Another view of war

Vera Brittain served as a V.A.D. (Voluntary Aid Detachment) nurse during the First World War, serving in Malta, France, and London. Having seen the horrors of the “Great War” first hand — and after having her fiance, her brother, and her two best male friends die in the war — she became a committed pacifist. In 1937, while the threat of another European war kept growing, she said this in a pamphlet published by the Peace Pledge Union:

“I hold war to be a crime against humanity, whoever fights it, and against whomever it is fought.”

[Quoted in “Vera Mary Brittain,” Poetry Foundation website, accessed 29 April 2024.]

Free download of Malvina Reynolds songbooks

Nancy Schimmel is the daughter of Malvina Reynolds. On her website, she is offering free downloads of her mother’s songbooks The Malvina Reynolds Songbook, There’s Music in the Air, and Tweedles and Foodles for Young Noodles.

With these songbooks, you can get lead sheets for Malvina Reynolds’s most famous songs — for free. I’m especially pleased to see this, since I lost my copy of There’s Music in the Air during our move from California to Massachusetts.

The Malvina Reynolds Songbook has “God Bless the Grass” (p. 29), “It Isn’t Nice” (p. 40), “Little Boxes” (p. 44), “Magic Penny” (p.50), “Turn Around” (p. 81), and “What Have They Done to the Rain” (p. 90).

There’s Music in the Air has all of these except “It Isn’t Nice,” but it also includes “You Can’t Make a Turtle Come Out” (p. 94). This songbook also has the lesser-known but hilarious song “Let Us Come In” a.k.a. “The Party-Crashers’ Carol” (p. 48). (Somewhere I have a 3-part madrigal-type arrangement of this latter song, which I’d be happy to share to anyone who wants it.)

Tweedles and Foodles has songs I’ve never heard before. It’s also unusual in that it has both guitar chords and simple piano accompaniment. Looks like there’s some fun songs in there — “Rabbit Dance” looks like fun, and maybe I’ll learn it.

Thank you, Nancy Schimmel, for your generosity in giving away your mother’s music for free!

Ecojustice and music education

I’ve started reading an article about combining ecojustice education with music education. It’s kind of theoretical, but there’s good content buried beneath the academic prose style. I’m fascinated with the topic, because our ecojustice camp curriculum includes singing and natural soundscapes as crucial curriculum components.

Below is the abstract of the article (followed by a full citation and a link to the full article):

“Children who are supported throughout childhood and adolescence to both
maintain their sense of wonder in nature, and honor and explore their
wild human nature, are well positioned to mature into soulcentric adults
capable of living into their purpose in service to both their culture
and the whole of life. However, our society’s ecocidal culture and
unjust institutions often replicate oppressions and promote egocentric
behaviors that preclude thriving. Additionally, many children are
alienated from nature and are thought to have nature-deficit disorder,
which can include both mental and physical maladies. In this article I
explore conceptions of ecojustice education to further illustrate
pathways for curriculum development in music education that might
encourage children and adolescents to maintain their sense of wonder in
nature, fully develop their sensory capacities, support their mental and
emotional wellbeing, attune more carefully to their wild nature and
soul’s purpose, and contribute to the environmental and social
commons — all which might support human flourishing and the continued
survival of our species.”

Citation: “Music Education for Surviving and Thriving: Cultivating Children’s Wonder, Senses, Emotional Wellbeing, and Wild Nature as a Means to Discover and Fulfill Their Life’s Purpose,” by Tawnya D. Smith, Music Education, School of Music, College of Fine Arts, Boston University, Boston, MA, United States. Frontiers in Education, 16 April 2021, Sec. Educational Psychology, vol. 6, 2021 — — Link to the article.

Child protection resource

Our congregation here in Cohasset, Mass., operates a preschool. The school is currently updating its child protection policy. As part of their research, the school’s governing board found the YMCA’s Child Abuse Prevention Policies.

If you deal with child safety issues, the whole policy is worth reading. But I especially appreciated three parts of this policy document.

1. First, they offer guidance on what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate physical interactions. Appropriate physical interactions include:

  • Side hugs
  • Shoulder-to-shoulder…hugs
  • Pats on the shoulder or back
  • Handshakes
  • High-fives and hand slapping
  • Verbal praise
  • Pats on the head when culturally appropriate
  • Touching hands, shoulders, and arms
  • Arms around shoulders
  • Holding hands (with young children in escorting situations)

Personally, I’d be more restrictive than this list— e.g., I’d be very reluctant to pat a child on the head, or touch shoulders. And I’d only put arms around shoulders in extreme situations, e.g., when comforting a crying child. Nevertheless, I think this is a good summary. I’ll let you look at the actual document to see what constitutes inappropriate touch. (No sitting on laps! No piggyback rides!)

2. Also worth looking at is the YMCA’s straightforward summary of appropriate electronic communications. No private messaging with a Facebook “friend” who is under age! No “friending” under age people on any social media!

3. Third, I really appreciated their policy on “Managing the risk when one staff member is alone with one youth.” We have policies where you should never be alone one-on-one with a legal minor. And there are always times when it seems necessary, e.g., when talking about a young person about behavior issues. Straightforward guidance — if you have to have a one-on-one, do so in a public place where you are in full view of others (I’ve done this where I made sure my supervisor was nearby, and deliberately watching). If you have to meet in a room, leave the door open. If a young person discloses abuse, etc., document it immediately.

