The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

The Gate is Open

A winter meditation on the Star that lies beyond all fear and hopelessness

Music: Elizabeth Alexander

Words: Sister Peronne Marie Thibert

The Gate is Open offers the contemplative listener a gentle unfolding, full of stillness and mystery. Its three central symbols – the gate, the woods, and the Star – are explored but not explained. Instead an exquisite invitation is issued to all who pass through this open gate, seeking that which can only be found “on the other side of fear, of hopelessness.”

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Composer Notes

Composer Notes

I was introduced to Sister Peronne Marie Thibert’s quiet poem on a handmade Christmas card. The card’s creator was a friend who knew and admired Peronne Marie, a teacher of French at Visitation School in nearby Mendota Heights. During her sixty years as a nun, Peronne Marie also wrote numerous works of poetry, prose and translation.

As I was composing this song I discovered one other important thing about her. Whenever I told a local person that I was setting one of her poems to music, their face was quite apt to spontaneously light up with joy! While it can be a trite cliché to say that someone “touched many lives,” in Peronne Marie’s case this was clearly very true.


The gate is open
dare we enter
the snow looks heavy, deep,
the woods, dark, deeper still

the Star, we’re told,
is somewhere beyond
on the other side of fear,
of hopelessness

The gate is open
dare we enter
dare believe…

Sister Peronne Marie Thibert
© 2004 by Sister Peronne Marie Thibert. Reprinted by permission of the author



Premiere: South Metro Chorale / Mark Bilyeu (Shakopee and Eagan, MN)
Carrie Henneman Shaw, Laura Betinis Healy, Nicholas Chalmers, Tim Takach (St. Paul, MN)
South Bend Chamber Singers / Nancy Menk (South Bend and South Haven, MI)