Lent is right on our doorstep and perhaps you're still looking for music? We've included a short list of paperless songs below, including some sturdy paperless standards, new tunes written in the past year or two, and a few surprises, as we imagine Lent not just as a season of repentance but an invitation to lives of justice, beauty, and love
If your community hasn't experienced paperless singing yet, try incorporating a short prayer song or psalm setting instead of a lengthy or complicated tune. Consistent, positive experiences encourage and reinforce the practice, and weekly practice helps this style of singing gradually embed. Consider a paperless song while there is movement or ritual action in the liturgy, or moments a bulletin or hymnal might take the focus away from face-to-face connection.
We also suggest teaching at moments when intergenerational community is gathered. The experience of paperless singing is enriched when worshippers of all ages learn side-by-side. Our experience is that children and young people intuitively participate in mirroring and imitative singing, and they can help encourage the participation of more reluctant adults.
Dwelling in the Present Moment - Laurence Cole (two-part layered song with harmony)
This saying of Thich Nhat Hanh unfolds in two harmonized layers of melody written by song-catcher and community-maker Laurence Cole. Imagine teaching the layers over time, perhaps as a gathering song over several weeks of Lent. Invite the choir and other music leaders to help. You can hear teaching tracks of the parts on Laurence's website.
Forget Your Perfect Offering - music unattributed (call and echo w/refrain)
This playful call and echo song is based on beloved lyrics of songwriter Leonard Cohen. In our experience, the last phrases inevitably make for a bit of confusion and some delightful mistakes (!), offering a lived experience of the text.
Kyrie eleison I - Iona Community (simple melody)
This beautiful Kyrie comes from the Iona Community and could be used throughout the season as a response or petition. In the teaching recording, Emily also offers a countermelody that could be added as the piece takes root.
Kyrie eleison II - St. Bride Setting from the Iona Community (call and echo)
Because you can never have too many Kyries in Lent, here is a second setting from the Iona Community with more complexity. Notice how the phrases overlap to create a rich, dialogue between the leader and the group. It can take strong gestures and lots of encouragement to assure the community they are welcome to sing over you, so practice with others beforehand and listen for some of the strategies Emily gives in this helpful recording.
Lay Me Low - Daniel Schwandt (simple melody/call and echo)
This setting of an adapted Shaker text has an Appalachian folk quality. While it can be lined out and taught as a simple melody, we have also taught it as a call and echo song. The score can be found in Singing in Community, #36.
Love and Faithfulness Shall Meet - David Poole (canon)
This arching, melodic canon by Albuquerque composer David Poole sets Psalm 85:10. It can be taught through call and echo, then transitioned into a canon when the tune is secure. Note: Conie teaches the song using the word 'lead' while the original setting is 'meet. Here's a score to help.
Teach Me Wisdom in My Secret Heart - Elizabeth Schroeder (simple melody)
This refrain from Psalm 51:6 is a simple melody that can be quickly taught to an assembly. Notice how Elizabeth invites a drone after the melody is secure, then chants a verse of the psalm above it. This setting would effective in traditions where the singing of Psalm 51 is associated with the imposition of ashes.
This Path I Do Not Know - Angela Morris (simple melody w/drone)
Angela wrote this processional song based on Isaiah 42:16 for St. Lydia's in Brooklyn. It's a jaunty melody, with a punctuated clap or stomp on the downbeat of each measure, and works beautifully for seasons of pilgrimage and journey. Here's a score and recording on the MMC Soundcloud page. Angela is happy to have you share the piece with your community.
We Rise - Batya Levine (simple melody/call and response)
This powerful call to action from a Jewish activist and composer invites us to rise up humbly as agents of change and transformation. While a song like this might need some contextualization within a Christian worship context, it would be extremely useful in interfaith protest and resistance work.
What Does the Lord Require of You? - Jim Stradthee (three-part layered)
This layered song can be taught a variety of ways, but key to any teaching process is ensuring the parts are secure in the voice of the community, as Hilary demonstrates in this video. Notice the way she uses repetition and gesture to reinforce the unique shape and rhythm of each part. The score can be found in Singing in Community, #56.