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Song of Kabir

A luminous song of wholehearted devotion
A “Pick Six” featured piece in ACDA-Minnesota's "Star of the North"

A fluid, luminous setting of a beloved prayer by Kabir, offering praise to a holy presence both universal and intimate, both of and beyond this world.

About the poet: The Indian poet Kabir (1440-1518) grew up amidst Hinduism and Islam, and was deeply influenced by both. He had little use for the rites and trappings of any religion, and openly despised the pious quoting of scriptures from any religion. His poetry invoked the divine using both Hindu and Muslim names – “Allah” and “Brahma” – but in all cases Kabir engaged with the divine in a way that was deep and immediate. Today Kabir is revered by Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs alike, and his songs are loved by people of all faiths.

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Song of Kabir

Kabir, adapted from a translation by Rabindranath Tagore

You are in us, and we are in You,
Each being distinct, yet ever united.
You are the tree, the seed, and the cell;
You are the flower, the fruit, and the shade;
You are the sun, the light, and the lighted;
You are the manifold form of infinite space;
You are the breath, the word, and the meaning;
You are the limit and the limitless.
You are the Immanent Mind in us;
You are the Supreme Soul within the soul.
Blessed are all who see You.

Composer's Note: 

Most of my music has been commissioned for specific occasions or performers, so I don’t always have complete control over a given piece’s theme, length, difficulty, mood or style. These artistic “nudges” have often resulted in my growth as a composer, prompting me to get out of my comfort zone and write music that I would not have imagined otherwise.

But some pieces were written simply because I was inspired, growing out of exactly where I was at the moment I conceived them. "Song of Kabir" is one of those pieces. Once I heard how the opening measures could breathe and flow, I simply couldn’t wait for an interested commissioning party to come along. I fell headlong into Kabir’s universal and intimate vision of divine presence, both of and beyond this world.

About the text and translation: Rabindranath Tagore translated many of Kabir’s songs into English, introducing them to a worldwide audience.  His 1915 rendering of this poem reflects the writing style of Tagore’s culture and time:  “The creature is in Brahma, and Brahma is in the creature: they are ever distinct, yet ever united.  He Himself is the tree, the seed, and the germ.  He Himself is the flower, the fruit, and the shade...”

The lyric used in this musical setting is adapted from Tagore’s version, in a modern rendering which reflects the universality of Kabir’s deity, as well as the less florid language of our time.

Reviews and Responses: 

“Love this piece!  Thank you!!  The Crown of the Continent Choir, in its seventh year,  is an independent community choir of 60-70 voices specializing in inspirational and upbeat choral music of the world.  Our repertoire, drawing from many traditions, is selected to offer a musical soundscape representative of our love for one another and for this beautiful earth in which we live.” Craig N. Hodges, Music Director, Crown of the Continent Choir (Kalispell, MT)

“Song of Kabir is a new composition by Minnesota-based composer Elizabeth Alexander, drawing from a text by the Indian poet Kabir.  Kabir eschewed the formality of organized religions, but sought to find “God" in his own personal truth.  This philosophy is in step with people today who seek to find common ground in our various faiths, as opposed to concentrating on the details that build walls and divide us. Alexander uses a modern translation of the text set in an a cappella, four part homophonic texture.  The musical line is servant to the text at all times, allowing the message to be clearly delivered and understood.  In order to emphasize the appropriate text stresses, Alexander frequently switches meters.  However, this piece should not come across as overly rhythmic.”  Jonathan Kopplin, ACDA-MN Repertoire and Standards Chair for Ethnic and Multicultural Perspectives. "Pick Six Review," Star of the North, Spring 2014.


Unity Singers, Unity Church-Unitarian / Ruth Palmer (St. Paul, MN) * Premiere
Arizona Unitarian Universalist Choral Festival / Elizabeth Alexander (Phoenix, AZ)
Canticus Vocal Ensemble / Scott R. Peterson (Yakima, WA)
Cary Academy Choir / Laura Sam
Choir of First Church in Boston / Paul Cienniwa
Choir of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Rochester / Joe Mish (Rochester, MN)
Choir of First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco / Mark Sumner (San Francisco)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashua / Jed Holland (Nashua, NH)
Choir of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula / Janet Gecowets (Newport News, VA)
Choir of Valley Unitarian Universalist Church / Kellie Walker (Phoenix, AZ)
Combined Santa Barbara Area Choirs / Ken Ryals (Santa Barbara, CA)
Crown of the Continent Choir / Craig Hodges (Whitefish, MT)
Halalisa Singers / Mary Cunningham (Reading and Lexington, MA)
Pacific Northwest UU Music Festival Choir / Elizabeth Alexander (Shoreline, WA)
Reading Session Selection: ACDA Northwest Division Conference / Karen Thomas (SEattle, WA)
Reading Session Selection: Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network National Conference (San Diego, CA)
Reading Session: Montana ACDA Summer Choral Institute (Boseman, MT)
Saint Paul Vocal Forum / Karin Barrett (St. Paul, MN)
Social Justice Through Music Choral Festival Choir / Elizabeth Alexander (Tucson, AZ)
Choir of Grace St. Paul's Episcopal Church / Christina Jarvis (Tucson, AZ)
Association of Church Musicians Winter Choral Workshop / Bruce Gladstone (Madison, WI)
Seattle Pro Musica / Karen Thomas (Seattle, WA)
Choir of Unitarian Univeralist Church of Birmingham / James Sullivan (Birmingham, AL)
Harvard Choral Fellows, Harvard Memorial Chapel / Carson Cooman (Cambridge, MA)
Thomas Circle Singers / James Kreger (Washington, DC)
Universal Gospel Choir, Canadian Memorial Church / Lonnie Delisle (Vancouver, BC, CANADA)

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