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 contemplative listeners a gentle unfolding, trembling with stillness and mystery. Its three central symbols – the gate, the woods, and the Star – are observed but not analyzed, examined but not explained. This intimate winter song makes no bold declarations but instead offers a small, powerful invitation: to enter deeply into what lies “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 contemplative poem “The Gate is Open” on a handmade Christmas card. The card’s creator was my friend Margaret Countryman, who knew and admired Peronne Marie’s work as a poet, writer, translator, and beloved French teacher at Visitation School in Mendota Heights, MN.

Margaret was certain I would love the poem. She was right.

In 2008 I created a multilayered choral setting of “The Gate is Open” in which Peronne Marie’s words emerged from a sea of overlapping Gregorian chants. Although the piece was an impressive “sound experience,” I didn’t find it personally moving. There was so much going on that I found it hard to connect with its deeply personal questions. Ten years later I returned to “The Gate is Open” and stripped away everything unessential. With the vulnerable heart of the song no longer obscured, it now breathed with tenderness and life.


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)