The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

Strong Braid

A rhapsodic salute to Faith’s invaluable companions, Science and Reason

Music: Elizabeth Alexander

Words: Elizabeth Alexander

Strong Braid is an exuberant paean to two entities rarely celebrated in music: Science and Reason. For as prosaic as this pair may often seem, they serve as invaluable companions to Faith, keeping her safe and grounded, much like a reliable string does for an airborne kite. Nothing is held back in this breathtaking rhapsody, lavishly layered with vocal glissandos and piano arpeggios.

The fifth movement of Kindling: Small Reflections on a Limitless Faith, Strong Braid may be performed as a stand-alone piece.

Instrumentation: SATB, piano OR SATB, flute, horn, piano, string quartet

Note: The Choral Score is designed to be used with chamber ensemble performances as well as those accompanied only by piano. For chamber ensemble performances, the conductor uses the Conductor’s Score of the complete work (SEA-123-00).

Details and Ordering Information

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Composer Notes

Composer Notes

It was a challenge for me to get a handle on this movement, because I had to face my own aversion to the somewhat academic word “humanism.” This is mind-bogglingly ironic, because I sincerely value rational thought. After many failed attempts, I was saved by a metaphor – that faith is an ecstatic kite, and humanism is the string which anchors faith to the ground. By keeping faith in its proper sphere, humanism enables faith to thrive and serve in a healthy way! I was suddenly and inexplicably elated by this way of seeing things, imagining vast throngs of humanists, protecting religion from the self-serving dogmas which inevitably creep into unquestioned schools of thought. (I walked around for several days shouting “humanism rocks!”)


Strong Braid

Aloft in the heady air of faith,
Our senses heightened by incense and ether,
We may from time to time become ecstatic paper kites.

We dive and keel and rocket,
Riding each wayward gust with abandon,
Recklessly aspiring to Auroral heights —

Yet knowing all the while that we are safe,
Tethered to the ground by a strong braid, a steady hand,
And a mind that appraises the wind.

Elizabeth Alexander
© 2015 by Elizabeth Alexander



SATB, flute, horn, string quartet
Premiere: First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston / Jason Oby (Houston, TX)
Choir of Arlington Street Church / Mark Buckles (Boston, MA)
Choir of Mount Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church / Mark Tuning (Walnut Creek, CA)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Atlanta / Donald Milton III (Atlanta, GA)
St Luke Presbyterian Church / David Lohman (St. Louis Park, MN)

SATB, piano
First Unitarian Univeralist Church of Rochester / Joe Mish (Rochester, MN)