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Folks, I’m Telling You

A fast-paced, blues-inflected delivery of hard truth and deep love
Commissioned by Common Chords Chorus
Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes’ short, sassy poem, “Advice,” contains an irresistible combination of hard truth and deep love.  This dynamic setting is packed with edgy jazz harmonies, straight-ahead rhythms, and soulful, blues-inflected lines.

The piano part is challenging, but lies under the hands in a gratifying way, a showpiece for a strong player. A few single-line solos offer oppotunities for singers to offer up "a little lovin' in between."


Poem by Langston Hughes

Folks, I'm telling you,
birthing is hard
and dying is mean —
so get yourself
a little loving
in between.

Composer's Note: 

One of the things I’ve always loved about Langston Hughes’ poems is how he combines hard truth with deep love, gentle touch with a sharp-edged tongue, sacredness with the irreverent.  To my ear, his short and to-the-point poem, “Advice,” simply cried out for edgy rhythms, complex chords, and a generous helping of the blues. I loved every single minute of writing this piece.

Reviews and Responses: 

"The wittiest piece came from Elizabeth Alexander, whose playful setting of Langston Hughes’ 19-word epigram, Folks, I’m Telling You, was a jazzy delight."  - Rohan Preston, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"It was great to have your music as part of this year's WITNESS program.  Sorry you could not be there — but the response from the audience was VERY enthusiastic!"  Philip Brunelle, Artistic Director, Vocalessence (Minneapolis, MN)

"I just read through Folks.  What a kick-ass piece of music that is!!  I can't wait for us to do it.  I think you're brilliant...  Thank you for offering it to the world!" - Jason Shelton, Music Director, First Unitarian Universalist Church (Nashville, TN)

"I am a conducting apprentice with Philip Brunelle and VocalEssence, and we performed your Folks, I'm Telling You this season.  Wonderful, loved it!  Rhythmic, tight and unexpected harmony, jazzy.  Oh and the text, my goodness, seductive and real. Thank you for that piece!" Sam Kjellberg, Graduate Student in Choral Conducting, Boston University

"I LOVE THIS PIECE.  There isn't anything anyone can do to convince me to change my mind about performing it.  Thanks for this music...  You know how to make some incredible stuff come off a page...WOW!"  - Bradley Oleson, Department of Music Education. University of Miami (Miami, FL)


Common Chords Chorus - Elizabeth Alexander, conductor (Ithaca, NY)   * Premiere

Choir of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville - Jason Shelton, conductor (Nashville, TN)

Denison University Chamber Singers - Wei Cheng, conductor (Granville, OH)

Earlham College Madrigal Singers - Dan Graves, conductor (Venues in PA, NY, MA, IL and Washington, DC)

Harmonium Choral Society - Anne Matlack, conductor ~ Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival (Waterloo Village)

VocalEssence - Philip Brunelle, conductor ~ Witness Concert, Ordway Center (Saint Paul, MN)






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