Shelter This Candle

SATB, oboe, horn, cello, harp

This atmospheric and evocative work creates a world of dazzling light, utter darkness, desolate solitude and joyful delight. Sounds of wind and falling tears are woven throughout, with haunting whispers and vocal effects. The piece opens and closes with tender repetitions of the phrase "shelter this candle", Edna St. Vincent Millay's reminder to protect the glimmers of hope during darker times.

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Commissioned By: 
VOICES Chorale of Pennington, NJ

Kansas City Chorale; Charles Bruffy, conductor. Kansas City, MO


"Alexander...sculpts light in sound, evoking the troubled winds of fate that threaten the flickering candle of life... The [Kansas City] Chorale's rock-steady technique and vocal unity made their entrance in this piece and the subsequent clear-toned vocalization some of the most exquisite moments of the concert." - KC Metropolis

"...Gentle, ethereal music that leaves one feeling inspired and peaceful." - Kansas City Star

Text Author or Source: 
Edna St. Vincent Millay

"To The Wife Of a Sick Friend"
Poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Shelter this candle from the wind.
Hold it steady. In its light
The cave wherein we wander lost
Glitters with frosty stalactite,
Blossoms with mineral rose and lotus,
Sparkles with crystal moon and star,
Till a man would rather be lost than found:
We have forgotten where we are.

Shelter this candle. Shrewdly blowing
Down the cave from a secret door
Enters our only foe, the wind.
Hold it steady. Lest we stand,
Each in a sudden, separate dark,
The hot wax spattered upon your hand,
The smoking wick in my nostrils strong,
The inner eyelid red and green
For a moment yet with moons and roses -
Then the unmitigated dark.
Alone, alone in a terrible place,
In utter dark without a face,
With only the dripping of the water on the stone,
And the sound of your tears, and the taste of my own.

From The Buck in The Woods, © 1928, 1955. All rights reserved.
Used by permission of Elizabeth Barnett, literary executor for the Millay Society.