work details

Praise Song for the Day

the third song in the "Dream A New World Trilogy"

  • Instrumentation: SATB and piano
  • Completed: August 2020
  • Duration: 5 1/2 minutes
  • Texts: On Elizabeth Alexander's poem "Praise Song for the Day: A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration, January 20, 2009."
  • Commission and Dedication:

    Commissioned by and dedicated to the Children's Chorus of Washington
    and artistic director Margaret Nomura Clark in celebration of their 25th anniversary.

  • Composer's Note:

    Praise Song for the Day is the third of three songs written for Margaret Nomura Clark and the Children’s Chorus of Washington in celebration of their 25th anniversary. Setting the poem that Elizabeth Alexander wrote for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration on January 20, 2009, this musical adaptation is brimming with the expanse and possibility heralded in the text. The constant tempo changes in the work illustrate the activity of America that Alexander so eloquently describes, as the work of America's people for progress and greater opportunity continues each day.

    This work may be performed on its own or together with Daydreamers and To Catch A Fish as part of the Dream A New World Trilogy. It is dedicated with fondness to Margaret Nomura Clark and the Children’s Chorus of Washington.

  • Text:

    Praise Song for the Day
    by Elizabeth Alexander
    (Reprinted with permission.)

    A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration

    Each day we go about our business,
    walking past each other, catching each other’s
    eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

    All about us is noise. All about us is
    noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
    one of our ancestors on our tongues.

    Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
    a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
    repairing the things in need of repair.

    Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
    with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
    with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

    A woman and her son wait for the bus.
    A farmer considers the changing sky.
    A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

    We encounter each other in words, words
    spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
    words to consider, reconsider.

    We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
    the will of some one and then others, who said
    I need to see what’s on the other side.

    I know there’s something better down the road.
    We need to find a place where we are safe.
    We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

    Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
    Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
    who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

    picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
    brick by brick the glittering edifices
    they would then keep clean and work inside of.

    Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
    Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
    the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

    Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
    others by first do no harm or take no more
    than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

    Love beyond marital, filial, national,
    love that casts a widening pool of light,
    love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

    In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
    any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
    On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

    praise song for walking forward in that light.