STJ#1063, Winter Solstice Chant

I’m sure there is someone who loves this piece.

I’m sure there is someone who isn’t bothered by gendered language.

I’m sure there is someone who thinks four verses makes a chant.

I am not that someone.

Children of the Earth,
we have come to
sing to each other,
Sister to Brother,
songs of our Mother Earth.

Children of the Earth,
Autumn soon will
breathe her last breath and
quick will her death bear
witness to Winter’s Birth.

Children of the Earth,
can you feel the
air getting cold as
darkness takes hold and
sleep covers Mother Earth?

Children of the Earth,
we have come
to sit in the darkness,
breathe in the silence,
think of our Mother Earth.

Now don’t get me wrong; it’s not the pagan flavor that bothers me one bit. I often talk about the spiritual journey 1992-2004 as my “high pagan days.” I know that my religious experiences in that time – from the solitary to the communal – inform much of who I am today; it was in those days that I learned the ‘year and a day’ of spiritual study and practice that sparked Hymn by Hymn. I learned a great deal about shared ritual, the power of chant, the richness of the elements.

But I also learned that by and large, pagan chants leave me wanting. I’m not sure why, but there are only one or two that I think of with affection or even remember. And this one is not one of them.

I mean, it’s not a bad song. Phillip Palmer offers something interesting in the middle of his song, but it ends with a thud, and no amount of beautiful arranging by Jeannie Gagné can fix a thud like that.

But let’s not kid ourselves: this is not a chant. A chant is a short musical passage that is repeated. This is a song, with four verses. Yet because of the misleading title, countless winter solstice service coordinators – myself included – tried to figure out of how to use this as a chant, and it just doesn’t play well that way.

Anyway. I’m feeling curmudgeonly about this one. To the person who loves it, sorry.

2 Comments

  1. How interesting–this sent me scurrying to find the definition and etymology of “chant”, things I hadn’t thought about for a while, although I use “cantare” in Italian and “chanter” in French all the time, which is almost like tracing the etymology. For the past twenty-five years my use of the word has been mostly used in the verb form, as in (when a new pastor arrives) “will she chant the service or speak it?” (I’ve worked primarily in a Lutheran church since I stopped working in a U-U church). But what makes me curious about this piece is that the ending (“a thud”) is what makes it seem to me a chant, or at least like a chant. There’s something about that thud (I’m speaking of the tune, not the words) that creates the need to repeat, i.e. to “chant”. For me, it’s short enough, too, and if four verses aren’t enough, well, they can be repeated, or one verse could be repeated multiple times. Don’t get me wrong–I don’t love the piece; I’m somewhat indifferent to it, as I am to most chants (or short songs repeated many times). But that’s just a personal reaction, not an opinion, and I wouldn’t argue to defend it.

  2. I’m not going to argue about whether it’s a chant or not. Just want to say that I’m new to UU and don’t have a congregation. Blogs like this serve as my connection to UU, and this one specifically introduces me to the shared understandings of UU (through the hymnal) and provides a theistic understanding (which I prefer). Anyway, all that just to say, I’d never heard this one before and I love it!! Thanks for introducing me to it! 🙂

Leave a Reply