Produced by: Stewart Lerman and Suzzy Roche
This collection of prayers is a result of work we began at the Institute on the Arts & Civic Dialogue founded by Anna Deavere Smith at Harvard University funded in part by the Ford Foundation. "The Institute focuses on artistic collaboration and discovery while exploring issues of race, identity, diversity and community."
We are profoundly grateful to EVERYONE at the Institute, the core audience, the other visiting artists, and the staff. Also, to those in and around the Boston area who trusted us with their stories.
We spoke in depth to many people from different cultural and religious backgrounds about their thoughts and feelings about prayers. We were not focused on an academic or historical study of prayer, we were simply interested in working with anyone who wished to share a prayer with us. Many of these prayers were written by folks we spoke to in and around the IACD community. Some are more traditional. However, this project is not affiliated with any organized religion, and by no means do we intend to represent religions of the world. It is an exploration of faith and belief and how it has affected individuals' lives.
We hoped to let our music reflect our conversations and experiences at the institute. These songs are, for the most part, a collaboration with a community. Besides our own work, we were influenced by the lively and sometimes uncomfortable discussions about race and diversity. We were also inspired by the other guest artists who shared their work in its raw form in an open atmosphere of adventure. Listening was a major activity at the Institute.
A note about the title -- the address where many of our rehearsals and meetings took place at the Institute was Zero Church Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which happens to be a church.
Working with Anna and with the IACD community was a life changing experience. This recording is an expression of our gratitude.
Very special thanks to Anna Deavere Smith
and to: Bob Feldman and everyone at Red House Records, the entire IACD community, The Ford Foundation, Betsy and Joel Bard, Alexa Brennan, Bill Bowers, Kimber Riddle, Patrick Tully, Bill and Beth Barbeau, Cromwell Schubarth, Cecile Mchardy, Stacey Shorter, Sister Jane, Gail Holliday, Priscilla Dewey Houghton, Francis Bok, Janie Geiser, 27.12 design ltd., Geri Lipschultz, Dr. Ysaye Barnwell, Lynette DuPree, Ruben Martinez & Joe Garcia, David & Terre Roche, Dr. Marcia Falk, Irene Venditti, Beth Friend, John Ingrassia, Reena Spicehandler, Emma Reinhardt, Michael Dalby, everyone who sang and played on this recording,
Dick Connette and Steuart Smith
and especially Stewart Lerman.
Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray
From the day she left me at college upstate in New York until she died, my mother would say "Now, don't forget to pray." That is how she left me on that first day, and that is how she ended every phone conversation thereafter. That phrase took on some heavy meaning on that northern state university college campus in 1963, where there were only seven Black people. yes, praying was a literal thing that I did, but it also became synonymous with remain true to myself, my values, my heritage and my culture in that place where it felt like I was very much alone: where I couldn't hear nobody pray. So I'm passing this along to you today, "Don't forget to pray."
Dr. Ysaye M. Barnwell is a composer, author, actress, health professional who has, since 1979, been a member of the acapella quintet Sweet Honey In The Rock.
Traditional Spiritual arranged by
call me Jeremiah
words from Jeremiah 33:3
During a period of reflection and meditation while reading the Bible, I was drawn to Jeremiah, Chapter 33, particularly verses 3 & 6. My eyes returned to these two verses over and over again. Verse 3 says, "Call to Me and I will show you great and mighty things which you do not know." Verse 6 spoke to me where it said, "I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth." I feel God has opened my heart to these truths. It is my hope that this musical prayer will serve as an inspiration and sound echo for sending thoughts of peace, generosity of spirit and harmony throughout the world.
This song was inspired by our conversation with Gail Holliday, a member of the core audience at the Institute.
music by Maggie
People are often unreasonable, illogical,
We were told that this prayer was written by Mother Teresa and inscribed on the wall of her orphanage in Calcutta. However, Sister M. Nirmala M.C. at the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta wrote to us and said that she did not write this prayer. Another source said that this poem was found by Mother Teresa's bedside when she died, written in her own handwriting. It remains a mystery to us.
This poem was given to us by Bill Bowers
music by Maggie and Suzzy
Each Of Us Has A Name
Each of us has name
The first person I thought of when we began this quest was my friend Geri Lipshultz. We've known each other since high school. I called her and stumbled through a description of our embryonic project. Several months later, she sent me some things, including these lines, which she found in a prayerbook at home.
