I am a little bit excited to get to this hymn today.
First, because it’s just so beautiful. It’s sweeping and lush in its composition, and similarly sweeping and lush in its lyric. Written for Paul Winter’s Missa Gaia, Kim Oler captured something here that is a bit ineffable even as it is grounded and real.
Second, I love this hymn because of a memory I have of a fellow congregant at my home congregation in Saratoga Springs, NY. I don’t remember the service or my role in it, but I do remember Jane Root coming up to me afterwards, tears in her eyes, thanking us for doing this hymn because it was her favorite and made her cry every time. Which made me cry. To which we laughed and shared a deep connection for a moment.
Third, I can’t help but wonder if Peter Mayer was a little inspired to write “Blue Boat Home” (1064) because of this song – and I spent the five or so minutes between singing this and getting settled at my computer imagining a mashup of the two … and surprisingly, it works.
For the earth forever turning; for the skies, for ev’ry sea;
for our lives, for all we cherish, sing we our joyful song of peace.
For the mountains, hills, and pastures in their silent majesty;
for the stars, for all the heavens, sing we our joyful song of peace.
For the sun, for rain and thunder, for the seasons’ harmony,
for our lives, for all creation, sing we our joyful praise to Thee.
For the world we raise our voices, for the home that gives us birth;
in our joy we sing returning home to our bluegreen hills of earth.
This song is truly beautiful. Unlike some of the other hymns we sing that seem to be very ‘in your face’ about beauty, hope, and aspiration, this one gently entices you into a consideration of beauty, hope, and aspiration. More, it makes you feel part of it, not looking in at it. It’s so elegantly crafted that it in four short verses it entices and embraces and maybe changes us a bit.
One of the most memorable concerts I’ve ever seen/heard was a complete multi-media performance of the Missa Gaia (rarely done, as I understand it), done with multiple choirs, instrumental ensemble, sound effects, and visuals. Wow. And — I can’t remember for sure — is “For the Earth Forever Turning” meant to be a re-framing of one of the Psalms, or is it intended simply to be a “new” Psalm?
According to Jacqui James (Between the Lines), “the text was suggested by Paul Winter, who was inspired by the story of Physling, the blind poet on the Venus Shuttle in Robert Heinlein’s science fiction classic, The Green Hills of Earth. Physling wrote a ballad yearning for ‘one more landing on the glove that gave us birth’ and his last lyric was ‘may we rest our eyes on the fleecy skies and the cool green hills of earth.”
Well then. Inspiration does come from amazing places….
OMG, that is awesome.
Small correction: It’s Rhysling. An annual award for science fiction poetry is the Rhysling Award.
Ah, that’s on Jacqui James, author of Between the Lines – I quoted her notes on this hymn, and she put a P instead of an R. Thanks.
I read Heinlein in junior high In the late 60’s and I remember singing it to myself although I don’t remember what tune I made up for it. I fell in love with this song the first time I heard it, in part because it brought the Heinlein back to me so vividly. I didn’t learn until just now, in 2020, that one inspired the other. You made my day!
Kimberley— Kim Oler here, composer/lyricist of “For The Earth Forever Turning.” You are absolutely right about the source of the title. Paul and I were in the Cathedral of St John the Divine during recording sessions for MISSA GAIA (Mass for Mother Earth) in the Spring of 1982. The original title of the piece is “Blue Green Hills of Earth,” but the Unitarian Hymnal retitles pieces using the first line of the text. I had written the piece and sent it to Paul, one of my all-time heroes, through my close friend, Chris Brown, one of the producers of this remarkable double-album. It was my first professional success as a songwriter, and remains a precious memory. Best wishes to you, and thanks. Kim
This has been one of my favorite hymns since the first time I heard it. I at one point in time wanted to see the SLD do the whole Missa Gaia,but I am full of great ideas that I never bring to fruition.
Hello all — Kim Oler here, author and composer of Blue Green Hills of Earth (titled “For the earth forever turning” in the Unitarian Hymnal). It gives me humble pride and joy to read your shared thread, as well you might imagine–I simply googled the title and it popped up. I have recently published an arrangement of the hymn for SSATB choir (with descant), organ and piano. It has become very popular among choir directors in churches, cathedrals and communities, and is the only scoring available except through Hal Leonard, who publish the whole MISSA GAIA. This one can be done without descant or organ if desired. Please let me know if you like to hear a recording, and I’ll send an mp3 by Email.
Very best wishes.
That arrangement sounds wonderful! I would love to hear it. (Kdebus@uuma.org)
It is such a good song. Thanks for stopping by!
Sent to your Email.
Wow, how generous of you, Kim! I’d love to hear it. email@example.com
UU Church of Studio City, CA
I have conducted Missa Gaia (from the Hal Leonard published scores) with 3 different choirs, 2 in Oregon and one in Albquerque. I love, love, love turning around to invite the audience to sing with the choir and band on “Blue-Green Hills of Earth” after the choir’s a cappella chorus in lush 4-part harmony.
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