Zero Church

Red House Records

November, 2001

Produced by: Stewart Lerman and Suzzy Roche

  1. Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray
  2. Jeremiah
  3. Anyway
  4. Each Of Us Has A Name
  5. Why Am I Praying
  6. Teach Me O Lord
  7. Hallelujah
  8. A Prayer
  9. Praise Song For A New Day
  10. Sounds
  11. Allende
  12. This Gospel how Precious
  13. New York City
  14. Aveenu Malcainu
  15. Together With You
  16. God Bless The Artists
  17. Musical Prayer by Francis Bok
  18. Musical Prayer by Francis Bok

Liner Notes:

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
Maggie and Suzzy and Ysaye M. Barnwell,
sung by Ysaye Barnwell, DuPree,
Maggie and Suzzy


call me Jeremiah
Jeremiah said the Lord
call me and I'll show you
great and mighty things you have not seen

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

Maggie: singing
Suzzy: singing and guitar
Steuart Smith: guitars, Hammond organ, special touches
Patrick Tully: piano
David Mansfield: violin
Alan Bezozi: drums
Paul Ossola: bass


People are often unreasonable, illogical,
and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, People may accuse you
of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some
false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank,
people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone
could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness,
they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis,
it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway

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
Author unknown

music by Maggie and Suzzy

Suzzy: singing
Maggie: singing
Steuart Smith: guitars, wurlitzer
David Mansfield: violin
Stewart Lerman: drums, bass
Sammy Merendino: percussion
Patrick Tully: piano

Each Of Us Has A Name

Each of us has name
given by God
and given by our parents

Each of us has a name
given by our stature and our smile
and given by what we wear

Each of us has a name
given by the mountains
and given by our walls

Each of us has a name
given by the stars
and given by our neighbors

Each of us has a name
given by our sins
and given by our longing

Each of us has a name
given by our enemies
and given by our love

Each of us has a name
given by our celebrations
and given by our work

Each of us has a name
given by the seasons
and given by our blindness

Each of us has a name
given by the sea
and given by
our death

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.
-- Maggie

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
Maggie: keyboard
Suzzy: guitar
Marlon Cherry: djembe
Stewart Lerman: bass, guitar
Mary Rowell: violin
Dorothy Lawson: cello
Dick Connette: string arrangement

Why Am I Praying

Why am I praying
Who's gonna hear?
What I'm saying right now
is from fear
of nothingness
and of everything,
of not knowing enough
and of learning too much,
of being alone
and not having my space,
of being naked in a crowd
or being clothed in disgrace.
So this is what I pray:
To be OK,
to be with those I love
and to know what to say
when I see whatever's above.

words by Cromwell Schubarth

My parents had me recite, every night, the children's prayer:
"Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take"
I don't remember how old I was when that stopped, but it sure scared the hell out of me every night. I used to ask them if they really thought I was going to die. When they said no, I would say, "Then why am I praying?"
-- Cromwell Schubarth

music by Suzzy

Suzzy: singing and guitar
Maggie: singing
Steuart Smith: guitars, piano, organ, horn arrangement
James O'Connor: trumpet & flugelhorn
Paul Ossola: bass
Alan Bezozi: drums
Stewart Lerman: guitar & drums

Teach Me O Lord

Teach me O Lord
The ways of thy statutes
And I shall keep them until the end
Just give me understanding
And I will keep thy laws

I shall observe them with my whole heart

Teach me O Lord

Teach me Jesus
Teach me how to love
Teach me Master
Teach me how to pray
Teach me how to walk every day

I shall observe them with my whole heart

Teach me O Lord

Teach me Jesus
Teach me how to love
Teach me Master
I wanna know how to get down on my knees and pray
Teach me how to walk every day

I shall observe them with my whole heart

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

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
Additional singing: Maggie and Suzzy


dear most merciful God
humbly I approach your throne
of grace and mercy
thank you
for putting your hand in the midst
of our trials and tribulations
cause you bless me
so many times in the hospital
when I was afraid

