The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

When the Song of the Angels Is Stilled

A rhythmic and relevant best-seller about the true “work of Christmas”

Music: Elizabeth Alexander

Words: Howard Thurman

A rhythmically vital setting of Howard Thurman’s poem about the true “work of Christmas,” this piece lends a powerful relevance to Christmas which extends far beyond Epiphany. When the Song of the Angels is Stilled is a seasonal favorite at both sacred and secular events, as well as a call for social justice in our time.

Note: The “SATB and flute” version of this song includes an introduction and coda which are not in the SATB a cappella version. Choruses wishing to perform this piece with flute should order SEA-062-05.

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Composer Notes

Composer Notes

I am amazed at the variety of recordings I’ve received of this work, and how well this piece adapts to vastly different tempos and tone qualities. Of course, as the composer, I had an original vision for how this piece would be sung! But as more and more choirs sing this song, I have come to welcome these different interpretations as a sign that people are making my song — and Howard Thurman’s visionary words — their own.


The Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

Howard Thurman
From The Mood of Christmas and Other Celebrations by Howard Thurman. © 1985 by Friends United Press. Used by permission of the publisher



Premiere: Choir of Unitarian Church of Harrisburg / Sparkie Radcliffe (Harrisburg, PA)
Ames Choral Society / Steven Hoifeldt (Ames, IA)
Baltimore Choral Arts Society / Tom Hall (Baltimore, MD)
Bethel College Concert Choir / Gene Peterson (Mishawaka, IN)
Brookfield Central High School Choir / Phillip Olson (Elm Grove, WI)
Camerata Singers of Muskegon / Floyd Farmer (Norton Shores, MI)
Candlelight Chorale of First Religious Society / Jay Lane (Newburyport, MA)
Chamber Singers of United Church of Chapel Hill / Milo Fryling (Chapel Hill, NC)
Chancel Choir of First Prebyterian Church of River Forest (River Forest, IL)
Chancel Choir of Myers Park Baptist Church / Jonathan Crutchfield (Charlotte, NC)
Chicago A Cappella / Jonathan Miller (Chicago, Naperville, Oak Park & Evanston, IL)
Choir of Aldersgate United Methodist Church / Nan de Andrade (Durham, NC)
Choir of Camrose United Church / Darryl Dewalt, Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition (Camrose, Alberta CANADA)
Choir of Christ the King Lutheran Church / Laura Stransky (Durango, CO)
Choir of Church of the Holy Spirit / Sue Ann Echard (Harleysville, PA)
Choir of College Street Congregational Church / Yona Yellin (Burlington, VT)
Choir of Community Church of Chapel Hill / Glenn Mehrbach (Chapel Hill, NC)
Choir of Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church of Cayoga Park, CA / Galina Barskaya (Canoga Park, CA)
Choir of First Congregational Church / Jeanne Lucas (Sharon, MA)
Choir of First Parish Church of Weston / William Sano (Weston, MA)
Choir of First Parish in Concord / Beth Norton, Annual Wheel of Life Celebration (Concord, MA)
Choir of First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church / Emma Jean Moulton (Milton, MA)
Choir of First Presbyterian Church of Delaware / Ruth Rabby (Delaware, OH)
Choir of First Unitarian Church of Ann Arbor / Sarah Albright (Ann Arbor, MI)
Choir of First Unitarian Church of Worchester / Will Sherwood (Worchester, MA)
Choir of First Unitarian Society of Ithaca / Jennifer Birnbaum (Ithaca, NY)
Choir of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond / Diane Woodruff (Richmond, VA)
Choir of First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco / Mark Sumner (San Francisco, CA)
Choir of Grace Baptist Church / Wanda Fennell (Richmond, VA)
Choir of Grinnell United Church of Christ / Annie Grieshop (Grinnell, IA)
Choir of Hennepin Methodist Church / Bill Mathis (Minneapolis, MN)
Choir of Jefferson Unitarian Church of Golden, CO / Keith Arnold, Festival of Lessons and Carols (Golden, CO)
Choir of Keene Unitarian Universalist Church / Gladys Johnson (Keene, NH)
Choir of Kollupitya Methodist Church (Colombo, SRI LANKA)
Choir of New England Congregational Church / Ina Heup (Aurora, IL)
Choir of Plymouth Congregational Church / Philip Brunelle (Minneapolis, MN)
Choir of Saint Peters by the Sea Presbyterian Church / Jean Gothold (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA)
Choir of Saint Peter’s Church of Philadelphia / Peter Hopkins (Philadelphia, PA)
