The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

Finally On My Way To Yes

A gutsy celebration of life’s rough lessons

Music: Elizabeth Alexander

Words: Pesha Gertler

A gutsy celebration of life’s hard roads and rough lessons, imbued with determination, honesty and joy. The sweet and soulful conclusion features one or more featured soloists, who may either sing the music as written or improvise.

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Composer Notes

Composer Notes

I am altered in some way by every song I write, but Finally on My Way to Yes has always felt like a turning point for me. Pesha Gertler’s short poem, “The Healing Time,” was like a blessing guiding me in a new musical and emotional direction. With ferocity and soulfulness, Gertler affirms that our missteps and mistakes are something to be cherished even if they have wounded us or others. In my case, I had long felt constrained by others’ expectations about the serious concert music I “ought” to be composing. Finally on My Way to Yes helped me learn to love my “old misdirections” as well as the “coded messages” that had been sending me down the wrong street again and again.

It seems that everyone who encounters my song or Gertler’s poem hears something deeply individual and personal. Many members of the LGBTQ choir for whom I wrote this song heard their own coming out stories. Others have shared with me how it applies to drug addictions, suicide attempts, self-mutilation, racial identity, and the brutal losses that life eventually dishes out to all of us. Clearly “The Healing Time” taps into a deep something about what it is to be human. If my musical setting enriches this healing message in any way, I am grateful for that.


The Healing Time

Finally on my way to yes
I bump into
all the places
where I said no
to my life
all the untended wounds
the red and purple scars
those hieroglyphs of pain
carved into my skin, my bones,
those coded messages
that send me down
the wrong street
again and again
where I find them
the old wounds
the old misdirections
and I lift them
one by one
close to my heart
and I say holy

Poem by Pesha Gertler
© by Pesha Gertler. Reprinted by permission



Premiere: Out Loud Chorus / Shawn Benedict (Ithaca, NY)
Cascadian Chorale / Phillip Tschopp (Bellevue and Seattle, WA)
Choir of Eliot Unitarian Chapel / Leon Burke III (Kirkwood, MO)
Choir of First Congregational Church of Portland, OR / Michael Kelly (Portland, OR)
Choir of First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque / Susan Peck (Albuquerque, NM)
Choir of First Unitarian Church of Portland, OR / Mark Slegers (Portland, OR)
Choir of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville / Jason Shelton (Nashville, TN)
Choir of First Universalist Church of Denver / John Hubert (Denver, CO)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lansing / Lyle Brown (Lansing, MI)
Choir of Unitarian-Universalist Church of Eugene, OR / Tom Sears (Eugene, OR)
Fine Arts Chorale of Kansas City / Terri Teal (Kansas City, MO)
Gregg Smith Singers / Gregg Smith (Saranac Lake and New York City, NY)
Kenyon Community Choir / Benjamin Locke (Kenyon, OH)
Linn-Benton Community College Concert and Chamber Choirs / Susan Peck (Albany, OR)
Lycoming College Choir / Fred Thayer (Williamsport, PA)
Mixed Voices of Edmondton’s Choral Community / Erin Craig. (Edmonton, AL CANADA)
New Wave Singers of Baltimore / Mary Evans (Baltimore, MD)
Philomusica Chorale / Gayle Wieand (Oreland, PA)
University of Washington Chamber Singers / Geoffrey Boers (Seattle, WA)
Vocalpoint / Jennifer Anderson (St. Paul, MN)
Ward Melville High School Camerata / Linda Contino (Ithaca, NY)