The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

Praise Wet Snow Falling Early

A meditation on darkness, transcendence and hope

Music: Elizabeth Alexander

Words: Denise Levertov

Opening with a tender appreciation of one morning’s light, this piece gradually grows into a broader meditation on darkness, transcendence and hope. With the understated sensibility of art song and an expressive piano accompaniment, this song offers a deeply moving experience for both performers and audience.

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Composer Notes

Composer Notes

In 1997 in the small town of Dryden, New York, a group of people came together in the wake of two unexplainable and horrific murders and did the only thing they could think of to do: they formed a community choir. When the conductor asked me to write a piece for them, I knew I wanted it to address good and evil on a very basic level, offering no easy answers or second-rate balm. The “Gloria” from Denise Levertov’s “Mass for Thomas Didymus” provided a lyric which wrestles with contradiction and doubt as it nevertheless makes its determined way into the heart of praise.


Gloria, from Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus

Praise wet snow
falling early.
Praise the shadow
my neighbor’s chimney casts on the tile roof
even this gray October day that should, they say,
have been golden.
the invisible sun burning beyond
the white cold sky, giving us
light and the chimney’s shadow.
god or the gods, the unknown,
that which imagined us, which stays
our hand,
our murderous hand,
and gives us
in the shadow of death,
our daily life,
and the dream still
of goodwill, of peace on earth.
flow and change, night and
the pulse of day.

Denise Levertov
© by New Directions Publishing Corporation. Reprinted by permission of the publisher



Premiere: Dryden Community Choir / Elizabeth Alexander (Dryden, NY)
American University Chamber Singers / Daniel Abraham (Washington, DC)
Boulder Chorale / Timothy Snyder (Boulder, CO)
Cantabile Chamber Chorale / Rebecca Scott (Piscataway, NJ)
Cayuga Vocal Ensemble / Tim Newton (Ithaca, NY)
Chalice Singers of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Ann Arbor / Glen Thomas Rideout (Ann Arbor, MI)
Choir of First Religious Society UU / Jay Lane (Newburyport, MA)
Choir of First Unitarian Church of Providence / Donald Dame (Providence, RI)
Choir of Jefferson Unitarian Church of Golden, CO / Keith Arnold (Golden, CO)
Choir of May Memorial Church / Glenn Kime (Syracuse, NY)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Washington County / Susan Peck (Hillsboro, OR)
Cleveland High School Choir / Steve Peter (Portland, OR)
Cornell University Sage Chapel Choir / Richard Riley (Ithaca, NY)
Denison University Chamber Singers / Bonnie Borshay (Granville, OH)
Elderhostel Choir / David King (Pingree Park, CO)
Foothills Unitarian Church Choir / David King (Fort Collins, CO)
Hildegard Festival Choir / Daniel Afonso. Hildegard Festival of Women in Music (Stanislas, CA)
Littleton Chorale / James Ramsey (Littleton, CO)
Michigan Youth Chamber Singers / Paul Rardin (Ann Arbor, MI)
Oregon Repertory Singers / Gil Seeley. Waging Peace Through Singing Project (Eugene, OR)
Syracuse Vocal Ensemble / Bob Cowles (Syracuse and Geneva, NY)
Towson State University Chorale / Arian Khaefi (Towson, MD)
University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Workshop Choir / Drew Collins. Doctoral Lecture‑Recital (Cincinnati, OH)
University of Southern Indiana Chamber Choir / Daniel Craig (Evansville, IN)