The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

I’ll Go Alone

An affirmation of faith during difficult times

Music: Elizabeth Alexander

Words: Evelyn K. Dudley

A powerful reflection on personal strength and resolve, this song blends poet Evelyn Dudley’s Southern tenacity and hardy faith with composer Elizabeth Alexander’s Appalachian roots and musical vision. The lyric’s determined refrain, “I’ll go alone if I have to,” speaks to the loneliness and challenge of the less traveled road.

There are short, prominent solos in all voice parts. Ensembles may choose to feature just a few singers or to distribute solos among a dozen or more soloists.

Note: I’ll Go Alone was originally published under the title The Journey.

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Composer Notes

Composer Notes

When Cincinnati Men’s Chorus asked me to compose a song for a concert honoring strong women, the director suggested that the song celebrate the life and spirit of Coretta Scott King. I was excited about the commission but I had no idea how to begin. How could I compose a tribute that would spring directly from my own heart and experience?

Nevertheless I dove right into the project, educating myself about King’s life and words. While this deepened my understanding of the civil rights leader, I was unable to find a wholly authentic way to bring my compositional voice to her work, loss, strength and vision.

One day it occurred to me to call singer and civil rights leader Dorothy Cotton. Years earlier she and I had attended the same church in Ithaca, NY, where we had performed together several times. Dorothy offered to mail me a program from King’s memorial service, at which she had spoken. Not surprisingly, the program itself featured many prominent speakers and musicians. But the program’s insert was somewhat unusual; it contained a piece of writing by Evelyn K. Dudley, King’s caregiver during the last year of her life.

The writing was not about King; in fact it had been written years before the two women ever met. It was Dudley’s own personal testimony and manifesto about faith, hardship, tenacity, service, and courage, written during a particularly difficult period in her life. Her words spoke to the struggle of everyone who carries on despite pain, suffering, and loneliness, be they rich or poor, famous or unsung.

I knew instantly that I had found the perfect text for the song, and the chorus agreed. Crafting Dudley’s words into a song became a labor of love.


I’ll go alone if I have to.

If you’re behind me when I begin this journey, stay there, for you will only hinder me –
I’ll go alone if I have to.

My footprints will vanish from this trail someday,
but the seeds that I sow will remain and grow.
The fragrance from the fruit that is borne will draw those who hunger and thirst,
those who seek God in Spirit and Truth –
I’ll go alone if I have to.

For at the end of this journey waits a festive table filled
with blessings and prayers that I prayed and had forgotten.
Have your fill of these blessings!

Oh, I am tired from the journey, and Jesus bids me rest,
and I will sit on the porch of the kingdom,
and realize the destination was no more important than the journey.

I’ll go alone if I have to. On this journey, I’ll go alone.

Evelyn K. Dudley
Adapted by Elizabeth Alexander
© 1998 by Evelyn K. Dudley



Premiere: Murray State University Concert Choir / Bradley Almquist. Athena Music Festival (Murray, KY)
Bethel College Concert Choir / Jeshua Franklin (Mishawaka, IN)
Clemson University SINGERS / Justin W Durham (Clemson, SC)
Collegiate Chorale of Luther College / Jennaya Robison (Decorah, IA)
La Caccina and Constellation / Carling FitzSimmons (Chicago, IL)

Premiere: Luther College Aurora / Emily Ellsworth. ACDA North Central Division Conference (Milwaukee, WI)

Premiere: Cincinnati Men’s Chorus / Patrick O Coyle (Cincinnati, OH)
Schola Cantorum on Hudson / Deborah Simpkin King (Montclair, NJ)
Cincinnati Men’s Chorus / Patrick O Coyle
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati, OH)
GALA Choruses Festival 2008 (Miami, FL)