The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

Those Who Wish To Sing Always Find a Song

The joy of “tra-la-la” — in nine languages!

Words by Swedish proverb

This rhythmically engaging song, based on a Swedish proverb, features singing syllables from around the world. Included are such gems as “nonny nonny no,” “diddle-dee dum,” “fadderullandei,” “ay dam taradam,” “taka takita,” and “pom poko no pom.”

The oboe part is included in the choral score. The score also includes a link to a video about the background and pronunciations of the singing syllables.

Details and Ordering Information

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Composer Notes

Composer Notes

On the surface this song seems like a playful romp through a bunch of nonsense syllables, but underneath it all there’s a deeper truth. In my own life it often happens that the songs I am needing present themselves right when I need them – sometimes just in the nick of time! I don’t always recognize them at first because sometimes they come in the form of a person, an opportunity, or a wise thought. But suddenly it will be there, a big old song humming away, showing me how to do what I need to do.

About the vocables: When I began searching for singing syllables from around the world, I had no idea the task would prove to be so fascinating. In order to find them I corresponded with choral directors and linguists from all over the world. They offered me singing syllables, guidance on pronunciation and usage, scholarly articles, and much encouragement. To my helpers everywhere, thank you so very much!


“Those who wish to sing always find a song.” – Swedish proverb

Vocables (singing syllables):
England: Nonny nonny no
Ireland: Dum dum diddle-dee dum, daidle day
Russian Romani: Ay dam ta-ra-dam
Japan: Pom pom poko no pom, poko pom
Norway and Sweden: Fad-de-rul-lan-dei
South India (Konnakol): Ta-ka ta-ki-ta ta, ta-ka ta
United States/Ireland: Too-ra loo-ra, loo-ra-li-oo-ra-li, too-ra loo-ra lay
Turkey: Te-ne-ni, te-ne-ne-ni
Germany and Scandinavia: holla-hi, holla-ho



Premiere: Farmington District Elementary Choirs / Scott Campbell (Farmington, CT)
All-County Women’s Choir of Chautauqua County / Nancy Krestic (Chautauqua, NY)
Amadeus Chorale / Darla Bair (Brockport and Rochester, NY)
Amherst Bel Canto Choir / Marjorie Bohn (Silver Creek, NY)
Angelica Cantanti Youth Choir / Ann Schrooten (Bloomington, MN)
Anima Singers / Emily Ellsworth (Chicago, IL)
Coro Giovanile / Joan Yakkey (Tuscany and Florence, ITALY)
Coro Giovanile / Joan Yakkey. 800th Anniversary of Dresden and Reopening of Frauenkirche after WWII (Dresden, GERMANY)
Evanston Children’s Choir / Kate Ulett (Evanston, IL)
New Jersey Children’s Choir / Carol Richardi (Upper Montclair, NJ)
Pacific International Choral Festival Children’s Choir / Susan Brumfield (Eugene, OR)
South Dakota Elementary Honors Choir / Ann Schrooten (Brookings, SD)
Springfield Children’s Chorus / Kayla Werlin (Amherst, Brookline and Springfield, MA)
Traverse City High School Vocal Majority / Wendee Wolf-Schlarf. Michigan School Vocal Music Association (Grand Rapids, MI)