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No Ordinary Song

A congregational song on healing our wounded world
Winner of Unitarian Universalist History and Heritage Society Hymn Competition
Poet/Lyricist: 
Elizabeth Alexander

This congregational hymn acknowledges our need to "heal our wounded world" and "renew a covenant grown frail," envisioning a kind of song in which "every alleluia plants a seed."

This publication includes both a piano/vocal score and a lead sheet.

  • If you would like to have many singers or a whole congregation sing this song, you'll probably find it more economical to buy a reprint license through One License, LLC or by contacting Seafarer Press directly.
  • If you would like to stream or podcast you own performance of this song, you may buy a streaming/podcasting license through One License, LLC , CCS (Christian Copyright Solutions), or directly from Seafarer Press.
  • If you would like to license the video of Laura Betinis Healy and Anthony Healy's performance of this song, you may buy a video use license directly from Seafarer Press. (For most small to medium-sized non-profits, this is a simple, pay-as-you-can process!)

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Look Listen Instrumentation/Voicing Duration Level Item Delivery Method Price Quantity
congregation, piano - full score and lead sheet
2' ME SEA-149-00 Sheet Music
$3.00
congregational song - full score and lead sheet
2' ME SEA-149-00D Licensed PDF
$3.00

No Ordinary Song

Elizabeth Alexander

As we lift our voices on this day,
Many hearts are heavy with despair.
How can our lifted voices find a way
To bring us one step closer to repair?

If a wounded world we wish to heal,
We must sing no ordinary song.
Make it a cadence relevant and real,
Its every measure purposeful and strong.

Let this song our greatest hopes contain:
Well-fed children be its just refrain,
Roofs over every heartbeat be its tune,
Its harmony from peaceful cities hewn.

Sing of hope while hammering each nail.
Sing of joy while pulling every weed.
Sing to renew a covenant grown frail.
May every alleluia plant a seed.

Composer's Note: 

This song is a complete rewriting of “As We Sing of Hope and Joy,” a hymn I wrote in the mid-90s which has been published in hymnals in the United States and England, as well as being published separately as a short choral piece. Almost as soon as I finished writing the song, I was both pleased and dissatisfied with it, for reasons I couldn’t exactly understand. At first I thought the disconnect was that the music was too formal for a song about rolling up one’s sleeves and doing the hard work of restorative justice. So about ten years later I wrote a new tune with a unison melody which I liked quite a bit. However, the less formal music made me immediately long for a more down-to-earth lyric, one that dug into what it really means to start healing a wounded world.

Never before had I put so many hours into writing such a small song. Every couple of years I pulled it out of the filing cabinet and banged on it for a couple of days, and it would get incrementally better in some way or another. Little by little, it became less cocksure about success. Nowhere was this more evident than in the rewriting of the valiant penultimate line, “So shall we sing together and prevail.” The new line (whose last syllable also rhymes with “nail”) contains a less certain but more realistic aspiration: “Sing to renew a covenant grown frail.”

I also completely re-evaluated the form of the song, abandoning the traditional 4-verse form for a more modern AABA form. What a difference a bridge makes!

It took until 2020 for me to figure out what the core problem of the lyric was. I was almost embarrassed when I realized it. From the very first line the song divided the world up into two parts, the fortunate and the unfortunate: “As we sing of hope and joy this day, others only know of life's despair.” Of course! I needed to acknowledge that we are all in this together, in the joys and sorrows, and in the problems and solutions. We are all made less whole by the broken covenant, and we are all called to the mending wall. This is the awareness that can, actually, make “every alleluia plant a seed.” -E.A.

Performers: 

PREMIERE (online): Laura Betinis Healy and Anthony Healy

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