Join in the Blessing, Sing the Sacred:
New Native American Songbook
by Mary Beth Coudal
New York, June 17, 2008--From the Mohawk nation to the Hawaiian Islands, songs ring out in a spirit-filled songbook, Singing the Sacred: Musical Gifts from Native American Communities. The songs can be heard on a companion CD that includes all 21 songs recorded by people from the indigenous communities.
Released by the Global Praise program of the General Board of Global Ministries, the songs come from 15 Native American communities within the US. About half of the songs in the collection come from the Oklahoma Missionary Conference, to which half of the United Methodist Native churches belong.
"Each piece is intended to invoke a blessing on the entire community," writes the editor, The Rev. Alvin Deer. "When you join in singing these songs, we believe that you will experience that blessing." Rev. Deer (Kiowa and Muscogee Creek) is a member of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference of The United Methodist Church.
Each song entry contains a musical score, a singable English translation, a brief history of the song, and a paragraph with performance tips called "Sharing the Gift."
Making reference in the foreword to a Native custom, Rev. Deer writes, "This is the essence of the giveaway--instead of receiving gifts after being chosen, as in mainstream American culture, it is the honored one who offers the gifts."
One such gift in the collection is the song "The Queen's Prayer," written by Queen Liliukalani while in prison more than 100 years ago for creating a Hawaiian constitution. The song note states: "'The Queen's Prayer' is a powerful testimony of divine support in time of need. Its stately music and passionate message have made it a staple for Hawaiian choirs of all kinds: church, school, and civic."
This song, like many found in the songbook, inspire solidarity with people who have been "overwhelmed by a superpower bent on conquest," according to the song notes.
"In celebrating the diverse body of the church, my church can join in prayer with the Queen who wrote it," said the Rev. Christopher Heckert, associate general secretary of Global Ministries.
Rev. Deer edited the spiral-bound songbook with Jorge Lockward, assistant editor, and Carlton R. Young, music editor.
Rev. Heckert sees this songbook as a way to "strengthen Christian faith without destroying the culture. In the past, missionaries imposed culture; now the church is seeking to give voice to communities."
Date posted: Jun 20, 2008