Commissions

Grace

Composer: Elizabeth Alexander

Arranger: Not Applicable

Publication: Seafarer Press (2017)

                      https://www.seafarerpress.com/works/grace

Duration: 5:20

Program Notes:

World Premiere Performance by the Women's HOPE Chorale

It took me five years to write Grace.. Every few months I returned to the song and eked out another couple of lines, but something essential was always missing. Grace felt infinitely immense and infinitely intimate at the same time, making it impossible for me to get my hands around this powerful concept.

The very word "grace" came with cultural baggage. Springing from the same Latin root which brought us words like "gratitude," "gratis" and "gratuity," grace is all about generosity freely bestowed, irrespective of whether that bounty has been earned. But in our time, grace has become so closely associated with Christian doctrine that many people define the word narrowly --- as something bestowed only by God, and granted only to those who hold certain beliefs. I wanted my song to express how universal grace is, a gift and blessing far too precious to be limited to a chosen few.

However, my biggest challenge was that my lyrics kept making grace sound like a one-size-fits-all solution to all problems or a magical cure for all losses. I couldn't manage to balance the essential beauty of grace with the brutal heartbreaks of life. But in my grieving days after the sudden death of a young family friend, I returned a final time to my draft. And I finally found a way to sing about grace in a way that was both awestruck and real.

-notes from Elizabeth Alexander

 

 

 

Score Sample:

 

Voicing:

SSA with Soloist(s)

Accompaniment:

Piano with optional treble instrument - can be performed with piano and guitar as in our recording

Themes:

Grace, Empowerment​, Healing

 

Lyrics:

Elizabeth Alexander

It's how I hold my head up after I have missed the mark,
It's how I know I'm loved when things are dark.

It's how I stand when I am feeling small,
It's how I stand again after a fall ---

It's how I'm even standing here at all:

Some people call it grace.

Falling down like rain on everyone,
So warm, like greetings from the sun,
Like a gentle snow it's making every surface glow.

And I know I didn't earn it:

That's how I know it's grace.

It's how two people stay together through the many years,
It's how a broken people sing again,
It's how a man can overcome his shame,

How a woman moves beyond her fears ---

It's how I know that holy is my name.

We're all the same to grace.

Falling down like rain on everyone,
So warm, like greetings from the sun,
Like a gentle snow it's making every surface glow.

And I didn't have to earn it.

No, I didn't have to earn it:

I didn't have to earn it through a word or through a deed,
Or through a trial or through a creed,
Or by denying what I need.

I only had to reach out my hand, and it was there.
But still it cannot take away the truths I have to face,
Oh no, that's not how it works with grace.

Falling down like rain on everyone,

So warm, like greetings from the sun,

Like a gentle snow it's making every surface glow.

And I didn't have to earn it.

No, I didn't have to earn it.

I know I didn't earn it:

That's how I know it's grace.

GraceElizabeth Alexander
00:00 / 05:21
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