The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

Faith is the bird that feels the light

A sweet and soulful affirmation on darkness, light and faith

Music: Elizabeth Alexander

Words: Rabindranath Tagore

A soulful rendering of Rabindranath Tagore’s poetic aphorism on faith, featuring blues-inflected solos, varied choral textures, and a dazzling final chord. A favorite of high school and college choirs, and a popular programming choice for festival and All-State choirs.

Details and Ordering Information

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Composer Notes

Composer Notes

When I began composing this song I didn’t know how it would end; in fact, I thought it would be significantly longer than it is. But after composing the first 10 bars of a small recapitulation, I stumbled upon a surprising and glorious six note chord, offering not resolution but possibility. I suddenly thought, “Good heavens, what if I stop right here?!” I was so astonished I had to get up from the piano and take a brisk walk around the block. Returning to the piano, I took a deep breath and drew a double bar line after what is one of my favorite endings of all time.

Performance Note: Why sure, this song may be certainly sung with folk/blues inflections! The solo may also be divided between more than one soloist if desired. This song works at a variety of tempos, but it loses some of its nuance when it gets too fast.


Faith is the bird that feels the light
And sings when the dawn is still dark.

Rabindranath Tagore
From Fireflies: A Collection of Proverbs, Aphorisms and Maxims



Premiere: Meeting House Choir of First Unitarian Society / Drew Collins (Madison, WI)

