STLT#311, Let It Be a Dance

The first rule of Let It Be a Dance is that it is a mostly-spoken-word folk song.

The second rule of Let It Be a Dance is that it is a mostly-spoken-word folk song.

The third rule of Let It Be a Dance is that it if you’re going to use it, it’s really only best done on guitar with a folk musician who knows what they’re doing.

I know we have a melody transcribed, and a piano accompaniment written. And yes, it’s a good thing we have preserved this song in our living tradition. Ric Marsten captures something amazing in his lyric – combining the joy of humanity with the sage wisdom of Ecclesiastes 3. I love the language. And the chorus is easy to pick up – as good folk choruses are.

But, as we see from the evidence, and as musician (and SUUSI Boyz founder) Alexis Jones has taught us, this is a largely spoken-word folk song. I think our plodding along with piano and a fierce adherence to the song as written in our hymnal has obscured the beauty of this song

Here. This is Ric himself singing it with a group of children:

Now look at these lyrics – they’re meant to be largely spoken:

(Chorus)
Let it be a dance we do.
May I have this dance with you?
Through the good times and the bad times, too,
let it be a dance.

Let a dancing song be heard.
Play the music, say the words,
and fill the sky with sailing birds.
Let it be a dance.
Let it be a dance. Let it be a dance.
Learn to follow, learn to lead,
feel the rhythm, fill the need
to reap the harvest, plant the seed.
Let it be a dance.

(Chorus)

Everybody turn and spin,
let your body learn to bend,
and, like a willow with the wind,
let it be a dance.
Let it be a dance. Let it be a dance.
A child is born, the old must die;
a time for joy, a time to cry.
Take it as it passes by.
Let it be a dance.

(Chorus)

Morning star comes out at night,
without the dark there is no light.
If nothing’s wrong, then nothing’s right.
Let it be a dance.
Let it be a dance. Let it be a dance.
Let the sun shine, let it rain;
share the laughter, bear* the pain,
and round and round we go again.
Let it be a dance.

A quick note about the phrase “bear the pain” – in a couple of places, I have seen folks make reference to the original being “bare the pain” – which is a very different meaning. However, I’ve not got anything more than anecdotal evidence that “bare” was Marsten’s intent. Anyone have information on this?

Anyway… I hope we can use this song judiciously in our congregations, letting our folk musicians (and you know we all have at least one in a congregation… I’m grateful to have Dan Berggren as a member of my home church, but you know yours) pay tribute to Masten and this wonderful, mostly-spoken-word song.

One Comment

  1. Having traveled with Ric as his “roadie” and hearing about his response when the hymnal was published, I believe that it is “bare” the pain, not “bear” the pain.

    Look at the context – it is about being open, not about putting up with things. Share and bare are similar actions, share and bear are only rhymes.

    Read back in that stanza – “if nothing’s wrong,then nothing’s right” … pain that is hidden is not acknowledged, is not allowed to be a sense of what is wrong.

    In a life of dance and dance of life, one does not hold back, does not bear anything – one lets it all out.

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