When Peter and Annie Blood-Patterson first put together the Rise Up Singing Songbook, they had no idea that someday it would sell 1 million copies around the world.
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- Have you ever had the experience that Annie and Peter are talking about, where you felt opened and even transformed by singing with a group?
- What are some of your favorite songs to sing with groups?
I’m Annie Patterson, and I go to Mount Toby Meeting in Western Massachusetts. It’s part of New England Yearly Meeting. And I’m one of the co-creators of the songbook Rise Up Singing.
I’m Peter Blood-Patterson. All the same, another co-conspirator of songbook making.
Rise Up Singing is a collection of 1,200 songs. Just has words and chords, no music in it at all. It’s basically designed for people to teach each other songs and sing together and be able to have the words. It’s been amazingly popular, more than we ever imagined.
And today it’s sold over a million copies. It’s being used in China, in the Ukraine, Russia, and all kinds of places as a community builder, so Rise Up Singing became what we really wanted it to become. We wanted it to become a kind of tool for community organizing and for gathering people together.
The kind of mission we had for this work is similar to what Pete Seeger’s done with music over the past, which is to use song as a way of drawing people together into community, even people who think they can’t sing often end up at concerts singing their hearts out, and using that experience of singing with other people to kind of draw hearts together and to create transformation. Transformation that gives people inspiration to do peace and justice work and healing of the planet work, and also to empower them to overcome whatever obstacles there might be in their own lives personally.
Listening to the Still Small, Voice
I think it’s hard to talk about what we do when we lead singing without talking about Spirit and our connection to prayer and to how we live our lives as Quakers, because when we do a sing-a-long, we often take time beforehand to meet together and just to sort of say, “what are we feeling?” “What are we connecting with with the energy we’re feeling from the audience?”
Different places call for different kinds of songs, but we really think about that on that level in which we actually would also pray and have quiet time in Meeting for Worship.
When we’re doing concerts we actually occasionally fall into silence. There’s not usually silence… maybe after a very poignant song, but throughout the entire evening, we’ll be listening to the voice, the still small voice of God so to speak, giving us little nudges or whispers about where this is going. So sometimes we’ll end up singing songs that are quite different than what we planned in the beginning.
I think likewise, Spirit works through the people that are with us, because probably some people came and said, “Oh, I’m just going to sit and listen to these people sing,” and when they were in the audience, somehow the Spirit nudged them and they found their voices rising up in ways that they didn’t expect.
Because we see it. We see it all the time. People get caught up in the energy of the song, and certain songs really do bring that out in people.
So basically, we feel it is possible that God can influence people and change them in any situation, but in situations like a really good singalong is a place where maybe their barriers are down a little bit more, and they’re more able to be impacted by Spirit’s work in their hearts.
A Place in the Choir (All God’s Critters), words & music by Bill Staines © Mineral Music (BMI).