Poem by Zelda, translated from the Hebrew by Marcia Falk. Excerpted from The Book of Blessings: New Jewish Prayers for Daily Life, the Sabbath, and the New Moon Festival (Harper, 1996: Beacon, 1999). Copyright (c) Marcia Lee Falk. Used by permission.
music by Maggie
Maggie, Terre, Suzzy and David Roche: singing
Why Am I Praying
Why am I praying
words by Cromwell Schubarth
My parents had me recite, every night, the children's prayer:
music by Suzzy
Suzzy: singing and guitar
Teach Me O Lord
Teach me O Lord
Teach me O Lord is a prayer for wisdom and guidance. A chance to tune out a very noisy world and to unashamedly ask for help. Not a prayer for a person who is proud in spirit but rather a person with a humble heart and a strong desire to grow, to learn and to change. What touches me most about the lyrics are the sincerity of heart and the yearning to have a closer fellowship with one's maker. A desire to be at one with the creative spirit who is called by many names but more importantly who always answers to them all.
DuPree, a three year veteran artist at the Institute, generously graced us with her singing at many IACD events.
Traditional hymn arranged and sung by DuPree
dear most merciful God
words by Frankie Harris
This is a prayer out of once being hopeless and ending up hopeful, once traveling a road with no light and then traveling down the same road with a brighter light. I know that God had me in the palm of His hand when everyone else gave up on me. I have faced death three times and there is nothing to hold me into fear.
Frankie Harris is an aids patient, she refers to the virus as her "spiritual growth."
music by Suzzy
This is to the being I know as God
words by Bill Barbeau
Bill Barbeau was a Marine Scout Dog Handler, "Satan serial number 961X", in the Vietnam War. Lance Corporal Barbeau was a member of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division "Lucky Lark."
He was recommended for a medal by his commanding officer who said, "This extremely competent and decisive scout dog team was instrumental in preventing death to myself and the members of 'Lucky Lark' ... I would like to voice a desire that proper recognition of their efforts and those of all scout dog teams be given."
Bill is a firefighter in Somerville, Mass. (and a real sweetheart).
music by Maggie
Maggie: piano and singing
Praise Song For A New Day
Over the doors of day
words by Cecile Mchardy
Following the oral traditions of the griots (African troubadours), Cecile, a playful, wheelchaired-wandering, urban buddhist yogi, offered this found poem as a waking meditation. She writes: "Living alone in an attic with skylights, have a vast view from above. A church opposite sounds the angelus. The city awakens early, and I have such gratitude for life, such an urge to flood the world with song as the day with dawning."
music by Suzzy
Suzzy: singing & guitar
They say the sounds we make
words by Karen Bashkirew
I was a gay kid and grew up in a small Western town, a college town, not unlike Laramie, Wyoming. So when I heard of Matthew Shepard's murder... of him being beaten by two young men, then tied to a fence and left to die, solely because he was gay... it really hit close to home. The part of this horrible event that touched me the most was a part that never made the news. Another young man, who happened to be riding his bike out on the edge of town, discovered what he thought was a scarecrow lashed onto a fence. Then he noticed the blood all around. He had never bicycled in this area before, and in his testimony he stated that "maybe God sent me" so that Matthew wouldn't have to die all alone. Also, when we were working on the piece in Cambridge I read about 3 other gay men murdered... one kicked to death, one burnt on a pile of old tires, and the other, pistol whipped.
"Sounds" was written in response to Matthew Shepard's murder, and more specifically, in response to hearing the grieving sounds of his mother in a fragment of television coverage. As a mother... I felt shattered by the sounds... I began to imagine the place those sounds were coming from and the distant places they might go.
Bill Bowers, who is an actor and a mime, gave us this poem and we worked on it as a piece for his presentation as a visiting artist at the Institute.
music by Suzzy
Tonight we cross the Jordan into Canaan
words and music by Ruben Martinez
The Spaniards once referred to the New World as 'allende la mar' (across the ocean). The term was heavy with the symbolism of a colonial power seeking fortune in the Americas. I recast the term as 'allende el rio' (across the river) for Mexican migrants who see their future on the northern side of the Rio Grande. There are countless obstacles on the migrants' path (Border Patrol, poor wages, discrimination), but their will to overcome drives them forward anyway. I guess you could call this song my migrant prayer.
Ruben Martinez is the author of Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail (Metropolitan/Holt). Ruben was a visiting artist at the Institute working on a theatrical piece call "Border Ballad."
Ruben Martinez: singing & guitar
This Gospel How Precious
this gospel how precious to my thirsty soul
a Shaker hymn
The first Shaker settlement was established near Albany, New York in 1776. They believed in communal living, productive labor, equality of the sexes, celibacy and pacifism. Their unsettling style of worship - singing, shouting and violent trembling in their fervor and communication with God - was scorned and considered profane by the traditional Christian religions of the time. Change was an important aspect of Shaker life. Although they had withdrawn from "the world", the Shakers kept abreast of new technologies and innovations. A striving for perfection characterized these people, whose work reflected their devotion to simplicity and beauty.
