The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

No Other People’s Children

A song of reconciliation affirming the belovedness of all people

Words by Elizabeth Alexander

No Other People’s Children is a blessing and a bridge, a song of reconciliation that affirms the worth and dignity of anyone we might be tempted to see as “other.” Explicitly acknowledging past suffering, alienation and mistakes, everyone present is invited to speak the truth, take a chance, and “begin again.”

On the final refrain the audience/congregation is invited to sing along, offering one another the promise of forgiveness and right relationship. The audience/congregation part is included in each musical score, and may be reprinted or projected for this purpose.

The flexible voicing of this song enables it to be performed by ANY 1-4 part singing ensemble, or by a soloist. The score includes optional repeats and an alternate ending, allowing performers some choice about the duration of this song as well.

Details and Ordering Information

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Composer Notes

Composer Notes

One exciting aspect of this commission was getting to weave themes from my own church’s mission, ministry and outreach right into the lyrics. This process reminded me how lucky I am to hear the language of love, struggle and change on a regular basis from the pulpit, at church meetings and in fellowship gatherings.

In some cases, a familiar phrase written by our ministers Rev. Rob and Janne Eller-Isaacs became the seed for a lyric. For example, Rob’s ritual “A Litany of Atonement,” which the congregation participates in each year at Yom Kippur, contains this refrain: “I forgive myself. I forgive you. We begin again in love.”

In crafting other lyrics, I distilled complex ideas into a few carefully chosen words. One example of this, “You are my neighbor. You are beloved…”, reflects our congregation’s core commitment to making the Beloved Community a reality in our time.

As I composed this piece, it was impossible not to be inspired by my church’s partnership with Above Every Name, the predominantly African-American congregation that shares both our sanctuary and our vision of a more just and inclusive world. That is why, when I was told I could compose this piece for any one of my church’s four choirs, I chose all of the choirs and the congregation as well, giving everyone the chance to express the sacrament of bridge building in song.

Text

No Other People’s Children

How did we get to this place
Where we could look at each other’s face
And see anything but beauty and understanding?
I want to know who you are,
And face the suffering that keeps us far apart
I can never truly see the world through your eyes
Or take away your pain,
But I’m listening, and I’m hoping you can hear me saying:

You are my neighbor. You are beloved.
You are worth seeing for who you are.
You are my neighbor. You are beloved.
You are worth seeing for who you are.
I’m here, I’m listening, I’m here listening with you:

Break bread with me.
Make peace with me.
Speak the truth with me.
Begin again with me.
Relate with me.
Create with me.
Be the change with me
That keeps our children safe and free:
There are no other people’s heartaches.
There are no other people’s injuries.
There are no other people’s children in this world.

See what is unseen,
Say what is unspoken,
Believe that there’s no wall between our beating hearts.

You are my neighbor. You are beloved.
You are worth seeing for who you are.
You are my neighbor. You are beloved.
You are worth seeing for who you are.
I’m here, I’m listening, I’m here listening with you:

Hold hands with me.
Forgive with me.
Make mistakes with me,
And take a chance with me.
Be whole with me.
Be real with me.
Start to heal with me
So we can live courageously.
There are no other people’s heartaches.
There are no other people’s injuries.
There are no other people’s children in this world.

Elizabeth Alexander
© 2017 by Elizabeth Alexander

Performers

Performers

Premiere: Choirs of Unity Church-Unitarian / Ruth Palmer (St. Paul, MN)
Bexley Middle School Choir / Amy Blosser (Columbus, OH)
Calliope / Catherine Kirkpatrick (Minneapolis, MN)
Choir of Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church / Henry Sgrecci (Bethesda, MD)
Choir of Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church / Kathy Mittleman (Marietta, GA)
Choir of First Congregational Church of La Grange / Ryan Cox (La Grange, IL)
Choir of First Unitarian Church of Ithaca / Jennifer Lawrence Birnbaum (Ithaca, NY)
Choir of Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church / Tara Tresner-Kirsch (Arlington, MA)
Choir of Neighbourhood Community Church / Susanne Maziarz (Toronto, CA)
Choir of Northshore Unitarian Universalist Church / Helen Brandt (Danvers, MA)
Choir of Orange Coast Unitarian Universalist Church / Beth Syverson (Costa Mesa, CA)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Concord / Linda Mai (Concord, NH)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Huntsville / Pamela Siegler (Huntsville, AL)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Kennebunk / Molly Petrik (Kennebunk, ME)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Reading / Mary Cunningham (Reading, MA)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Winston-Salem / Mignon Dobbins (Winston‑Salem, NC)
Choir of Valley Unitarian Universalist Church / Kellie Walker (Chandler, AZ)
Congregation at Ware Lecture, Unitarian Universalist General Assembly (New Orleans, LA)
Helen Brandt. Northshore Unitarian Universalist (Danvers, MA)
Mass Choir for 35th Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service / Kellie Walker (Chandler, AZ)
Pilgrim Women’s Ensemble / Sam Fouts (St. Paul, MN)
Shahzore Shah and Ruth Palmer (St. Paul, MN)
The OK Chorale, Unitarian Universalist Church of Midland / Sonja K. Millichamp, soprano (Midland, TX)
Unity Singers of Unity Church-Unitarian. Benefit for Women’s Advocates (St. Paul, MN)
Women’s Choir of Eliot Unitarian Chapel / Jan Chamberlain (St. Louis, MO)