All Saints

"As grains of sand, as stars, as drops of dew"

Date Completed

August 23, 1996


Choral (more like this)


SATB Choir







Liturgical Use

All Saints, All Souls, Funerals, Memorial Services




Christina Rossetti (1830–1894)


All Saints



Date Written

1991, 1995


As grains of sand, as stars, as drops of dew,
Numbered and treasured by the Almighty Hand,
The Saints triumphant throng that holy land

Where all things and Jerusalem are new.

We know not half they sing or half they do,
But this we know, they rest and understand;
While like a conflagration freshly fanned

Their love glows upward, outward, thro' and thro'.

Lo! Like a stream of incense launched on flame
Fresh Saints stream up from death to life above,
To shine among those others and rejoice:

What matters tribulation whence they came?
All love and only love can find a voice

Where God makes glad His Saints, for God is Love.




Publication Data

Publisher Name

Oxford University Press. Copies reprinted by Banks Music Publications.

Date Published


Catalog Number

ISBN 0-19-386064-3






Commissioned by the Choir of Christ Episcopal Church, Little Rock, AR, in memory of Elizabeth Ware, for the 1996 All Saints' service. Premiered by the same under the direction of Steven Bullock, director of music.

Joel's Comments

All Saints is a piece which is very resonant with me, as the story of loss behind the commissioning of the work parallels one of my own very closely.

Elizabeth Ware had been a long-time member of the choir of Christ Episcopal Church, Little Rock, Arkansas. If I remember correctly, just as she was recovering from some personal difficulties she was killed tragically in an automobile accident. The choir of Christ Church, in anticipation of the coming All Saints' Day, commissioned a piece in her memory through director of music Steven Bullock, who I had met at the Master Schola conference in Orleans, MA, in the summer of 1993.

My story involved the loss of a great friend and supporter at Saint Rita, Dorothy Good, who served as the first Executive Director of Saint Rita Fine Arts. I last saw Dorothy while she was ushering at one of the recitals held at Saint Rita during the 1994 National AGO convention. A few days later, she was killed in a car accident, a tragedy which greatly affected her family and stunned the whole community of Saint Rita, particularly those close to her.

Christina Rossetti's poem All Saints, with the line "Fresh Saints stream up from death to life above," perfectly fit both Christ Church's memorial and my thoughts about Dorothy's death. When confronted with the profound and often perplexing loss of others in the years to follow, I have always taken comfort in another passage of the poem: "We know not half they sing or half they do, But this we know, they rest and understand" (emphasis added).

I began work on this piece in August 1996 and got fairly far along with a first idea before I abandoned it. I began with a new accompaniment and theme on the 13th, work progressed quickly, and the anthem was finished ten days later on August 23. The accompaniment was designed to work very well on the two French-inspired organs connected with the commission: the Nichols & Simpson at Christ Church and the Bedient at Saint Rita.

Musically, this piece has two main parts separately by an organ interlude. It begins centered on A, moves to the dominant, E, in measure 21, on the phrase "Where all things and Jerusalem are new." The first idea and tonal center return in measure 35, and the choir and organ move through a progression of keys with repetitions of the word "rejoice," building up to the interlude for full organ in measure 46. This winds down gradually to the second section beginning in measure 54: "What matters tribulation whence they came?" Here the melody of the first portion of the Gregorian funeral hymn In paradisum is played in the organ with the choir responding in canon at first, then in chords derived from the melodic ideas in the first section. The final chords in the organ accompany one of the typical chants for the word "amen" played in the alto, which, even though it is not part of In paradisum, is a fitting conclusion to the anthem and Rossetti's poem.

Two stylistic things to note in All Saints are the use of the undulating accompaniment (see Evening Service for Saint Mark's School of Texas), and also one of my first uses of what could be called "suspended choir" writing, in that the tessitura for all parts lies high, and the basses do not serve as the foundation of the chord. (Missa Festa Dies is a good example of this, as well.)



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