1. The Song Behind the Songs. Gathering up the longings of the human race as if into one great song, mighty rivers flowing to one great ocean.
2. The Common Good. Written especially for the 'Turning Point' Conference... a light feel (to lighten the lump of all that talking) with lyrics that attempt a brief summary of Catholic social teaching. "The purpose of Government is the good of the people... not profit and loss. Better than gold, the prize of the Kingdom- one life that stood for the common good."
3. Mercy is One of God's Names. Commissioned by the Sisters of Mercy (North Sydney) for the tenth anniversary of the Mercy Foundation, which channels funds from the Mater Hospital into the seeding and development of social justice projects.
4. God of the Mess. "God of the mess that we're in, you still bless us and feel every bump when we fall. You see the good in our hearts and you know how we struggle- you fathered and mothered us all." Inspired by a conversation with Fr. Paul Hannah, the priest in a struggling West Sydney Parish.
5. We Welcome This Child - "If the Universe gathered and spoke just one word, you are the flesh of that Word here today." A song often used for baptisms. A joyful celebration of the new child and our 'beautiful world'.
6. Father Mother God - A contemporary reflection of the Lord's Prayer
7. Highways and Byways - A jaunty account of the history and mission of the Missionary Sisters of Service - a small Australian order who answer "the call of those beyond".
8. Still To Come The New Creation - "The Earth is groaning in the pain of giving birth".
9. The Search - A poem with soundscape - a look at human history in and out of relationship with God
10. My Eye Has No More Tear - Looking at poverty and suffering in our world and asking 'why?'. Written for 'Fast For Kids' - Catholic Missions
11. I Could Not Make The Flowers Grow - Paul Smith, who wrote the words of this song shortly before his death, was a homeless man.
12. L'Arche Prayer - An adaptation of the beautiful prayer from the L'Arche communities which give welcome to the intellectually disabled. Universal in its meaning.
Sometimes, a song needs an invitation.
David Shinnick invites me to write a song for 'Turning Point', a conference on Catholic social teaching, to be held in Adelaide. My response: 'Still To Come The New Creation'.
The song has a lot of repetition. Perhaps there should be another song with more content? A conversation with Sr Catherine Seward in Adelaide provides me with a key phrase.. 'for the common good' . The new song that emerges has a light feel. It will be a welcome relief I hope, from all the serious talk at the conference. But, perhaps there should be one more song-something more lyrical. And so, a melody I have been saving for years and a puzzling phrase that came with it - ie. "the song behind the song', suddenly find their moment.
People at the conference will spend a lot of time listening. It would be good if they could join in the songs.. not just in unison, but in harmony! So I write three part arrangements. At the conference, it is wonderful to hear the way the songs 'take off' with enthusiastic singing and I am pleased when people say the songs capture the mood and themes of the gathering. The songwriter may not be an activist but songs, small as they are can bring a sense of movement or solidarity.
On the way home from Adelaide, 1 hear from my wife that a friend, Tom Hammerton, has made us a garden gate as a gift.. and his new daughter Kimberley is to be baptised soon after my return. Perhaps a special song? The phrase that springs to mind is "we welcome this child" and as I travel across the Hay plains, melody and lyrics take shape. At the baptism, Tom, Jan, Alexis and little Kimberley sit at the centre of a large circle of people who sing (and dance) the song. The songwriter may be solitary but a song can bring a sense of community and blessing.
Gaps are painful. I can't always be writing of ideals and burning issues. Usually, life is far from ideal. Fr Paul Hannah, talking to me of the people of Mount Druitt says: ''sometimes, out here, we talk of the God of the mess"...a phrase that stays with me for years and eventually becomes a song. Paul Smith writes his poem of a 'wasted' life, 'I Could Not Make The Flowers Grow' and dies a few days later. In his song, and mine, let flowers grow.
Every song has its story. Thanks to the people who inspire the songs, who live the songs. Thanks to those who sing the songs and find ways to use the songs. Thanks to all who help and encourage me in my work and forgive my shortcomings. Special thanks to Dorothy Woodward, Maria Rohr, Terry Westblade, Ellen Leary, Ted Kennedy, Geraldine Dayball, Bill and Barbara Clements, the Monfries, Saboisky and Noone families, Sally Waterford, Lindsay Swadling, you, my family, Jason, Niamh, and Madge my dear pagan-christian wife.
(Peter Kearney, July 1993)
Songs for the lost and found, listeners and liturgists, educators and struggling liberators. ELLEN LEARY introduces this album by Peter Kearney.