Premiere: Unity Church Choir Women’s Ensemble / Elizabeth Alexander (St. Paul, MN)
21st Century Chorale / Martha Swisher (Chicago, IL)
AKSARA / Victoria Schneider. Interfaith Women of New Hampshire (Manchester, NH)
Amherst College Women’s Chorus / Mallorie Cherenin (Amherst, MA)
Amherst Regional High School “Hurricane Singers” / Anita Cooper. Gold Medal All Stars Concert (Boston, MA)
Amherst Regional High School Hurricane Singers / Anita Cooper. Massachusetts Conductors Association Festival (Northborough, MA)
Ancora / Bob Geary (Lafayette and Berkeley, CA)
Anima Singers / Emily Ellsworth. Chorus America National Conference (Chicago, IL)
Anima Singers / Emily Ellsworth (Juneau and Eagle River, AK)
Anima Singers / Emily Ellsworth (Pretoria, George and Capetown, SOUTH AFRICA)
Anima Singers / Emily Ellsworth (Thessaloniki, GREECE)
Anima Singers / Emily Ellsworth (Vancouver, BC CANADA)
Ariana Women’s Chorus of Pennsylvania Academy of the Performing Arts / S. Katherine Shealy (Westchester and Paoli, PA)
Armstrong High School Women’s Choir / Stephanie Trump (Robbinsdale, MN)
Austin High School Varsity Treble Choir / Adrian Rodriguez (Sugar Land, TX)
Battle Creek Girls Chorus “Octavio Choir” / Meredith Bowen (Los Angeles, CA)
Bel Canto Children’s Chorus / Joy Hirokawa (Bethlehem, Gwynned and Pittsburgh, PA; Leipzig, GERMANY)
Bella Voce and Women’s Ensemble of Acalanes High School / Bruce Lengacher (Lafayette, CA)
Bella Voce Singers / Jessica Corbin (Brooklyn, NY)
Bethel Choral Festival / Margaret Sabin (St. Paul, MN)
Calliope Women’s Chorus / Richard Carrick (St. Paul, MN)
Camerata D’Amici / Kristin Sponheim (South Salem, NY)
Carillon Women’s Chorale / Karen S Nevins (Ann Arbor, MI)
Chamber Singers of the Christian Academy in Japan / Scott Ponzani (Tokyo, JAPAN)
Champlin Park High School Treble Choir / Margaret Sabin (Champlin Park, MN)
Chanteuses Vocal Ensemble / William Zinn. Music At Noon (Sacramento, CA)
Choir of Brookfield Unitarian Universalist Church / Lila Farrar (Brookfield, MN)
Choir of Camrose United Church / Darryl Dewalt (Camrose, AL CANADA)
Choir of Church of the Holy Spirit / Sue Ellen Echard (Harleysville, PA)
Choir of Community Church of Chapel Hill / Glenn Mehrbach (Chapel Hill, NC)
Choir of First Church and Parish in Dedham / Darry Dolezal (Dedham, MA)
Choir of First Universalisty Unitarian Society in Newton / Ann Watson Born (Newton, MA)
Choir of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville / Jason Shelton (Nashville, TN)
Choir of Orange Coast Unitarian Universalist Church / Beth Nakao Syverson (Costa Mesa, CA)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville / Ruth Lewis (Gainsville, FL)
Choir of Unitarian Universalists of Transylvania County / Teresa Sandoval (Brevard, NC)
Choir of Universalist Unitarian Church of Farmington, MI / Diana Munch (Farmington Hills, MI)
Choirs of Duquesne University / Caron Daley & Joe Stuligross (Pittsburgh, PA)
Columbus Women’s Chorus (Columbus, OH)
Daughters of Zion / Anne Matlack (Madison, NJ)
ENCORE! / Randi Grundahl Rexroth. Minnesota Sings! Rosedale Shopping Center Flash Mob (Roseville, MN)
ENCORE! / Randi Grundahl Rexroth (Minneapolis, MN)
Ensemble Laude / Elizabeth MacIsaac (Victoria, BC CANADA)
Feinberg School of Medicine’s Docapella (Chicago, IL)
Fire / Linda Hanson (Charlottesville, VA)
Gettysburg College Women’s Choir / Rob Natter
Glenbard West High School Women’s Accapella (Glen Ellyn, IL)
Governor’s School East Chorus / Laura Sam (Raleigh, NC)
Halilasa Singers / Mary Cunningham (Lexington, MA)
Harmonia (Mahtomedi, MN)
Head-Royce High School Choir / Bob Wells (Oakland, CA)
Hope College Women’s Chamber Choir / Jennifer Wolfe (Holland, MI)
Jenny Lind Singers / Michael Zemek (Rock Island, IL)
Lutheran Outdoor Ministries Center Swing Choir Tour (Springfield, Rockford, Bourbonnais and Oregon, IL)
Lyrebird Choir / Anika Kildegaard (St. Paul and Minneapolis, MN)
Maureen Forrester Singers of Wilfrid Laurier University / Elvira Froese (Caledon, ON CANADA)
Microscope Vocal Ensemble of Woodlands Academy / Kaitlin Donnelly (Lake Forest, IL)
Millbrook Community Festival Choir / Daniel Michael Koch (Millbrook, NY)
New York All-State Women’s Chorus (Rochester, NY)
Northwestern College Women’s Chorale / Mary Kay Geston (St. Paul and Collegeville, MN)
Peninsula Women’s Chorus / Martin Benvenuto (Palo Alto and Menlo Park, CA)
Plainfield North High School Treble Choir / Monica Bertrand (Saint Charles, IL)
Princeton Girlchoir / Lynnel Jenkins (Princeton, NJ)
Riverside Singers / Nancy Grundahl. WomanVoice Consortium Concert (Minneapolis and Milaca, MN)
Saint Mary’s College Women’s Choir / Nancy Menk (Detroit, MI; Notre Dame, IN; Toronto, ON CANADA)
Saint Mary’s College Women’s Choir with Ann Arbor Youth Chorale and Huron High School Bel Canto / Nancy Menk (Ann Arbor, MI)
Saint Mary’s College Women’s Choir with Fort Wayne Children’s Choir / Nancy Menk (Fort Wayne, IN)
Saint Mary’s College Women’s Choir with University of Guelph and University of Toronto Choirs / Nancy Menk (Guelph, ON CANADA)
Saint Xavier University Chamber Singers / Laura Bogan (Chicago, IL)
SingersMarin “Les Etoiles” / Jan Pederson Schiff (Cincinnati, OH; San Raphael, CA; Graz, AUSTRIA)
Sloan Creek Middle School Choir of Fairview, Texas / Christina Chapman. ACDA National Conference (Dallas, TX)
Southwest Women’s Chorus / Bill Paisner (Temecula, CA)
Spoleto Study Abroad Program Choir (Spoleto, ITALY)
St. Mary’s School Chamber Choir / Jennifer Moran (Raleigh, NC)
Stoney Creek High School / Brandon Ulrich
The Girlchoir of South Florida / Wallis Peterson. (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
The Key of She of North Haven High School / Ashleigh Hahn. Heritage Music Festival (Montreal, QC CANADA)
The Pickup Sticks of First Unitarian Church of Victoria / Kristina Stevens (Victoria, BC CANADA)
Two Rivers Choir / Marybeth Hallinan (Monadnock, NH)
University of Michigan Women’s Glee Club amd Plymouth-Canton High School “Dulcissima” / Julie Skadsem (Ann Arbor, MI)
University of North Carolina Women’s Glee Club / Sue Klausmeyer (Durham and Chapel Hill, NC)
University of Northwestern Women’s Chorale / Stephanie Trump (St. Paul, MN)
University of Texas El Paso Women’s Chorus / Elisa Faser Wilson (El Paso, TX)
University of Virginia Women’s Chorus / Kae Renae Mitchell (Charlottesville, VA)
Visitation High School Choir / Rhonda Grundahl-Rexroth (Mendota Heights, MN)
West Ottawa Select Women’s Ensemble / Pamela Pierson. Michigan School Vocal Music Association Festival (Hudsonville, MI)
West Ottawa Select Women’s Ensemble / Pamela Pierson. ACDA Central Division Conference (Fort Wayne, IN)
Westminster College Choir / Natasia Sexton (Fulton, MO)
Wheaton College Women’s Chorale / Mary Hopper (Mendota Heights, MN)
Wisconsin High School Women’s All-State Choir / Emily Ellsworth. Wisconsin Choral Directors Association Conference (Eau Claire, WI)
Women’s Choirs of Augsburg College, University of Minnesota, University of St Thomas & Hamline University / Kathy Romey (Minneapolis, MN)
Women’s HOPE Chorale of St. Louis / Leanne Magnuson Latuda (Saint Louis, MO)
Women’s Voices Chorus / Laura Sam (Chapel Hill, NC)
Wright State University Women’s Chorale / Drew Collins. Mad River Vocal Arts Festival (Dayton, OH)
Young Naperville Singers Chamber Choir / Angie Johnson. 25th Anniversary Gala (Naperville, IL)