cattle stall.
Oxen lowing, Little knowing,
Christ the babe is Lord of all.
Swift are winging, angels singing,
Noels ringing, Tidings bringing,
Christ the babe is Lord of all.

Flocks were sleeping, Shepherds keeping
Vigil til the morning new.
Saw the glory, Heard the story
Tidings of a gospels true.
Thus rejoicing, Free from sorrow,
Praises voicing, Greet the morrow,
Christ the babe was born for you.

Long-awaited, celebrated,
Babes are born each day and night.
Precious strangers laid in mangers
Or on bedding clean and bright.
New hearts beating, Old hearts warming,
Blessed greeting all-transforming,
Every birth brings love’s pure light.

Verses 1 and 2 by Edith M. G. Reed (1921)
Verse 3 by Elizabeth Alexander

Verse 3 © 2018 by Elizabeth Alexander



Classical Chorale
Premiere: Choir of First Unitarian Church / Elizabeth Alexander (Ithaca, NY)
Choir of Como Park Lutheran Church / Tom Ferry (St. Paul, MN)
Choir of First Unitarian Church of Ithaca / Jennifer Haywood (Ithaca, NY)
Choir of Jefferson Unitarian Church of Golden, CO / Keith Arnold (Golden, CO)
Choir of Seosung Church of Daegu, South Korea / Samuel Choi (Daegu, SOUTH KOREA)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento / Keith Atwater (Sacramento, CA)
Choir of Unitarian-Universalist Church of Annapolis / Betsy Jo Angebranndt (Annapolis, MD)
Peterborough Children’s Choir (Peterborough, NH)
Southwest Women’s Chorus / Bill Paisner (Sun City and Timecula, CA)

Soulful Close Harmony
Premiere: Lumina Treble Ensemble of Guilford College / Wendy Looker (Greensboro, NC)
Daughters of Zion / Anne Matlack (Madison, NJ)
East Tennessee Belles of East Tennessee State University / Matthew Potterton (Johnson City, TN)
First Parish Church in Orleans / Kaeza Fearn (Orleans, MA)
Lumina Women’s Ensemble (St. Paul and Minneapolis, MN)
North Notes of White Bear Lake High School / Eliza Snortland (White Bear Lake, MN)
The Mistletones / Becky Thomas (Hopkinton, NH)