Three Quaker texts appropriate to the mid-winter season, for soprano voice and guitar
The Quakers, known today as The Religious Society of Friends, have their origins in the Puritan sects of 17th century Britain. They hold to no creed, they have no liturgy or established doctrine, their religious services are meetings held in silence. What might be said to constitute a theology is a rich tradition of testimonial writing of personal experience; it is from this tradition three texts have been chosen, one from the late 17th century, one from the mid 19th and one from the 20th. The texts are linked by their association with the mid winter season when Quakers, who in earlier times did not recognize Christmas as a special day, nevertheless use the mid winter festival as an opportunity for meditation and reflection.
The Conscience Pure is taken from the words of the Quaker mystic Isaac Penington (1616 – 1679) whose writings were published in 4 volumes in 1681. This text was found in a collection of inter-generational readings brought together for the Christmas Gatherings of Manasquan Meeting in New Jersey, USA.
The Joy of Giving is a short poem by John Greenleaf Whittier (1807 – 1892). Largely known today for his hymn tune Dear Lord and Father of Mankind he has claimed a place as one of the most prolific of Quaker writers to use poetry as a medium of testimony. Whittier was an ardent abolitionist who enjoyed much popular regard during his lifetime. His poetry is still the common currency of older Quakers who were often required to learn his inspirational verses at children’s meeting. This is one of Whittier’s shortest and best.
Music in the Heart is a benediction from The Work of Christmas by Dr Howard Thurman, a theologian and civil-rights leader. He was Dean of Theology at the University of Boston in 1940s. Although not by Quaker, Thurman’s poem looks at the aftermath of Christ’s birth that those in the Religious Society of Friends have come to find inspirational and appropriate.
The Conscience Pure (landscape study score) [pdf]
The Conscience Pure (performance score with the guitar part edited by the composer) [pdf]