The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

Pure Light beyond Light

Ancient and modern invocations of the Holy filled with reverence, mystery and illumination

Music: Elizabeth Alexander

Words: Mozarabic prayer, Hildegard von Bingen, Rob Eller-Isaacs

Three invocations of the Holy as it inspires us, animates us, and awakens us. Based on ancient and modern words from distinct religious traditions, each movement offers a uniquely vibrant voice of reverence, mystery and illumination.

Individual Movements

I. Hear Us, O Never-Failing Light (Mozarabic Easter Eve blessing)
Published separately in a Flexible Voicing Edition allowing choirs to choose to sing the song in 2, 3 or 4 parts

II. Luminous Awakening (Hildegard of Bingen)
Published separately in a form identical to that of the complete work

III. Holy One, Source of Radiance and Reason (Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs)
Published separately in a form identical to that of the complete work, as well as a 2-5 part canon

Details and Ordering Information

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Composer Notes

Composer Notes

About the texts:

I. Hear Us, O Never-Failing Light

In the 8th century the Iberian Peninsula came under Islamic rule, causing many Christians and Jews to migrate north. Among those who remained were the Mozarabic Christians, who flourished around Toledo and Córdoba. Over the next three centuries, this coexistence would lead to a dynamic blending of cultures. Many Mozarabs and Muslims intermarried, observed each others’ holidays, translated and studied each others’ sacred books, and in some cases even shared houses of worship.

Over time, the Mozarabs developed their own distinct prayers, chants and liturgy. One such ritual was the rich, evocative blessing of the Paschal candle on Easter Eve.

The Iberian Peninsula’s comfortable distance from Rome kept the Vatican’s powerful arm at bay until the 11th century, when Pope Gregory VII set out to destroy what he called “The Toledo Heresy.” Papal forces drove the Muslims out of the region and abolished all Mozarabic practices, replacing them with those of Rome. Today the Mozarabic rite is still celebrated by a handful of devotees, including a Mozarabic brotherhood in Toledo and a Poor Claire community in Madrid.

II. Luminous Awakening

Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) was a German nun, theologian, writer, composer, mystic and magistra, or spiritual teacher, who founded and led convents in Rupertsburg and Eibingen. Her plainsong settings of chants, with both original and liturgical texts, were composed for the use of her fellow nuns. Recent decades have brought a resurgent interest in her music, along with thousands of publications, performances and recordings.

III. Holy One, Source of Radiance and Reason

Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs’ small prayer “Holy One, Source of Radiance and Reason” invokes a divine presence both mysterious and rational. It also celebrates a faith that moves and works “within, among and beyond,” stretching outward from an individual’s personal spirituality in order to bless the whole world.

Rob’s Unitarian Universalist ministry was shaped by his upbringing on the south side of Chicago, his training at Starr King School for the Ministry, and his commitment to the work of churches in diverse and dynamic urban communities. His church ministries in Boston, MA and Whittier, CA were followed by three decades of co-ministry with his wife Rev. Janne Eller-Isaacs in Oakland, CA and St. Paul, MN.


Pure Light beyond Light

I. Hear us, O Never-Failing Light
Hear us, O never-failing Light,
May our souls be lamps of Thine,
Kindled and illumined by Thee.
May they shine and burn with truth,
And never go out in ashes.
May we be Thy dwelling,
Shining from Thee, shining in Thee.
May we shine and fail not;
May we ever worship Thee.
May we shine forth inwardly
And the light of perpetual faith abide in us.

Mozarabic Easter Eve blessing, translated by William Bright
Adapted by Elizabeth Alexander

II. Luminous Awakening
Holy Spirit, breath of every being,
root of every creature,
moving in all,
bathing all lives
with compassion and grace,
and caressing pain into boundless joy,
pure light beyond light
luminous awakening,
radiant, bountiful,
resurrecting everything
again and again and again.

Hildegard of Bingen
Translation from the Latin by Elizabeth Alexander
© 2016 by Elizabeth Alexander

III. Holy One, Source of Radiance and Reason
Holy One, source of radiance and reason,
Thou whose love endows and animates our lives.
We acknowledge Thy presence within, among and beyond us.

Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs
© 2015 by Rob Eller-Isaacs



Pure Light Beyond Light (complete work)
Premiere: Bethlehem Academy Choir / Jonathan Kopplin (Faribault, MN)

Movement I. Hear Us O Never-Failing Light
Choir of First Baptist Church / Shawn Potter (Ottawa, ON)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Society of Wellesley Hills / Suzanne Cartreine (Wellesley Hills, MA)
Harvard Choral Fellows / Carson Cooman (Cambridge, MA)
Lumina Women’s Ensemble (St. Paul, MN)

Movement II. Luminous Awakening
Premiere: Chamber Choir of Colonial Church of Edina / Timothy Takach (Edina, MN)
Anjali Silva / Frances Lorenz (Takoma, WA)

Movement III. Holy One, Source of Radiance and Reason
Arizona Unitarian Universalist Choral Festival / Elizabeth Alexander (Chandler, AZ)
Choir of Valley Unitarian Universalist Church / Kellie Walker (Chandler, AZ)
Harvard Choral Fellows / Carson Cooman (Cambridge, MA)