Choir of Saint Peter’s Episcopal Cathedral / Edward Barbieri (Saint Petersburg, FL)
Choir of San Marcos Unitarian Universalist Church / Gayle Gaston (San Marcos, TX)
Choir of Second Congregational Meeting House / Diane T Lehman (Nantucket, MA)
Choir of Second Unitarian Church of Chicago / Blake Adams (Chicago, IL)
Choir of Seosung Church of Daegu, South Korea / Samuel Choi (Daegu, SOUTH KOREA)
Choir of Sierra Foothills Unitarian Church / Christopher Winkler (Auburn, CA)
Choir of The Church of the Messiah of Gwenedd, PA / Rick Rosen (Gwynedd, PA )
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis / Betsy Jo Angebrandt (Annapolis, MD)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham / James Sullivan (Birmingham, AL)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Durango / Elizabeth Crawford (Durango, CO)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Myers / Phil Hildreth (Fort Myers, FL)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Minnetonka / Mark Brekke (Minnetonka, MN)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashua / Jed Holland (Nashua, NH)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Savannah / Kelly Blackmarr (Savannah, GA)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Studio City / Nancy Holland (Studio City, CA)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Milford / Carolyn McCreary (Littleton, MA)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Whidbey Island / Mavis Cauffman (Freeland, WA)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Church / Ray Elliot (Corvallis, OR)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville / Ruth Lewis (Gainesville, FL)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of LaCrosse / Becky Post (La Crosse, WI)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Society of Iowa City / Gloria Corbin (Iowa City, IA)
Choir of Unitarian Universalists of Transylvania County / John Austin (Brevard, NC)
Choir of Unity Church-Unitarian of Saint Paul / Ruth Palmer (St. Paul, MN)
Choir of Valley Unitarian Universalist Church / Kellie Walker (Chandler, AZ)
Choir of Westport Presbyterian Church / Emily Davidson (Kansas City, MO)
Choir of Williamsburg Unitarian Universalists / Jamie Bartlett (Williamsburg, VA)
Choirs of Highlands Presbyterian Church and Presbyterian Church of Western Springs / Maria Rohloff and Patricia Hughes Mangis (Western Springs, IL)
Choirs of Oklahoma Baptist University / James Vernon (Shawnee, OK)
Community Christmas Cantata / Mark Smith (Hornell, NY)
Concordia University Christus Chorus / David Mennicke (St. Paul, MN)
Concordia University Christus Chorus / David Mennicke, Minnesota High School Choral Festival (Minneapolis, MN)
Countryside Choir / Jeff Hamrick (Palatine, IL)
Deep River Community Choir / Bobbi Thompson (Detroit, MI)
Detroit Noel Night Community Choir, Noel Night Detroit (Detroit, MI)
Duke University Chapel Christmas Eve Choir / Zebulon Highben (Durham, NC)
Golden Voice, of Valley Lutheran High School / Paul Eschmann, Michigan School Vocal Music Association Festival (Saginaw, MI)
Illinois College Chamber Singers / Abby Musgrove (Jacksonville, IL)
Joyful Noise / Jeff Thirloway (Seattle, WA)
Kellogg Singers / Iris Levine (Pasadena, CA)
Logan High School Chamber Singers / John McClain, Music for All Festival (Indianapolis, IN)
Millsaps Singers / Timothy Coker (Jackson, MS)
Pine View High School / Robert Reimer (St George, UT)
Reading Choral Society / Peter Hopkins (West Reading, PA)
Reading Session, National Association of Church Musicians Conference (Santa Ana, CA)
Reading Session, Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network National Conference (Arlington, VA)
Reading Session, ACDA Nebraska State Conference (Crete, NB)
Reading Session, Long and McQuade Choral Reading (Vancouver, CANADA)
Reading Session, ECCO Choral Conference (Oakhurst, CA)
Reading Session, ACDA Southern Division Conference (Winston-Salem, NC)
Reading Session / Ryan Kelly, West Chester University Honor Choir Day (West Chester , PA)
Reading Session / Ryan Kelly, Philadelphia Guild of Organists January JumpStart (Bryn Mawr, PA)
Sanctuary Choir of First Baptist Church / Roger Walworth (Fort Payne, AL)
Social Justice Through Music Choral Festival Choir / Elizabeth Alexander (Tucson, AZ)
The Hartland Community Chorus / Patty Talbot (Hartland , VT)
University of Manitoba Choirs / Elroy Friesen (Winnipeg, MB CANADA)
University of Washington University Chorale / Giselle Wyers (Seattle, WA)
Utah All-State Choir / Geoffrey Boers (Salt Lake City, UT)
Wheaton College Concert Choir / John Trotter (Wheaton, IL)

