Music for Liberal Religious Worship: The Most Likely Suspects | Seafarer Press

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Music for Liberal Religious Worship: The Most Likely Suspects

EMAIL RECENTLY RECEIVED:

Hi Elizabeth!

I'm at the beach listening to your music and planning next year's choir season!

If I told you, as I have before, that my choir adores One More Redeemer, Where There Is Light in the Soul, Song of Kabir, and When the Song of the Angels is Stilled, what would be your gut reaction as to the next song of yours we should tackle?

Any thoughts? WE LOVE YOU!!!
 
J. S. Bop

______

Even though J.S. was at the beach and I was not (!), I sent him several suggestions, informed by both his previous performances and my knowledge of his church, a Unitarian Universalist congregation with a hard-working, nonauditioned 25-voice choir. (I also sent my love back to him and his choir!)

Afterwards, I realized it would be helpful to both me and music directors if I shared this list of "liberal religious likely suspects" with others. As usual, this was one of those "Why didn't I thought of this before?" moments! I created the following list, as well as a YouTube playlist.

Music for Liberal Religious Worship: The Most Likely Suspects

Be Grateful, My Soul - Moderately Easy
The poetic lyrics of this song are from Unitarian minister Norbert Capek's last letter from a Nazi prison, shortly before his death. It is written for SSSAA choir, but never fear; it is essentially just a 5-part canon with a short intro and conclusion. (William and Mary Chorus / Jamie Bartlett)

Cherish Your Doubt - Medium
I conceived "Cherish Your Doubt" as a "praise choir song" for an oft-forgotten but essential component of faith: doubt. To pull this off you'll need a soulful soloist, a pianist who can groove, and an enthusiastic choir. You can add a bass player if you like. (Download a free part at www.seafarerpress.com/works/cherish-your-doubt)

Chosen People - Moderately Advanced
"Chosen People" is the individual movement from my cantata "Kindling" which addresses the spiritual heritage of Judaism and Christianity. It may be performed with piano accompaniment, or with a chamber ensemble. The rich piano part is rewarding for a skilled and sensitive player.

Do Not Leave Your Cares at the Door - Moderately Easy
A call to worship, welcome and acceptance for all people, this is one of my "surest bet" pieces for small or large choirs. This ain't "Minnesota Lutheran style" music, so don't be afraid to get your twang on!

Faith is the Bird That Feels the Light - Medium
There are dozens of sweet YouTube videos of this song, but I keep coming back to this trio's rendition. A favorite of treble high school choirs, this song is within reach for most church choirs.

Fighting Over What We Believe - Medium
This song is several years old now, but unfortunately it just gets more and more relevant. It's designed to use quite a few soloists, each one singing about the divisiveness they see in the world. Alternatively, the solos can be sung by small groups.

Go Out! - Medium
Even though we now know that John Murray didn't actually write the famous passage "give them not hell but give them hope," this "anti-hellfire-and-brimstone" message still rings true. Because it specifically calls us to preach a gospel of love, this has become a favorite for ordinations and building dedications.

Grace - Moderately Easy
This solo song is a reflection on grace, that profound force of forgiveness and acceptance that transcends all transgressions, prejudices and religious beliefs. If this sounds like a really big idea, well it is. At the same time, this is one of the most intimate and personal songs I've ever written.

Holy One, Source of Radiance and Reason - Moderately Easy
My church's minister, Rob Eller-Isaacs, begins his congregational prayers with this invocation. I love it because it describes the Holy One not only as a source of RADIANCE (mystery, wonder, faith...) but also as a source of REASON (observation, logic, science...) My musical setting of this invocation consists of a canon (which can be sung by any combination of voice types) as well as an SATB anthem arrangement.

NEW FOR 2018! Infant Holy, Infant Lowly - Moderately Easy
Twenty years after publishing a "classical chorale" treble arrangement of this carol, I completely rewrote it, giving it a sweet nudge towards Appalachia. The new publication includes both the original version and the "soulful close harmony" version, as well as a third verse which speaks to the miracle of all births.

Immortal Love - Moderately Easy
A plaintive, modal setting of a John Greenleaf Whittier poem which describes an eternal love beyond all understanding. Although the song consists of SATB contrapuntal a cappella writing, each of the four verses are literal repeats of one another, making this a very doable piece by an amateur choir.

NEW FOR 2017! - Let it Matter - Medium
"Let it Matter" is a call to listen deeply to each other's stories, allowing them to change our minds and hearts. It was important to me not to sugarcoat this call, and to acknowledge how hard listening can be.

Love is the Spirit of this Church - Medium
This "Old-Time Gospel" arrangement of Rev. Tony Larsen's rousing song is a full-fledged 6-minute worship experience. It pulls out all the stops! If you have a strong pianist, a charismatic soloist, and a church actively engaged in social justice, this might be the song for you. (Auxiliary instruments are welcome, too.)

No Other People's Children - Easy
This song was designed to be sung by ANY choir, and by that I mean ANY. Or a soloist. And there's a congregation part too, if you wish. (Its official voicing is "1-4 part choir.") That's because this song is about offering everyone the promise of forgiveness and right relationship. And that means EVERYONE.

One More Redeemer - Moderately Easy
This short Southern gospel anthem affirms of the divine spark in each child, and is frequently sung at baptism and child dedication services. It also finds its way onto quite a few Christmas programs! Because it's fairly short, it's also doable by choirs short on rehearsal time.

Pages - Medium
One of the easier individual movements from Kindling. This movementhonors the "words and deeds of prophetic women and men," but I chose to cast it as a call to action for ourselves. It may be performed with piano accompaniment, or with a chamber ensemble.

Song of Kabir - Medium
A fluid setting of the 15th century mystic Kabir, revered by Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs alike. There are a few challenging harmonic passages, so encourage your singers to listen to the stellar YouTube recordings on the Music for Liberal Religious Worship playlist.

Song of the Five Thousand - Easy
A "table grace canon" that links of abundance, gratitude and generosity. I wanted everyone at the table to be able to sing this together, so it's very easy!

The Gospel Isn't Written in the Bible Alone - Medium
This vocal solo honors the wisdom of our sacred books AND the wisdom of our world. (Including science.) That's right; it's not a competition!

The Chalice of Our Hearts - Easy
The easiest individual movement from the cantata "Kindling," affirming that exploring a wide variety of religious sources serves to enrich our personal faith practices. This is essentially a straightforward canon which, because of the accompaniment, becomes an anthem! It may be performed with piano accompaniment, or with a chamber ensemble.

When the Song of the Angels is Stilled - Medium
A lively setting of my favorite Christmas reading ever, Howard Thurman's "The Work of Christmas." Unlike many of my choral pieces, this one contains a fair amount of repetition, which can be helpful when preparing an entire holiday program! (SATB, SSAA or TTBB)

Where There is Light in the Soul - Moderately Easy
Every so often I write a song that works for just about any choir, right out of the box. This is one of them! Not only are there SATB, SSA and TBB arrangements, but there is also an SAB arrangement appropriate for younger or less accomplished choirs. The text is a Chinese proverb about the interdependence of five ideals: Light, Beauty, Harmony, Honor and Peace.

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