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 Contents: UU World Back Issue

Singing the Seventh Principle

by Christopher L. Walton

The Rev. Ralph Galen describes the songs in The Earth and Spirit Songbook as “the soundtrack to the peace and justice and environmental movement.” For many Unitarian Universalists, Jim Scott's collection of songs, chants, and choral arrangements may seem like the perfect soundtrack to their faith, too.

Scott is a composer and troubadour best known for his work with the Paul Winter Consort. (He composed large sections of the Consort's ecology-minded Missa Gaia, including a quietly jazzy arrangement of “For the Beauty of the Earth” that appears in this collection as a four-part chorus.) His worship songs in Singing the Living Tradition, especially “Gather the Spirit,” are already classics. And his regular performances in UU congregations across the country haven't simply broadened his fan-base; they have also put him in touch with like-minded musicians.

For this collection of 100 songs, Scott has arranged songs by fifty ecology and peace-minded musicians, including prominent UUs like Carolyn McDade, Nick Page, Fred Small, and Pete Seeger, and adapted spirituals, neopagan rounds, and even a hymn or two to create a resource most music directors will want to own. Most helpfully, Scott has fully transcribed each piece so that any reasonably competent accompanist can perform the jazz, gospel, pop, and folk arrangements without experience in improvisation. Able improvisers, of course, will take these arrangements as mere starting points.

Like any collection of folk/protest music, this one is a mixed bag. Stan Slaughter's “Cosmic Stew,” for example, is earnest and campy: The title describes the horrors of “adulterated food” and the metaphysical wonder that “we're all part of this cosmic stew.” Everyone joins in the cloying, endless chorus, “Oo-oo cosmic stew. Oo-oo cosmic stew.” No thanks! The collection mixes energizing bursts of confidence and joy in nature with cataclysmic alarms, just as many environmentalists do.

Best suited as a supplement for enterprising musicians, the collection offers a handful of stellar new hymns, especially the Rev. Mary Katherine Morn and the Rev. Jason Shelton's stirring “Fire of Commitment,” some lovely choral arrangements, and many songs that a singer with a green soul will love. The compilation was funded in part by the Seventh Principle Project; Scott is collecting submissions for a second volume.

 Contents: UU World Back Issue
: 57

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