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Calm the Tempests of My Heart

"Waves" Woodcut print by Konen Uehara

An invocation asking for peace within one's own heart
Commissioned by American Composers Forum's Faith Partners Program
Poet/Lyricist: 
Søren Kierkegaard

Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kirkegaard suffered from "melancholy" – now known as depression – for most of his life. In this intimate prayer, Kirkegaard refers to this condition as "the tempests of my heart," as he seeks for the peace and stillness that eludes him.

Note: This Flexible Voicing Edition contains three completely different arrangements of this song, 2, 3, and 4-part voicings suitable for treble, bass or mixed choir, or for unison congregational singing.

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Calm the Tempests of My Heart

Søren Kierkegaard
Adapted by Elizabeth Alexander

Calm the tempests of my heart, O my God.
Calm the tempests of my heart, O my God.
Be still, O my soul, so that God may rest in thee,
Bringing peace that the world can never take away.

Original Prayer by Sören Kierkegaard:

Calm the waves of this heart, O God; calm its tempests.
Calm yourself, O my soul, so that God is able to rest in you, so that God’s peace may cover you.
Yes, You can give us peace, O God, peace that the whole world can never take away.

Composer's Note: 

This song was inspired by both spiritual and practical needs.  Conductor Joyce Harding was looking for a meditative choral response which could be sung at all of her church services during Lent – but the composition of the choir was apt to change week to week, depending on members’ availability!

For this reason, Calm the Tempests of My Heart was conceived with performance flexibility in mind.  I crafted 2-part, 3-part, and 4-part voicings, so that it could be sung by a variety of high voice, low voice and mixed voice ensembles.  Far from a rote exercise in arranging, this project gave me the chance to fashion a different character for each voicing, revealing different facets of Kierkegaard’s timeless prayer.

Performers: 

Choir of Trinity Lutheran Church - Joyce Harding, conductor (Watertown, MN)   * Premiere

AKSARA/Victoria Schneider ~ Elliot Hospital (Manchester, NH)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica/DeReau Farrar (Santa Monica, CA)
Choir of Brookfield Unitarian Universalist Church/Lila Farrar (Brookfield, MA)
Choir of Boulder Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship/Deborah Mensh (Lafayette. CO)
Choir of Unity Church-Unitarian/Ruth Palmer (Saint Paul, MN)
Choir of First Parish in Concord/Beth Norton (Concord, MA)
Festival Choir of First Presbyterian Church/Linda Kachelmeier (South Saint Paul, MN)
Lumina Women's Ensemble ~ John the Evangelist Church (Saint Paul, MN)
Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network National Conference (Dallas, TX)

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