The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

Those Who Wish To Sing Always Find a Song

The joy of “tra-la-la” — in nine languages!

Music: Elizabeth Alexander

Words: Swedish proverb

This rhythmically engaging song, based on a Swedish proverb, features singing syllables from around the world. Included are such gems as “nonny nonny no,” “diddle-dee dum,” “fadderullandei,” “ay dam taradam,” “taka takita,” and “pom poko no pom.”

The oboe part is included in the choral score.


Details and Ordering Information

Tell me more

Composer Notes

Composer Notes

Voltaire famously wrote that “If God did not exist it would be necessary to invent him,” something I’ve also heard said about mothers, chocolate, free will and the United Nations. I feel that way about music. If music did not exist it would be necessary to invent it.

Music is something each and every one of us invents from scratch, starting from the first moment we babble in our cradles. Our first vocal music comes unbidden, untaught, unthought. It simply springs forth. It’s as if we have an instinctive desire to participate in the ocean of sound waves that ping into and around our bodies every moment of our lives – and so we sing! What the Swedish proverb says is true:“Those who wish to sing always find a song.”

It was with these irrepressible vocalizations in mind that I decided to set that delicious proverb to music, along with various “meaningless” singing syllables from all around the world. Meaningless, that is, until someone gives voice to them from a deep inner place, a place that transcends all languages, opinions and philosophies.

For as yet another popular saying goes, “When words fail, music speaks.”


“Those who wish to sing always find a song.” – Swedish proverb

Vocables (singing syllables):
England: Nonny nonny no
Ireland (Diddling): Dum dum diddle-dee dum, daidle day
Russian Romani: Ay dam ta-ra-dam
Japan: Pom pom poko no pom, poko pom
Norway and Sweden: Fad-de-rul-lan-dei
South India (Konnakol): Ta-ka ta-ki-ta ta, ta-ka ta
United States/Ireland: Too-ra loo-ra, loo-ra-li-oo-ra-li, too-ra loo-ra lay
Turkey (Tererim): Te-ne-ni, te-ne-ne-ni
Germany and Scandinavia: ho-la-hi, ho-la-ho



Premiere: Farmington District Elementary Choirs / Scott Campbell (Farmington, CT)
All-County Women’s Choir of Chautauqua County / Nancy Krestic (Chautauqua, NY)
Amadeus Chorale / Darla Bair (Brockport and Rochester, NY)
Amherst Bel Canto Choir / Marjorie Bohn (Silver Creek, NY)
Angelica Cantanti Youth Choir / Ann Schrooten (Bloomington, MN)
Anima Singers / Emily Ellsworth (Chicago, IL)
Coro Giovanile / Joan Yakkey (Tuscany and Florence, ITALY)
Coro Giovanile / Joan Yakkey. 800th Anniversary of Dresden and Reopening of Frauenkirche after WWII (Dresden, GERMANY)
Evanston Children’s Choir / Kate Ulett (Evanston, IL)
New Jersey Children’s Choir / Carol Richardi (Upper Montclair, NJ)
Pacific International Choral Festival Children’s Choir / Susan Brumfield (Eugene, OR)
South Dakota Elementary Honors Choir / Ann Schrooten (Brookings, SD)
Springfield Children’s Chorus / Kayla Werlin (Amherst, Brookline and Springfield, MA)
Traverse City High School Vocal Majority / Wendee Wolf-Schlarf. Michigan School Vocal Music Association (Grand Rapids, MI)