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Fighting Over What We Believe

A bold meditation on conflict, communication and compassion
Commissioned by Mayflower United Church of Christ / Nancy Grundahl [SATB/SAB version]
Commissioned by University of Missouri Women's Chorale / Elizabeth McFarland [SSA/SAB version]
Poet/Lyricist: 
Elizabeth Alexander

A bold meditation on conflict, communication and compassion, with a compelling dialogue of voices, a touch of hip-hop cadence, and a "call to action" refrain. The interplay between different sections of the choir reflects the dynamic relationship necessary for all difficult and important conversations.

Dialogue is a key element of this song. In the original version for youth and adult choirs, it works well for the two choirs learn their parts separately, combining them at 1 or 2 final rehearsals. In all the other versions, there are prominent soloists/small groups in all parts.


Video created by Stephen Alexander
Solos by Jared Oxborough & Greta Oglesby
Photos by talented (and generous) photographers from all over the world

* Like or Share on YouTube *

Licensed PDFs are ordered in exactly the same way as sheet music. Your PDF will be e-mailed to you, printed with your license, for which there's a $5.00 License Setup fee. (If you're looking for a PDF and don't see it below, drop me a line.) Discount prices are only available through this website.
Other common questions about ordering music.

Item Instrumentation/Voicing Price Duration Level Listen... Look... Scorch... Quantity
SEA-099-00
Printed Score
SATB, SAB (youth choir), piano - Choral Score
$3.50
5'30" M

Scorch was designed by the folks who built Sibelius notation software, as a simple way to view and listen to Sibelius scores online. Despite its slightly ominous name, Scorch is free and does not do anything demonic like put you on a mailing list or affect other computer programs. If you can't see the score after the file finishes loading, click here to download the Scorch plug-in.

SEA-099-00D
Licensed PDF
SATB, SAB (youth choir), piano - Choral Score
$2.50
5'30" M
SEA-099-01
Printed Score
SATB, soloists, piano - Choral Score
$3.50
5'30" M http://www.seafarerpress.com/sites/seafarerpress.advantagelabs.com/files/works_variant_audio_files/fighting_over_what_we_believe_satb_%26_soloists.mp3

Scorch was designed by the folks who built Sibelius notation software, as a simple way to view and listen to Sibelius scores online. Despite its slightly ominous name, Scorch is free and does not do anything demonic like put you on a mailing list or affect other computer programs. If you can't see the score after the file finishes loading, click here to download the Scorch plug-in.

SEA-099-01D
Licensed PDF
SATB, soloists, piano - Choral Score
$2.50
5'30" M http://www.seafarerpress.com/sites/seafarerpress.advantagelabs.com/files/works_variant_audio_files/fighting_over_what_we_believe_satb_%26_soloists.mp3
SEA-099-02
Printed Score
SSA, SAB (youth choir), piano - Choral Score
$3.50
5'30" M
SEA-099-02D
Licensed PDF
SSA, SAB (youth choir), piano - Choral Score
$2.50
5'30" M
SEA-099-03
Printed Score
SSA, soloists, piano - Choral Score
$3.50
5'30" M
SEA-099-03D
Licensed PDF
SSA, soloists, piano - Choral Score
$2.50
5'30" M

Fighting Over What We Believe

Lyrics by Elizabeth Alexander

Talking left, talking right, talking far into the night,
Splitting hairs, splitting up, splitting off,
Less and more, rich and poor, what to address, what to ignore,
What are we really fighting for?
Persuade, coerce,
Convene, disperse,
Accept or curse?
Deny, confess,
Condemn or bless?
Who lives? Who dies?
My truth, your lies.

Bring in, shut out, what's that all about?
Who gives out retribution and grace?
What to keep, what to spend,
What to give and what to lend?
Some have not, some have a lot.
Can we learn to share the things we've got?

I see us fighting over what we believe, how to love and how to pray.
We begin with hope and resolve and dreams, and end up fighting over what we believe.
I see us fighting over what we believe, leaving spirits poor and lonely.
I want to use my fighting spirit in a different way instead of fighting over what we believe.

I want to wrestle with the angel ‘til the light of dawn,
And struggle with my need for pride.
I want to take on my tendency to turn my head,
And grapple with why it feels so hard to gently lay our differences aside.

(Day, night, wrong, right, no end in sight.)

We all believe in justice...
Let's talk about what that looks like.
And we believe in compassion...
Let's look at what that really means.
We believe in the holy work of listening, to every voice.
Let's start our conversation there...

Instead of fighting over what we believe. It wears us down and wears us out.
We have eyes to see, we have ears to hear, we have hands that long to give and receive.
I see us fighting over what we believe, leaving spirits poor and lonely.
I want to use my fighting spirit in a different way instead of fighting over what we believe.

(Divide, unite, exclude, invite, day, night, wrong, right, no end in sight.)

We all believe in justice.

Let's talk about what that looks like.

Composer's Note: 

This commission from Mayflower United Church of Christ came with an exciting and irresitable mission: To compose a piece which had social justice at its core, and to score it for combined youth and adult choirs. The music directors knew me and my work already, so they had to suspect that this prospect would have me chomping at the bit. And because I already knew something about Mayflower's passion and commitment to unflinching dialogue and bold actions, I knew the church would welcome the hard edges and difficult questions that I poured into this song.

Reviews and Responses: 

"The choir begged me to come home and write you...WE LOVE IT!!  It's a mighty piece, powerful and fun to sing."  Nancy Grundahl, Director of Music, Mayflower UCC Church (Minneapolis, MN)

"The choir LOVES these lyrics!"  - David Glasgow, Director of Music, Unitarian Universalists of Cumberland Valley

"This piece brought tears to my ears.  Thank you for your beautiful work."  - Linda Jo Reinhard (Portland OR)

Performers: 

SATB and SAB:
Choirs of Mayflower United Church of Christ - Nancy Grundahl, conductor (Minneapolis, MN)   * Premiere
Choir of UUs of the Cumberland Valley - David Glasgow, conductor (Boiling Spring, PA)

SATB and piano:
Choir of First Unitarian Universalist Church - Jason Shelton, conductor (Nashville, TN)   * Premiere

Choir of First Unitarian Society of Madison - Dan Broner, conductor (Madison, WI)

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