SATB, flute
Premiere: Choir of Unitarian Universalist Congregation of St. Johnsbury / Steve Finner (Saint Johnsbury, VT)
Chapel Hill Community Chorus / Sue Klausmeyer (Chapel Hill, NC)
Choir of North Shore Unitarian Church / Wayland Rogers (Deerfield, IL)
Choir of Trinity Presbyterian Church / Dave Leeman (Plano, TX)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Rochester, MN / Joe Mish (Rochester, MN)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Spartanburg / Keith Plumley (Spartanburg, SC)

Premiere: Vox Femina Los Angeles / Iris Levine (Pasadena, CA)
AKSARA / Victoria Schneider, Interfaith Women of New Hampshire (Manchester, NH)
Bella Voce Singers / Jessica Corbin (Brooklyn, NY)
Bread & Roses / Peggy Safford (DeKalb, IL)
Cantilena / Jennifer Kane (Arlington, MA)
Centre Women’s Voices / Barbara Hall (Danville, KY)
Good Company / Steven Hoifeldt (Ames, IA)
Kansas City Women’s Chorus / Cynthia Sheppard (Kansas City, MO)
Lumina Women’s Ensemble (St. Paul, MN)
Reading Session, ACDA Southwest Division Conference (Denver, CO)
Unity Church-Unitarian Women’s Ensemble / Ruth Palmer (St. Paul, MN)

Premiere: Vancouver Men’s Chorus / Willi Zwozdesky (Salt Spring Island, BC CANADA)
Canadian Men’s Chorus / Arlene Jillard (Toronto, ON CANADA)
Choir of Home Moravian Church / Lynda Alexander (Winston Salem, NC)
Cincinnati Men’s Chorus / Patrick O Coyle (Cincinnati, OH)
Cordus Mundi / Rick Rosen (Doyletown, PA)
De Profundis / David Poole (Albuquerque, NM)
Male Ensemble Willamette / Paul Klemme (Salem, OR)
New Wave Singers of Baltimore / Adam Koch (Baltimore, MD)
Ohio University Singers / Peter Jarjisian, Ohio University Honors Festival (Athens, OH)
Reading Session / Patrick Coyle, GALA Choruses Festival 2008 (Miami, FL)
San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus / Katherine McGuire (San Francisco, Modesto, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, CA)
The Plymouth IV Mens Quartet (Minneapolis, MN)
The Singing Men of Ohio / Peter Jarjisian (Baltimore, MD)
Vancouver Men’s Chorus / Willi Zwozdesky (Vancouver, BC CANADA)