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Why I Pity the Woman Who Never Spills

A gutsy, sensual song in praise of messy women
Joan Wolf Prefontaine
Commissioned by Cornell University Women's Chorus / Scott Tucker

A gutsy, sensual blues setting of Joan Wolf Prefontaine’s poem in praise of messy women.  Opening with waves of “spilling” words — spill, splatter, spot, spree, dribble, drabble, oozle — this piece is a rambunctious journey through a world of vocal inflections and joie de vivre, to be sung with nuance and abandon.

Note: The original edition of this song, SEA-058-00, has been replaced by SEA-058-01. The new edition eliminates duplicated vocal lines, giving singers more opportunities to rest! Ensembles that already own the original edition and wish to purchase additional copies are encouraged to contact the composer directly.


Item Instrumentation/Voicing Duration Level Audio Peruse Delivery Method (Print vs. Digital) Price Quantity
SEA-058-01 SSAA a cappella - Choral Score
7' MA Sheet Music $4.50
SEA-058-01DEL SSAA a cappella - Choral Score
7' MA Licensed PDF $4.50
SEA-CD-01 Finally on My Way to Yes - CD
60' CD $7.00

Why I Pity the Woman Who Never Spills

Poem by Joan Wolf Prefontaine

For she misses the luxury of dribbling
marinara sauce on white silk,

of merlot falling at uproarious dinner
parties onto beige lace tablecloths,

picnics where mustard, baked beans,
toasted marshmallows and melted

chocolate all leave their winsome,
gregarious stains on Levis and lips.

For she misses the thrill and mess of it all:
hands infatuated with bread dough,

logic blemished all day with sly innuendoes
and double entendres, the child in the lap

with the histrionic green lime popsicle kiss,
the kettle with its secret military spices

longing in its heart of hearts to spill the beans,
mangos eaten au natural in bathtubs,

sweet-talking, profane juices softening
the millstones and milestones of the body,

the plum's intemperate noddings in a neighbor's
nonchalant field, tartness oozing like ink

across obeisant fingers, strawberries,
caught red-handed in golden-straw beds,

falling upwards towards one's mouth —
small, fierce advocates of sumptuous rendezvous.

I say to her: Spill, Spurt, Squirt, Splash, Splatter,
Spot, Spree, Sprinkle, Dribble, Drabble, Oozle,

Offend, Transcend, Transude, Transgress, Transpire,
Perspire, Percolate, Partake, Propagate, Create!

Composer's Note: 

I'm not sure there's a woman anywhere who hasn't experienced pressure to act, look, sound, and perform flawlessly, which is why Joan Wolf Prefontaine's poem is funny and tragic and triumphant all at the same time. It is fitting that women should sing this musical setting of her poem together, because we are both a cause of this pressure and a remedy for it.

Two experiences I had during the composition of this song underscored this truth for me. In one instance, a hostess publically chastised me because a single drop of red wine slid down the outside of my wine glass and onto her white kitchen tablecloth. In the other, my friend Victoria pointed to a particular dark stain on her car's ceiling and told me she loved it because she was almost certain it was hot chocolate.

Performance Note:

As singers become increasingly familiar with this song, they often start adding blues inflections to some of the A-naturals, either flattening the pitches so that they lie "in the cracks," or singing actual A-flats. This is especially true in passages which contains a little attitude, like "Levis and lips." I considered officially flattening some of those renegade A-naturals, but I decided not to because they aren't true A-flats; they are really "blues-inflected A-naturals."

So although choral singing usually involves making a choir’s vocal production as uniform as possible, this piece is not about conformity! I suggest leaning on some of those A-naturals with a little moxie, and letting the chips spills as they may.

Reviews and Responses: 

"...A bluesy and truly inspired musical setting for women’s chorus"   - Janine Wanée, The Boston Musical Intelligencer

"We always vote on our favorite song -- Pity won hands down!!"  -  Kay Bryant, Director of Pacific Women's Chorus

"Alexander's writing for women's chorus is especially good, and...her settings of subjects relating to women's issues are exceptionally strong."  - David N. Lewis, All Music Guide


Premiere: Cornell University Women's Chorus / Scott Tucker (Ithaca, NY)
Bella Voce Singers / Jessica Corbin (Brooklyn, NY)
Broomfield High School Belles / Clelyn Brown. Colorado Music Educators Association (Colorado Springs, CO)
Cantilena / Allegra Martin (Arlington, MA)
Choral Spectrum / Ted S. Williams (Oberlin, OH)
Cornell University Women's Chorus / Scott Tucker (Ithaca, NY)
Good Company / Steven Hoifeldt (Ames, IA)
Imagine! / Roberta Shimensky (Salt Lake, UT)
Longmeadow High School Accidentals / Kayla Werlin (Longmeadow, MA)
Pacific Women's Chorus / Kay Bryant (Vista, CA)
San Francisco Girls Chorus Alumnae Chorus / Susan McMane (San Francisco, CA)
Sine Nomine Chorus / Robert Bartalot (Denver, CO)
University of North Carolina Women's Glee Club / Sue Klausmeyer (Durham, NC)
Voices Rising / Leora Zimmer (Boston, MA)
Wellesley College Chamber Choir / John Rowehl (Wellesley, MA)

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