Cancion de el Alma

SATB divisi

'Cancion de al Alma: en una noche escura' was commissioned by Classical Minnesota Public Radio for the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. For the full audio, please visit

The text, often referred to as 'The Dark Night of the Soul,' is one in a trilogy of poems by 16th century Spanish mystic St John of the Cross. The message of the poem that I found most moving is the idea of allowing the fire that burns in my heart to guide me.


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Order Sheet Music
Catalog Number: 
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Commissioned By: 
Minnesota Public Radio
Premiere Date: 
Premiere Ensemble: 
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Premiere Conductor: 
Daniel Reuss

Premiere performances November 21, 2013, at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Naperville, IL and November 22, 2013, at Cathedral of St Paul in St Paul, MN

Text Author or Source: 
St John of the Cross
Spanish (Old)

En una noche escura,
con ansias, en amores inflamada,
¡o dichosa ventura!
salí sin ser notada,
estando ya mi casa sosegada.
Ascuras y segura
por la secreta escala, disfraçada,
¡O dichosa ventura!
a escuras y en celada,
estando ya mi casa sosegada.
En la noche dichosa
en secreto, que nadie me veýa,
ni yo mirava cosa,
sin otra luz y guía
sino la que en el coraçón ardía.
Aquésta me guiava
más cierto que la luz de mediodía
adonde me esperava
quien yo bien me savía,
en parte donde naide parecía.
¡O noche, que guiaste!
¡O noche, amable más que el alborada!
¡O noche que juntaste
Amado con amada,
amada en el amado transformada!
En mi pecho florido,
que entero para él solo se guardaba
allí quedó dormido
y yo le regalaba
y el ventalle de cedros ayre daba.
El ayre del almena,
quando yo sus cavellos esparcía,
con su mano serena
en mi cuello hería,
y todos mis sentidos suspendía.
Quedéme y olbidéme,
el rostro recliné sobre el amado;
cessó todo, y dexéme,
dexando mi cuydado
entre las açucenas olbidado.


(translation by Tim O'Brien)
On a dark night
With anxiety inflamed into love
–Oh blessed fortune!–
I left, without being noticed,
My house being calmed.
In darkness and safety
Disguised by the secret stair,
–Oh blessed fortune!–
In darkness and concealed
My house being calmed.
In the blessed night,
In secret, where no one saw me,
Nor did I see any thing,
With no other light or guide
Except that which burned in my heart.
This [light] guided me
More surely than the light of midday
To where there waited for me
The one who knew me well
In a place where no one could see.
Oh night that guides!
Oh night friendlier than the dawn!
Oh night that joins
Lover with beloved,
Beloved into lover transformed!
On my flowering breast,
Which, entirely for him alone, kept itself
There he stayed, sleeping,
And I gave it to him;
And the fanning of the cedars gave breeze.
The breeze from the battlements,
As I parted his hair,
With its serene hand
Struck my neck,
And all my senses were suspended.
I stayed and forgot myself
My face laid back on the lover;
Everything ceased, and left me,
Leaving my care
Forgotten among the lilies.