This prayer was given to me by Liz Lecompte, director of the Wooster Group.
Maggie and Suzzy: singing
New York City
here's a song for the heroes
On September 11, I was walking my dog when the World Trade Center was destroyed, and along with it went thousands of loved ones from all over the world. As a New Yorker, I joined millions of others who felt devastated by the great sadness that engulfed our city. Limore Tomer asked Maggie & me to sing at a benefit for Squad One, the firehouse in Park Slope that lost 12 men, fathers to 27 children. I knew that many family members would be there and felt that I had to try to write a song for them. Maggie & I had been reading Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem 'Renascence' at the conception of this project, and we went back to read it again after September 11. I felt heavily influenced by her poem while writing this.
words and music by Suzzy
Suzzy: singing & guitar
Aveenu Malcainu is a prayer - a chant - that has stayed with me long after I have strayed (literally and figuratively) from the orthodox Jewish community in which I was raised. In part, it is the haunting melody, but it's also the associations over a lifetime. It is sung only during the High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the end of a 10-day period of self-reflection during which Jews are expected to reflect on their actions during the past year. In synagogue, observant Jews are praying "to be inscribed in the Book Of Life", literally seeking one more year of life. Growing up in a small congregation in Quebec City, I would watch the older men, many of them "old-country" immigrants, scrupulously fasting, praying all day, and earnestly pleading (or so it seemed to me) for their lives. Aveenu Malcainu would be sung several times and, as the day progressed, the singing felt more passionate. I could feel the tension of the congregation release as people sang with their souls, and for some, for their souls. While these memories from the 1950s are distant and I am not an observant Jew, Aveenu Malcainu still stirs very deep feelings in me.
Joel Bard, a member of the core audience, shared this prayer with us. Joel and I found ourselves sitting together and singing it, over and over again.
Together With You
Together with you
words by Ruben Martinez
When I met Suzzy in Cambridge, she asked everyone for "prayers" and for some reason I thought of this piece, so I gave it to here at dinner one night. I had no idea that within just a couple of days "Together with you" would be set to music! I have only a hazy recollection of when and where this poem was written, it was probably in El Salvador. It was a tough time, I remember that much. The words might seem abstract but they're actually quite specific to people and places and things in my life. Like "Allende," it's all about overcoming, about a new day after the dark of night.
music by Suzzy
Maggie and Suzzy: singing
God Bless The Artists
God bless the artists and keep them safe,
words by Priscilla Dewey Houghton
I love the music of the Roche sisters. When I was lucky enough to meet Suzzy Roche at the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue, this kindred spirit asked me to write a prayer for her project. I wanted to write "God Bless the Artists" because I've worked with and been inspired by artists all my life.
music by Suzzy
Maggie & Suzzy: singing
Musical Prayer By Francis Bok
We thank you Lord for having guarded and guided your people of southern Sudan from the suffering and torture in their country to a land of freedom. I thank you particularly for freeing me from the bondage of slavery, a condition I never thought I would survive. I have suffered greatly, but worse yet, I have seen people of all ages, children murdered right before my eyes. Thank you Lord for helping me to survive this nightmare. I may be free and happy now, but the fate of thousands back in Sudan is unknown. Let us all pray that we may finally live in harmony as one people of the same land.
words by Francis Bok
We met Francis through Sister Jane, a member of the core audience of the Institute. Francis, 22 years old, was captured when his mother sent him to the market to sell some eggs and beans. The men in the town were shot and children were taken. Francis was tied onto one side of a donkey, two little girls on the other. "The girls couldn't stop crying, so they shot one first, then the other. I learned to be quiet." After ten years of being bought and sold he eventually made it to this country by way of Fargo, North Dakota. He now works for the American Anti-Slavery Group. He had never been to school, but since being here has learned to speak and read English. Emma Reinhardt, director of the Anti Slavery Group, arranged for Francis to read his prayer for us so his voice could be included on this recording. Anyone who is interested in finding out more about slavery in Sudan can contact www.Anti-Slavery.com or www.iAbolish.com.
music by Suzzy
Francis Box: speaking
Recorded and Mixed by Stewart Lerman at The Shinebox, NYC
Additional recording at Passport Recording Studio
Mastered by Dom Maita, Sterling Sound
Also by Suzzy Roche on Red House Records: Holy Smokes (RHR CD 104), Songs from an Unmarried Housewife and Mother, Greenwich Village, USA (RHR CD 136)
Red House Records recordings are found in fine stores throughout the world, and are available by mail through the Red House catalog. For more information about Suzzy and Maggie Roche, their touring schedule and the latest news - as well as a catalog featuring information about other Red House Records artists - please write or call toll free: 1-800-695-4687. Sign up for our email newsletter at www.redhouserecords.com