17 Sep 2020
Member Norman Richardson introduces his new resource for singers, available for purchase at elenarmusic.com.
Thanks to Norman’s generosity, all proceeds go to Corrymeela.
INSTRUMENT OF PEACE
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace …
(from a Franciscan–inspired prayer)
Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity of exploring in a little more depth something that has been evident to me for much longer – the importance of music in the fabric and processes of peacemaking. I think that this can function in various ways: for example, in the emotional calm and reflection that music may bring to difficult human situations and conflicts; in the opportunities for creative encounter between singers or players from different backgrounds; in the added intensity that music can bring to already powerful words; or in the compelling metaphors that can be drawn from the concept of harmony. Music can indeed be an instrument of peace – with full awareness of the play on words – a valuable and effective medium for conveying peace in its broadest sense.
These ideas are notably exemplified in the thinking and work of the Argentinian Jewish musician, Daniel Barenboim. Notwithstanding a glowing and eminent career as a pianist and conductor, one of Barenboim’s most significant achievements has been the establishment of the West–Eastern Divan Orchestra, deliberately made up of players from Arab and Israeli backgrounds. In his 2008 book, Everything is Connected: the Power of Music, Barenboim explored his philosophy of music in depth, helpfully providing a broader context to my own thinking on music and peacemaking. Most strikingly, he wrote: “We can learn a great deal for life from the structures, principles and laws inherent in music, whether these are experienced by the listener or the performer”.
Much of the music that I have been involved with over many years, in arrangements, compositions or performance, has involved ideas around peace. Often it has been inspired by and linked to the work of Corrymeela, using ecumenical Christian themes and liturgy, though sometimes also relating to interfaith and secular experience. The opportunity to work closely with the Corrymeela Singers in previous times, plus over a decade of employment in the field of peace education, enhanced and enriched my understanding of what we mean by peace and helped me to find ways of expressing and conveying the concept through music.
Over the past few months I have been gathering together songs on the theme of peace that cover more than forty years of music–making, mainly with choirs. These are now edited together in a collection entitled “Instrument of Peace: Songs of Peace for Choirs”, and it seemed to me important and appropriate to offer this project to Corrymeela as a way of highlighting some dimensions of the peace and reconciliation work of the Community and also, hopefully, as a fund–raising initiative.
The songs are presented as choral settings – which is the primary medium in which I have worked – though some of them can easily be adapted for performance in other ways or for congregational use. The words reflect a range of sources in scriptures, liturgy, poetry and prayers, covering peace–related themes that offer perspectives on living in harmony with our fellow human beings, whatever their background, and with the planet that we share. Most of the texts are in English, a few include Latin and one is in Irish. Several of the songs include keyboard accompaniments; a few are a cappella. With one exception, all the songs were written over a period of decades and have been performed previously. The only newly–written song was a last–minute addition, inspired by the Covid–19 pandemic lockdown that was occurring as the work on the book was drawing to a close. Invocation: In All Things Peace focuses on the concept of peace as healing and wholeness and perhaps serves as a metaphor for the idea of ‘sharing the peace’, as in Christian liturgy, at a time of anxiety and uncertainty.
At the end of the book there are notes on the sources and origins of the words and music, with suggestions for performance. A final page offers a range of peace quotes from diverse traditional and contemporary faith sources. Taken together, the words and music found here may help to offer some inspiration for occasions of reflection or remembrance, for peace services, special liturgies, ecumenical or interfaith events and other significant times such as the Corrymeela Dedication Service or Corrymeela Sunday. The book (and further information about it) is available now via the email contact below and available via the Enelar Music website.
The cost (a suggested minimum) is £12; all takings will be donated to the continuing work of the Corrymeela Community.
INSTRUMENT OF PEACE: Songs of Peace for Choirs
Enelar Publications, Belfast (2020)