Friends, I am running out of things to say about these little rounds.

This one – another song of unknown origin – is sweet and very pretty when fully sung. Which is a sentence I have typed before and I fear will type again.

You see, the thing is – the rounds themselves are good and different and by and large fun to sing with a group. But when there is no source information, no complex lyric, no deep memories, well…. I don’t have much to write about.

Sing and rejoice.
Sing and rejoice.
Let all things living now
sing and rejoice.

I will say this one reminds me a bit of graces we sang at Girl Scout camp, and maybe it is, because I wouldn’t be surprised at all to discover Unitarian Universalists at camp.

It’s a good one – don’t get me wrong.

There’s just not much to say.


EDIT: I originally posted a DST ending pic but was reminded that it’s NEXT weekend. Whoops.

This song calls to us: “Come! Let’s be singing!”

And what shall we sing?

“Sing alleluia!”

That’s it. That’s the song. In English and in Hebrew.

Hava nashirah. Shirah alleluia!
Hava nashirah. Shirah alleluia!
Hava nashirah. Shirah alleluia!

Come, let’s be singing. Sing alleluia!
Come, let’s be singing. Sing alleluia!
Come, let’s be singing. Sing alleluia!

It is written in three parts that can be sung as a round  – or ideally a canon, which is great because one part is quite low and one part is quite high. It all seems simple, except the beauty of rounds is the complexity that comes when the parts blend. This one is quite gorgeous and joyful.

I don’t have much more to say…it’s origins are unknown but its presence is cheering.


First – apologies for the delay this morning. A great ministers’ retreat also meant late nights and early mornings and I decided turning off my alarm was a smart move.

Second – I don’t have much for you today. I could blame it on the grogginess of a long sleep, but really, there’s not much to say. ‘Jubilate deo’ means ‘make a joyful noise to God’  (or rejoice, or praise) and our round based on the first verse of Psalm 100, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.”

I suppose I could talk at length about Michael Praetorius, a 16th century German composer, but there’s nothing much saying “ooo” to me right now, other than the reason why a German man born Schultz is called Praetorius: apparently ‘schultze’ means mayor, which in Latin is ‘praetor’ and for some reason, it was common to Latinize names.

Anyway, this is a fine round, although it’s not a favorite and never a go-to. In case you don’t know it. I’ve posted a YouTube of a Lutheran children’s choir singing it – it’s quite good.

Jubilate Deo.
Jubilate Deo.

And here are the Lutheran kids:

The pic has nothing to do with the song. It’s just a pretty fall scene, similar to some I have been seeing the last few weeks.

Yesterday, as we closed the New York State Convention of Universalists/Hudson Mohawk Cluster gathering, my colleague Sam Trumbore called for us to sing something together. “What shall we sing?” he asked, looking at me because he knows I do this.

And embarrassingly, my mind went blank. Fortunately, someone else piped up with a song (Come Sing a Song with Me) which went fine, especially when someone jumped up to play it on piano. But I realized I was standing there with a bunch of doxologies and entrance songs in my head, but I couldn’t come up with a closing.

Truth is, today’s song is what popped into my head, truly the opposite of what we needed in that moment. What we needed was a joyful exit… (we got a rather sentimental one, but that’s okay). What this is could be best described as an invitation to deepening.  This is one of my favorite rounds; its deep, rich, minor tones evoke the mystery as much as the words do.

Gathered here in the mystery of the hour.
Gathered here in one strong body.
Gathered here in the struggle and the power.
Spirit, draw near.

We’ve encountered lyrics by liturgist and dancer Phillip A. Porter before, namely in When Darkness Nears; his words there and here evoke a depth that for me feels important, rooted, very first chakra.

And yes, even though I’ve sung it a thousand times, I love it.


I have sung this a thousand times since childhood, around the campfire, at vigils, even once at an evening memorial service. It’s as familiar as my own skin.

Yet when I think of it, I don’t think of the vigil or the campfire or the memorial service. I think of M*A*S*H.

In particular, the episode “Dear Sis” – where Father Mulcahy writes a letter to his sister, ‘the Sister’, about how ineffective he feels as pastor to this rag tag flock of medical personnel stuck half a world away in a war they don’t understand. He talks about watching the doctors and nurses saving lives, helping the injured, making a difference, yet all he can do is offer last rites and perhaps a bit of comfort.

Yet what he doesn’t realize – until the end – that small gestures of kindness and his simple presence among these busy, overworked, scared people bring them comfort, connection, a sense of their humanity, and most of all, moments of peace.

At the end of the episode, Hawkeye raises a glass to the priest and encourages the group to sing this song. “‘Dona Nobis Pacem.’ I can translate it for you,” he jokes. “No need,” replies Father Mulcahy, a sly smile on his face. And then they begin singing.

Dona nobis pacem, pacem;
dona nobis pacem.

The image of these people, wearing fatigues and showing fatigue, trying to capture a moment of Christmas spirit, and asking for peace…well, it knocks me out every time. The care these people show for their chaplain and each other speaks volumes of the work this simple priest accomplishes by his very presence among them.

You may find a million better versions, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find a more emotionally powerful one.

Give us peace, indeed.

I feel like I should be writing something elegant and insightful and perhaps a bit humorous about Taizé , about glorias, about chants and canons. Just yesterday I spoke of how this practice has never (except around the election) felt like a chore. And truly, the practice itself – singing – has never felt that way.

But some days the blogging – a practice I set up and an expectation I developed – feels less for me and more for you. That’s not a bad thing; our spiritual practices at their best lead us to turn back outward after having turned inward. I love that a personal thing has become a public ministry. I love the research, the thinking, the musing, the writing. I love the comments, even if the discussion gets heated sometimes. I love the friendships I’ve developed because of it and all that I have learned. I love it.

