Text writing

Today I begin writing from a new location. I spent all my writing time this weekend working on this web site, and only got the “easy” parts done. But I’m feeling a great sense of accomplishment at finally taking this step.


Friday was the last day of school, so I have now set aside one of my many “pots.” For months, I have been on a prose kick, with little inspiration or desire to work on music. But a series of email compliments from one of my music publishers has made me wild to compose again. I have been writing music, but it’s been mostly instrumental. The music is the easy part. It’s texts that kick my butt. And it’s hard to hear the voice of the Spirit when my 16-month-old shouts, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA” and my three-year-old answers, “ROOAAR!” at every imaginable opportunity.


But I digress.


Since I have so many difficulties with text, I want to acknowledge some of the truly great texts that I have had the privilege to sing.


Rory Cooney is my hero:


“Pleasure is a siren, promising the flesh

Brief relief from emptiness, a hiding place from death.

Some will choose to chase it until it leaves them bored

But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!”

            (We Will Serve the Lord, GIA Publications, www.giamusic.com)


Talk about nailing contemporary society to the wall! Yet it is not written in language so modern that it’s distracting.


Then there’s “Canticle of the Turning”:


“Though I am small, my God, my all, you work great things in me,” and “The hungry poor shall weep no more for the food they can never earn…”


Not to mention,


“This saving word that our forebears heard is the promise which holds us bound

Till the spear and rod can be crushed by God who is turning the world around.”

            (Canticle of the turning, GIA Publications, www.giamusic.com)


Notice the inner rhymes, the inevitability of the total message. Folks, that is *hard* to do.


But my all-time favorite is “Up From The Earth.” The whole text is a work of art, but here are some of my favorite lines:


“…Up from the earth push blade and leaf and stem. They rise for Christ, and we shall rise with them!….”


“…Up from the cross but scarred in limbs and side, A wounded church brings healing far and wide!”


“…Christ sows his lifelike wheat, And death itself lies fallow at his feet!”

            (How can a farm girl not love that couplet?)


“…though death had bound us tight, like Lazarus, we stumble into light!”

            (Wow. I mean, wow.)


Tom Conry’s another one:


“I will not die before I’ve lived to see that land,

Firm as the earth, your own promise,

I’ll not let go until I’ve held it in my hand

That word of hope and gentle laughter.


“I will not rest until your dawn is in my eyes

That fragile light, new like morning,

I will not sleep until I’ve wakened to that sunrise…


“And I will breathe in that mighty wind of justice;

I’ll know my name and rise up singing,

And I will call until my words bring on the thunder;

Washed in that rain, then I’ll know you.”

            (I Will Not Die, OCP publications, www.ocp.org)


If you ever get a chance, check out the entire text of “Born of Peace.” There are worlds of meaning layered into that one.


And don’t forget Bernadette Farrell, who wrote what I consider the definitive hymn version of Ps. 139:


“…with love everlasting you besiege me; in every moment of life or death, you are.”


“Although your Spirit is upon me, still I search for shelter from your light.

There is nowhere on earth I can escape you: Even the darkness is radiant in your sight.”


“For the wonder of who I am, I praise you: Safe in your hands, all creation is made new.”


These excerpts don’t even begin to touch the wealth of the traditional hymns—Lord of All Hopefulness is one of my particular favorites, as are All Creatures of our God and King and For the Beauty of the Earth.


Hymn text writing—liturgical song text writing—is excruciatingly difficult for me, but I rarely feel a sense of accomplishment so great as when I manage to complete one. And unlike prose writing, I always know when a song text is finished. The limits are so stringent that there ultimately is only one “right” solution. At least, that’s what I’ve found in my own writing.


But since I’m now on my third page, I think I’d better sign off for today.