Father I am calling out to you
bless each patient name by name
these are your children
Lord bless their families
and those who do not know
you are in this
go in Lord and touch 'em

you are the healer
give to the doctor
a heart for compassion
an ear to listen
touch the nurse
may the strength of your hand be upon them
and Lord give 'em a kind word to say
cause you are the beginning of this
and you are gonna be the end

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

Frankie Harris is an aids patient, she refers to the virus as her "spiritual growth."

music by Suzzy

DuPree: singing
Maggie: singing
Suzzy: singing & guitar
Dick Connette: glockenspiel, harmonium, piano
Stewart Lerman: banjo, drums
Paul Ossola: bass
Mary Rowell: violin
Doroty Lawson: cello
Arranged by: Dick Connette

A Prayer

This is to the being I know as God

God please help me to be a better human being
As a young man, I killed a lot of people
   for no good reason!
What became no good reason!
I would love to blame someone else, anyone
   else for how I feel about what I did,
   the killing.
What I thought I had to do to survive to be a
   good American like my dad.
I must have had other choices.
I know I had other choices
Forgive me
I will try to do good things to my fellow human
   beings like nursing,
Fighting fire and save lives. It's what I know.
Until you call for me, or whatever way you use
   to make this pain end.
God; you can take me anytime!

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
Suzzy: singing

Praise Song For A New Day

Over the doors of day
Here by this windowsill
I watch the climbing light
As early footsteps steal
Enormous shadows away.
Tenderly from this height
I feel compassion come
As all the city stirs
And trembles in my room.
So from a stance of calm
A stepping out of sleep
My shadow once again
Disperses in the warm day
With its lives more deep
Than any pleasure or pain.

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."
-- Cecile Mchardy

music by Suzzy

Suzzy: singing & guitar
Maggie: singing
Steuart Smith: guitars, wurlitzer, special touches
David Mansfield: violin
Paul Ossola: bass


They say the sounds we make
will travel through space
through our spinning solar system,
through the wheeling disc of our galaxy,
through what we imagine our universe to be,
we can't begin to imagine.

They say we cannot call a sound back,
cannot erase a sound,
can't catch it up and change it,
no matter how many hymns and prayers
we send chasing after it.
A sound goes on and on and on.

Can you imagine the sounds he made,
how they must have echoed in the clear
   Wyoming air

Can you imagine the sounds they made,
pistol whipping, shattering his skull

Can you imagine the sounds he made
as he hung, tied to a fence, broken and bleeding,
through the bitter night, and the whole next day

Can you imagine the sounds she made
when she heard what they did to her child

These sounds
are streaking through space forever.
These sounds
are shattering stars.
These sounds
will shatter
brightness forever
we can't begin to imagine.

A sound goes on and on and on...

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.
-- Bill Bowers

"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.
-- Karen Bashkirew

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

Suzzy: singing
Steuart Smith: guitars, special touches, accordion
Paul Ossola: bass
Marlon Cherry: djembe, ashiko
Sammy Merendino: percussion


Tonight we cross the Jordan into Canaan
We leave behind this vale of tears
And we'll be born again
Born again
Allende el rio
Allende la mar
Allende la montana
Allende la ciudad
Allende el pantano
Allende el pinche pueblo
Allende el desierto
Allende el cielo
Allende rascacielo
Allende la jeringa...
Allende la policia
Allende el peso
Allende el desempleo
Allende el talado
Allende el talaneo
Allende esta cancion

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

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
Maggie & Suzzy: singing
Stewart Lerman: bass, drums, guitars, Hammond organ

This Gospel How Precious

this gospel how precious to my thirsty soul
o I drink at the river of life every day
for which I give thanks to my God I will pray
I know how to pray
I know how to be thankful
for God has blessed me with a broken heart
and true godly sorrow for sin

