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Only a Couple Fishes

Cover illustration by Bernardo Ramonfaur. Licensed by Dreamstime.

An animated retelling of the ancient “loaves and fishes” story…with generosity at its core
Commissioned by American Composers Forum's Faith Partners Program
Poet/Lyricist: 
Elizabeth Alexander

At first glance, this song offers a light-hearted retelling of the ancient story of the five loaves and two fishes. But a closer look reveals a deeper truth: that heartfelt gratitude and radical generosity can bring forth an abundant feast for everyone.

The syncopated Latin rhythms of the verses contrast with the graceful arching lines of the chorus. In the final occurrence of the chorus it may be sung in 2, 3 or 4 parts. The audience/congregation may be invited to join in singing the final chorus.

The chorus of this song, entitled Song of the Five Thousand, may be performed separately. To license the song for unlimited audience/congregational use, contact the composer.

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https://www.seafarerpress.com/sites/seafarerpress.advantagelabs.com/files/works_variant_audio_files/recording-only_a_couple_fishes.mp3 SA, piano - Choral Score
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Only a Couple Fishes

Lyrics by Elizabeth Alexander

Long ago, five thousand people headed out into the wilderness,
Listening to a wise man,
And following where he led.
When their bellies started rumbling,
Some people started grumbling,
'Til the wise man opened up his arms and said:

As we share what we have with each other,
Let us sing out joyfully.
May abundance lead to gratitude,
Then to generosity.

To and fro they passed a basket, but discovered when they looked within:
Only a couple fishes, and only five loaves of bread.
The amount was truly humbling;
Morale was quickly crumbling,
But they prayed together as the wise man said:
As we share what we have with each other,
Let us sing out joyfully.
May abundance lead to gratitude,
Then to generosity.

Overflowing baskets started coming forth before their very eyes:
Suddenly there was plenty, and everyone there was fed.
There was so much that was edible;
The feasting was incredible,
And so much left over that the people said:

As we share what we have with each other,
Let us sing out joyfully.
May abundance lead to gratitude,
Then to generosity.

Composer's Note: 

Composer Note: In this timeless story the mysterious source of the bounteous food is never named. Do the overflowing baskets come from a divine source after the wise man expresses gratitude? Or is there another possible source, more human but no less miraculous? It was important to me that my retelling ask this question, but not answer it.

Also, writing the lyrics of this song was a blast! Some of my rejected lyrics were just as funny as the ones I kept. For example, here are some of my alternate versions for the third and fourth lines of verse 2:

While the shortfall was explainable, a feast was unattainable.
This was all that was available. The amount was hardly scalable!
The amount was truly comical. It was hardly economical!
The amount was truly laughable, but the wise man still stayed affable.
The amount was quite forgettable. What a shortfall! How regrettable!

These couplets still crack me up, but in the end I had to go with lyrics that told the story best.

Reviews and Responses: 

“The rhymes are so clever, along with the rhythms: “incredible, edible...rumbling, grumbling, crumbling, humbling…”  I am singing this song constantly!” Kathleen Radspinner, Music Educator, College of St. Catherine

Performers: 

Children's Choirs of Trinity Lutheran, Watertown Evangelical Free and Immaculate Conception Churches - Joyce Harding, conductor (Watertown, MN)   * Premiere

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