The Common Good
March-April 1998

In the Rhythm of Pentecost

by Marty Haugen | March-April 1998

The role of music in the church universal.

Bread for the Journey is an ensemble of musicians who have been promoting, teaching, and celebrating the music of Christians from around the world for several years, at small parish events as well as at large denominational church gatherings. Several members of the group have traveled extensively and have met with Christian artists in Africa, Central America, Asia, and Europe. Seeing music as more than mere entertainment, they are committed to music’s role in the formation of a larger Christian vision of a world church of justice and peace.

At times the group is represented by as few as two members. For bigger events, they draw from a talented pool of musicians. For Global Songs 2, all the members of the group came together to record 27 songs from a variety of cultures.

Beyond its cultural diversity, this music is set apart from much of the other new worship music being published today because it finds its full expression only when sung by the entire community. This music only "works" when the musicians enable and nurture the involvement of all. Indeed, many of these simple, infectious songs could easily become boring when simply listened to; they must be sung to be appreciated.

Simple call-and-response musical forms and short, repeating refrains characterize much of the music. In most cases, the original language of the song is retained and an English translation or paraphrase is offered. The songs written by group members Bret Hesla, Ray Makeever, and Larry Dittberner reflect the same simplicity of musical form. Much of this music could be taught from rote.

Six of the songs are from South Africa, and one each is from Tanzania and Botswana. Three songs are from South America (Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia) and two from the Caribbean. Six songs list their origin as "USA"; five of these are by members of Bread for the Journey, and the sixth is an arrangement of "Go, Tell It on the Mountain." The rest of the collection is made up of individual songs from El Salvador, the Philippines, Sweden, Finland, Korea, a Native American (Muscogee/Creek) song, and a song listed as "Ireland/USA" (a setting of the Magnificat by American composer Rory Cooney to an Irish folk tune).

The songs reflect a wide variety of themes and functions, from Advent ("Come Now, O Prince of Peace"/ Korea) to Lent ("By the Waters of Babylon"/Jamaica) to Easter ("Christ is Arisen, Alleluia"/Tanzania) to Eucharist ("Come, the Banquet Hall is Ready"/El Salvador). As one might expect, many of the songs are suited to accompany movement and processions. Even the most static of congregations will move.

THE FIRST VOLUME of songs by Bread for the Journey (Global Songs/Local Voices) provided an excellent "Foreword" that offered a rationale for the inclusion of songs of the World Church in every parish repertoire. That edition also provided "Tips" for introducing new songs. It would have been helpful to include both those guides in this second volume as well.

The songbook provides clear and simple arrangements of all the songs. There are a few key places when vocal harmonies are missing from a song (for example, on Bret Hesla’s "Let Us Put on the Clothes of Christ"); however, in most cases, the vocal arrangements reflect the parts sung on the recording. A keyboard part and guitar chords are provided when appropriate. In general, the keyboard accompaniments are helpful, although they rarely reflect everything that Tom Witt plays on the recording. Occasionally, as on "Sarantañani" (an infectious song from Bolivia), the recording offers a better example of a keyboard accompaniment than the published edition.

On a number of songs on the recording, Bread for the Journey created wonderful hand percussion. Given the critical role that percussion plays in much of this music, it would have been very helpful if some simple percussion rhythms could have been provided in the songbook for those parish musicians who are unable to "lift" the percussion parts from the recording or improvise their own parts.

Many classically trained musicians may not grasp how important a recording is to understanding the music of other cultures. A good example here is the Korean song "Come Now, O Prince of Peace." It is also presented in a chorale arrangement (provided by the composer, Geonyong Lee), but the accompaniment of flute and synthesizer harp help to evoke an Asian musical sensibility. Without the recording (and in the absence of published instrumental parts), much of this distinctive sound is lost. Given this fact, it is disappointing that there is no mention of the recording in the songbook.

It is critical when introducing multicultural music into worship that the musicians provide the community with information about the peoples and the cultures that inspired the music. There are brief notes at the back of the songbook about each song. In some cases, it would have been nice to have additional information about the communities and cultures represented.

Although this music is intended for congregations, there is no mention made anywhere in the book about how to get permission to reprint the music for congregational use. Of course a number of the songs could be taught from rote; still, it would be helpful to have information about where to go for congregational reprinting (especially given the number of different copyright holders).

Still, this is a wonderful resource. Together with the first Global Songs, Bread for the Journey offers a wealth of music that can enrich the prayer of any community that is seeking a wider vision of the Body of Christ in the world.

MARTY HAUGEN is a writer of liturgical music and a workshop presenter from Eagan, Minnesota.


Individual Voices, Global Interests

The members of Bread for the Journey are a diverse and creative group. A number of them have individual recordings.

Global Songs/Local Voices (Bread for the Journey): This is the first volume of music that the group put together. Like Global Voices 2, it has songs from many cultures and peoples in simple and engaging arrangements.

Yonder Come Day (Mary Preus): Mary demonstrates clearly how a "musician" is not simply someone who plays an instrument. On this recording she uses the instrument of her voice to bring a wide variety of songs to life, from a Nigerian song ("Jesus, We Want to Meet") to an Appalachian folk tune ("How Can I Keep From Singing?") to an old traditional hymn ("Abide With Me"). Other members of Bread for the Journey lend their talents as well.

Dancing at the Harvest (Ray Makeever): Ray has been writing liturgical music for years. His music has evolved into melodies that are ingenuous and engaging, easy to sing and well-fitted to his thoughtful words--truly "folk" music. This is a collection of 19 songs, mainly guitar-based and simple enough for any parish. "We Come to the Hungry Feast" is especially notable.

Feet to the Fire (Linda Breitag): Linda's most distinctive sound is her fluid and energetic fiddle playing (although she also provides vocals and hand percussion for Bread for the Journey). This recording features her playing both traditional and jazz-influenced fiddle tunes, as well as a lovely guitar and vocal piece, "Simple Things are Holy," and an ß cappella call-and-response song, "Last Saturday."

Dusting Off the Green Book (Tom Witt): Tom has created arrangements of 25 hymns from the Lutheran Book of Worship, although many of the choices ("Praise to the Lord," "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," "How Great Thou Art," and "Abide With Me") are hardly limited to Lutherans. His interest in jazz and liturgy come together in this recording, music that takes the hymns in new and fresh directions. --MH

These recordings are available from Augsburg Fortress, 1-800-328-4648, except Linda Breitag's, which is available from Bendy Music, 2415 E. 22nd St., Minneapolis, MN 55406.


Global Songs 2 (recording). Bread for the Journey. Distributed by Augsburg Fortress, 1997.

Global Songs 2: Songs of Faith, Hope, and Liberation From the Church Around the World (songbook). Bread for the Journey. Augsburg Fortress, 1997.

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