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.
-- Suzzy

Maggie and Suzzy: singing

New York City

here's a song for the heroes
who were braver than I could ever be
love for their families
who are grieving but not alone
new york city is crying
new york city is down on her knees
new york city is praying
together with you

here's a song for the missing
every loved one who still can't be found
love for their families
who in sorrow are not alone
new york city is standing by you
new york city is down on her knees
new york city is praying
together with you

may our voices rise to "split the sky...
and let the face of God shine through"*
can we push the clouds of fear apart
and rest our sadness on Thy heart

new york city is trying
new york city is down on her knees
new york city is praying
together with you

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.
-- Suzzy

words and music by Suzzy
* from Edna St. Vincent Millay's Renascence

Suzzy: singing & guitar
Maggie: singing

Aveenu Malcainu

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

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.
-- Suzzy

Joel Bard and Maggie and Suzzy: singing

Together With You

Together with you
with three hes
with three shes
in a perfect embrace
with you wordlessly
you describe my freedom
after those moments
when the persecuted city trembles
you appear precisely when the arms of he
the arms of she let go
those piny ones
with a chorus of warrior wind
that assaults my childhood senses
that embrace that I need as much
as the one that leaves me in tears
before the empty hammock
where your ghost gently sways
the embrace of the grandfather
that faced dictatorial cells
embraces of decadent teeth that propelled me
toward your embrace that sings like she
like he sang to me
before you returned
before you left
in that moment without the three shes
the three hes
full of the desire of all
desiring all shes and all hes
there deeply fed by our chaos
is an I do love you
to bring together root and branch
dream and fact
to destroy myself well
this song
that springs from all of you
that live me that die me that sing me
that are me

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.
-- Ruben Martinez

music by Suzzy

Maggie and Suzzy: singing

God Bless The Artists

God bless the artists and keep them safe,
Praise the creator and those who create,
Touch the senses, strike the chord
Sound the trumpet, praise the Lord.
Guide the potter's mystic touch
The painter's brush, the actor's heart,
"Dance the steps" to magic music
Grace the motion, move the spirit,
Guard the artists' cosmic gifts
May the proclaim
God's great creation.

God bless the artists and keep them safe
Praise the creator and those who create
Touch the senses, strike the chord,
Shout for joy and praise the Lord.

Amen, Amen

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.
-- Priscilla Dewey Houghton, a lyricist on a spiritual journey through the arts

music by Suzzy

Maggie & Suzzy: singing
Patrick Tully: piano
Dorothy Lawson: cello
James O'Connor: trumpet & flugelhorn
Stewart Lerman: guitar & special touches
Steuart Smith: guitar solo
Dick Connette: horn & string arrangement

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 or

music by Suzzy

Francis Box: speaking
Maggie: singing
David Roche: singing
Suzzy: piano, guitar & singing
Steuart Smith: recorders, guitar, bass
David Mansfield: dobro
Marlon Cherry: djembe

Ysaye, Suzzy, DuPree, and Maggie

Recorded and Mixed by Stewart Lerman at The Shinebox, NYC
Produced by Stewart Lerman and Suzzy Roche

Steuart Smith: guitars, flutes, keyboards, accordion, and other special touches
Dick Connette: piano, harmonium, glockenspiel
David Mansfield: violine, dobro
Paul Ossola: bass
Mary Rowell: violin
Dorothy Lawson: cello
James O'Connor: trumpet & flugelhorn
Sammy Merendino: drums and percussion
Marlon Cherry: percussion
Patrick Tully: piano
Alan Bezozi: drums
Stewart Lerman: guitars, keyboard, drums, banjo, sitar, & special touches
Maggie: keyboards
Suzzy: piano and guitars
Guest Vocalists: Dr. Ysaye Barnwell, Joel Bard, DuPree, Ruben Martinez,
David Roche, Terre Roche, Francis Bok

Additional recording at Passport Recording Studio
Scott Lehrer: engineer

Mastered by Dom Maita, Sterling Sound
Design: © 2001 27.12 design ltd, NYC (
Photo illustrations by Janie Geiser

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