July 09, 2007
what other artists (besides U2) have produced music that works well in U2charists or similar services?
Some artists who leap to my mind:
- Switchfoot (e.g., "Dare You To Move")
- Bruce Cockburn (e.g., "Dream Like Mine")
- Crowded House (e.g., "Don't Dream It's Over," which I always thought would be a good Maundy Thursday song)
- Bob Marley (e.g., "Redemption Song")
- Steel Pulse (e.g., "Chant a Psalm")
- Sweet Honey in the Rock (e.g., "Will You Harbor Me?")
- Wild Goose Worship Group (Iona Community music -- can be done in a more rocking manner for a U2charist; e.g., "Love and Anger," "Don't Tell Me of a Faith That Fears")
- Alanis Morisette (e.g., "Thank U")
- Indigo Girls (e.g., "It's All Right," "Prince of Darkness," "History of Us," "All That We Let In")
- Arrested Development (e.g., "Tennessee")
- Bob Dylan
- Bruce Springsteen (e.g., "The Rising," his arrangement of "Eyes on the Prize")
You get the idea. The important things to consider, I think, include:
- Are the lyrics in keeping with the message of the service? Is there anything in there that would be distracting or that would detract from it? Do they express a sentiment that's inviting to a wide variety of people? (E.g., Bruce Cockburn's "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" is a deeply moving song written from the perspective of a justice-minded Christian, but it ends with a statement of profound anger using a four-letter word. Many people couldn't sing it using the word "I," and I think it's not helpful to ask people to make "I" statements that don't represent them.)
- Is this song regular enough in meter, placed in a good key, and easy enough to catch on to for congregational singing? (E.g., Arrested Development's "Tennessee" is a fabulous song, but I think a congregation would only be able to sing the chorus, so it might make a good anthem or song to do in the style of a psalm with antiphon and cantor, but not a good choice for a gathering hymn. And many rock songs work great if you're a tenor, but are very awkward for other vocal ranges and difficult to raise or lower an octive if you're a soprano or bass.)
- Do we have the equipment/musicians to make this song work? Or can we adapt this song to make it work well with what we've got? Most of U2's songs only involve two or three chords. If you want to do them with live music but nobody in your congregation plays like The Edge, I think it's better to adapt them for a format your musicians can play well (may work very well in other styles and as acoustic numbers -- you can check out the acoustic set on U2 concert DVDs such as this one or bootlegs and U2 tribute albums in styles from bluegrass to punk for ideas). And if you're planning to use CDs or DVDs for music, do you have a sound system that will play them in a way that's not tinny, muddy, or otherwise difficult to follow or distractingly low in quality?
- Is this song either familiar enough to the congregation or easy or repetitive enough to catch on to reasonably quickly? Otherwise, it might make a good anthem or musical track for a multimedia meditation, but it won't work very well for a hymn. For example, U2's "Crumbs From Your Table" is thematically perfect for a U2charist, but it's never been released as a single and I've never heard it played on the radio, and I'm not sure how well it would work as a hymn.
Other than that, I think that anything from rocking versions of traditional hymns or Taize music to Green Day and beyond could work. Just remember that there's nothing magic about U2 songs, PowerPoint, or amplifiers that will make a song that just doesn't work or is played poorly into a gripping liturgical masterpiece. All good liturgy usually requires language (and musical idioms) understood by the people, solid thinking, sufficient practice, and skillful leadership; if you can do that with the music you're choosing, you should be in good shape.
And watch the U2charist resources page for an expanding database of songs and other ideas for services!
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