Links in rosary beads turning to gold . . . Were women really present at the Last Supper? . . . The merits or otherwise of the new catechism . . . None of these topical issues is explicitly addressed in Peter Kearney's new Album. Instead 'The Common Good' offers a collection of happenings, musings and confrontations with our consciences as we are carried along on a roller- coaster of emotions from pain in the gut (as we see ourselves as the one who shuts the door on the person in need), to hopeful exuberance as a new baby joins our community.
Twelve songs never recorded before make up the Album. It was a long time coming to birth, having a gestation that included whistle stop concerts around Australia, a jaunt to America to sing a conference of religious superiors , and the time Kearney spent up to his elbows in mud as he helped to build his mudbrick studio-workplace. Says Kearney: 'These songs and this recording have come together slowly, out of busy times and difficult times in some ways. It's my first full Album of new songs since 'The Year of God's Favour?' in 1988. But there are benefits from slowness I think." As a songwriter. Kearney is known for everything from liturgical songs to a song about looking at his reflection in a window. From children's songs to songs about social justice, and his songs about St. Francis.
This latest Album contains a variety of styles. poems and soundscapes of music songs to be sung in parts la choir features on several of the tracks) w songs that invite movement and dance. The topics are as varied as the music. The title song. 'For The Common Good' was one of three songs written for a conference on Catholic social teaching held in Adelaide in 1991. Despite the seriousness of his subject matter. Kearney manages to present the message in a light, effervescent manner that encourages participation.
Two songs are prayers. 'Father Mother God' is a paraphrase of the Lord's Prayer which is sure to please many since it includes the female dimension of God. 'L'Arche Prayer' is Kearney's adaptation of the blessing prayer used in the L'Arche communities which give welcome to intellectually disabled people .. a blessing that would be appropriate for many places of hospitality including home and school. He even manages to make learning a bit of Australian church history painless in the song 'Highways and Byways' which tells the story of John Wallis and the founding of the Missionary Sisters of Service.
Kearney's work as a songwriter and singer takes him all over the country. From this time 'on the road', the people he meets and talks to become a source of inspiration for many of his songs. In fact, severalof these songs were actually composed whilst driving the long country miles. Says Kearney. "this is a new development for me. Previously, I would always compose while accompanying myself on the guitar, but several of these songs were composed with voice, mind and heart only." From Wagga Wagga, he heard the story of Paul Smith. Paul often stayed at the Edel Quinn shelter for homeless men in that town. Shortly before his sudden death he wrote two poems for the shelter newsletter Kearney has combined them into the song 'I Could Not Make The Flowers Grow' . The song is something of a memorial to Paul and all who struggle to find love and acceptance and a place in the world.
Another song, 'God Of The Mess', grew out of a conversation with Fr. Paul Hanna of the Mount Druitt Parish in Western Sydney. Fr. Hanna used this phrase in speaking of the experience of his parishioners. Here, we have a God who can 'still bless us and feel every bump when we fall.' The God that Kearney sings of is one that cannot be limited to narrow confines of ritual and dogma, but a God to be found in both the sacred and the profane, the God of the furthest reaches of the universe and the God within. A compassionate 'God Of The Mess', totally immersed in human history, not some judge sitting up in the clouds.
Who will be interested in this Album? The many who already enjoy Peter's music. Those who need meaningful, affirming yet challenging songs with a strong sense of global community. Those interested in social justice. Educators will no doubt welcome another Album from Peter Kearney since theirs isn't an easy job, always trying to come up with something new to open the minds of their students to the deeper meanings of life. A track like 'The Search' with its dramatic soundscape and graphic reflections on our long search for God and ourselves is well suited to Secondary school use.
This is an Album that should appeal to listeners and liturgists, educators and struggling liberators. To those who have been found by God and those who are still looking.
(Ellen Leary, September 1993)
Compiled by Ellen Leary
The songs in this collection have many uses in the classroom, parish and retreat centre. Various people involved in these fields have commented on how they can see these songs being used. Thanks in particular go to Sr Dorothy Woodward, Sr Sandra Perrett, Leo Drinkwater, Sr Catherine Crawford and Mrs. Lorraine Kirkaldy.
THE SONG BEHIND
FOR THE COMMON
MERCY IS ONE OF
GOD OF THE MESS
WE WELCOME THIS
STILL TO COME THE
THE EYE HAS NO
I COULD NOT MAKE
THE FLOWERS GROW
RECORDING: 1993, Abergeldie Studio, Mittagong. Engineer - Kenny Miller.
SOLO SINGERS: Claire Parkhill, Peter Kearney
MUSICIANS: Lindsay Martin (violin, mandolin), Ray Brown (electric bass), Paul Acland (drums); Peter Acland (electric guitar); Kenny Miller (keyboards, drum programming); , Roma Cooper (flute); Ian Cooper (keyboards)
PRODUCED by Peter Kearney
COVER ARTWORK by Dorothy Woodward