And today, all I want to do is sing this Gloria, over and over, Taizé style (because it is a Taizé piece by Jacques Berthier, after all) and sod the research and musicology and lit crit and theological discussion.

Gloria, gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, gloria, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Yeah. I’m not gonna write about any of that stuff and just play this YouTube video that has really no good visuals but a gorgeous audio to sing along with.

Yay! Another alleluia! Today’s is made better for two reasons:

First, my colleague and friend Amy Zucker Morgenstern wrote this in the comments for yesterday’s Alleluia:

The word doesn’t really mean “praise the lord.” It means “praise Yah,” one of the many Hebrew euphemisms for God, since God’s name is unpronounceable. Some of them do translate to Lord (the Hebrew Adon, particularly) but Yah really doesn’t. Hallel = praise, yah = that unnamable power we usually call God or Lord or The Holy One. Isn’t that great?

Second, the round is based on the Alleluia section of Mozart’s motet “Exsultate, jubilate” and is one of my favorite pieces from that era. Have a listen to the original piece, mastered here by Chinese-Australian soprano Shu Cheen Yu:

High praise indeed. (pun intended.)

The lyrics are simple. I hope you can follow along…

Alleluia, alleluia; alleluia, alleluia.
Alleluia, alleluia; alleluia, alleluia.
Alleluia, alleluia.

The round is simpler to sing, of course, with three parts more simply scored. But when it comes together… well, it isn’t Shu Cheen Yu, but it’s pretty joyful.

So – I can’t be the only one who sees Tom Hulce when I think Mozart, right? This motet doesn’t appear in the film or stage versions of Amadeus, but it’s still the image that came to mind.

I love alleluias.

Sure, the word means “praise the Lord” and I’m not big on the word “Lord”, but as a word of praise, it’s gorgeous and lyrical and pretty much no matter how its sung, I am in. This one’s in a pretty round from an unknown source, one that I wish all choirs had in their back pocket and could pull out at a moment’s notice to punctuate a part of the service as needed. A sermon on hope? This. A reading that opens us up? This. Easter? Well, of course this.

Alleluia. Alleluia.
Amen. Amen.

And the truth is, there’s not much more to say. This is lovely piece that will get stuck in my brain for the rest of the morning.

The image is what came up when I typed “alleluia” into the Pixabay search bar. Told you this section could get weird…

We have now entered (and rejoiced, and came in) a new phase in this practice – the short songs. The rounds, the doxologies, the introits, the chalice lightings, and the benedictions.

I have no idea how this section will feel. I admit that this morning it feels a little disappointing, as there’s not much to grab on to here. I worry that the spiritual practice will become thin because the songs are, and I wonder how sustaining this very different level of engagement will be. I may very well be falling into the loving, complex arms of Jason Shelton’s Morning Has Come on November 20, heaping loads of praises upon the return to hymn forms and loads of lyrics and page turns, not just the hymn I adore (spoiler alert).

But for now, we enter this time of short songs with this chalice lighting. The words are from an anonymous source, and the melody is by Praetorius.

Rise up, O flame,
by thy light glowing,
show to us beauty,
vision, and joy.

So… I never use words or music for lighting the chalice, because I think it draws attention from the lighting of the chalice. We have really just one symbol, one object, that binds Unitarian Universalists together, and it isn’t because the mothership told us to, but because the image of the chalice and the meaning of the chalice spread from congregation to congregation, from gathering to meeting to assembly, and organically it has become the one ritual object that features in – as far as I know – all UU congregations. The only object. (We can talk about all the other things that feature in our congregations at some point, like coffee, fake fights, and white people – but that’s outside the scope of this particular moment.)

To me, lighting a chalice with a song or spoken words emphasizes that which gets plenty of play throughout the rest of the service – words and music. But lighting the chalice in silence, with our attention on the flame, puts our intention into the flame and sets the space apart. It is a signal that this isn’t business – or busy-ness – as usual, but rather a time out of time. And whether our chalices are big metal masterpieces, like our GA chalice, or a small bowl with a candle, or somewhere in between, it is that moment of lighting our chalice that calls together a group of Unitarian Universalists into worship like no other.

And that deserves all the attention we can give it.


Image by Del Ramey, from First Unitarian – Louisville.

This round evokes in me another, which we’ll get to in November:

Where does it come from? Who wrote it? Why is it in here?
Where does it come from? How did it get here?
Mystery. Mystery. This hymn’s a riddle and a mystery.

Okay, so not all of it is a mystery – it is clearly a round whose text comes from perhaps the most famous of all of the lament Psalms, number 137, which was written by the Israelites during their forced exile in Babylon, beginning around 587 BCE. In even this first verse of the Psalm, we understand the longing of a people taken from their homeland.

We do also have in our hymnody a much-more-familiar-to modern-ears reggae version, which we’ll get to in late December, but this version is a lovely round whose composer is unknown. According to Between the Lines, the round is falsely attributed to William Billings – a likely mistake as he was a master of the fugue form, and this round has probably been around for a long time.

I had never heard it before this morning, and it’s a lovely round with a haunting melody. I’d love to know more about it. Here are the lyrics:

By the waters, the waters of Babylon
we sat down and wept, and wept for thee, Zion.
We remember, we remember, we remember thee, Zion.

Psalm 137:1 reads “By the rivers of Babylon— there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.”

There is, of course, a lot more to say about the whole Psalm, but I want to wait until December, when we get more of the psalm’s text in song. Something to look forward to….

Meanwhile, I am hoping to solve the mystery of this tune. Or at the very least become comfortable with dwelling in the mystery.

Painting by 19th century French artist Jacques Joseph Tissot, entitled “By the Waters of Babylon.”