A final comment: What I especially like about this document is that it answers just about all the questions I’ve ever gotten from volunteers and paid staff when I’ve done training in child abuse prevention policies.

Singing in 18th C. congregational churches

Nym Cooke, well-known scholar of early American music, will be offering a webinar on “The Sounds of New England Congregationalism in the 18th C.” under the auspices of the Congregational Library and Archives. Info about how to register may be found here. And to whet your appetite, here’s the first sentence of the description:

“The ‘sound of Congregationalism’ — the musical sound, at any rate — changed markedly several times during the hundred years from?1720-1820, as musical philosophies shifted between two sets of poles: ritual and art, and worship and performance….”

I signed up as soon as I heard about it. I’m fascinated by the soundscapes of New England congregational-polity churches, so I’ve already been using Nym Cooke’s website “Early American Sacred Music.” I can’t wait to hear more from this top-notch scholar.

Thanks to Erin Fulton for passing this along!

History resource

Our congregation — as is true, I suspect, of many older congregations — is in the process of researching our past relationship with non-White people. Some of the questions we’re currently wondering about:

  • Was slave labor used to build our 1747 meetinghouse? (Almost assuredly yes, but we can’t document it yet.)
  • What was the social status of non-White people? (People of African and Native descent could not sit on the main floor in the 18th C.; we believe this was also true of indentured White servants, but we can’t yet document that.)
  • Did the congregation have non-White members in the 18th or 19th centuries? (A couple in the first half of the 18th century, both Native, then apparently none until the 20th century.)

These questions are difficult to research. So I was grateful to learn about the Atlantic Black Box website. The subtitle of the website sums up their efforts: “Researching and Reckoning with New England’s Role in Colonization and Enslavement.” I’ve been finding lots of resources for doing local history research on non-White people. Their short essay on “Researching Slavery and Black Life in Early New England” alone has already proved to be quite helpful to me.

If you’re part of an older congregation in New England — definitely worth checking this out.

Update, 23 April: Of related interest: Congregational Library’s “Black and Indigenous Research Guide” for New England Congregational churches, whichincludes a number of digitized 18th C. documents.

Free book about mosses

Everything you wanted to know about mosses in a free ebook, written in a style understandable by laypeople: Bryophyte Ecology by Janice Glime et al. I’m especially enjoying the chapters about the other organisms that live in mosses (tardigrades! slime molds!) and bryophyte phenology. Maybe it’s more than you really want to know about mosses, but hey, it’s a free book by a working scientist about a really cool taxon of organisms.

Tortoise and a man named Tela

Another story for liberal religious kids. This one is from the Yoruba tradition. While this story has a mythological elements — it tells how Tortoise got the joints in its shell — it is also a morality tale. Tortoise is another animal trickster figure who is featured in many stories — sometimes he gets the better of others, but sometimes, as in this story, his greed gets the better of him. Another Yoruba story about Tortoise.

Once there was a shortage of food throughout the land. Àjàpá the Tortoise, who was a very sensible animal, was friendly with a man named Tela. Tortoise was sick with hunger, because he didn’t know where he could get food. But Tela knew where he could get food. Now and again Tela went to this place, and got food and ate it there.

At last Tortoise said to Tela, “You look well-fed, but I get nothing to eat. You are my friend, yet you never show me where you get food.”

“I thought of taking you,” said Tela, “but I know you to be very clever. I fear that you will go to my place without my permission. Because of that, I have not told you.”

Tortoise kept asking, though, and at last Tela promised to take him to the place. When they got to the place, Tortoise saw it was just a rock. But Tela sang:

“This rock must open because I, Prince Tela, the owner of the house have come!”

Then the rock opened and Tela and Tortoise went inside. They found plenty of food, and they ate until they were full. After they had finished, they left the place, each going to his own home.

The next day Tela was away from home. So Tortoise went all around the countryside, inviting all the people to come to Tela’s place to get food. When everyone arrived at the place, Tortoise sang:

“This rock must open because I, Prince Tela, the owner of the house have come!”

The rock did not know that it was not Tela who sang, but Tortoise. So the rock opened, all the animals went inside, and they finished all the food in the store.

When they had finished eating, Tortoise said, “I will be the last to go.” But just as Tortoise was leaving, the rock closed and trapped him, half in and half out.

Just then, Tela felt hungry. When he got to the rock, he saw the head of Tortoise sticking. Tela said, “How is it that I find you here? When I brought you here the day before yesterday you promised you would not come, but now you have come, and from all the footprints in the dirt it looks like you brought friends with you.”

But Tortoise was in pain, and said only, “Get me out and don’t talk.” Tela, being hungry, commenced to sing:

“This rock must open because I, Prince Tela, the owner of the house have come!”

Just as before, the rock opened. Now Tela was very hungry, and because of the food he thought lay before him, did not stop to talk with Tortoise. But when Tela went in, he saw that all was eaten, and nothing was left.

Tela was so angry that he caught Tortoise up and was about to crush him. “Have patience and I will tell you all,” said Tortoise, and he told the entire story. And Tortoise added, “I have to admit that there is something that always makes me tell things I ought not to tell.”

“I have no time for this sort of thing,” said angry, hungry Tela. He dropped Tortoise on the rock and smashed his shell all to pieces.

Then the big ants and other insects gathered round, and tried to put Tortoise together again. They did the best they could, but they could not mend his back properly. So it is that the joints where the insects mended the Tortoise show on his back to this day.


John Parkinson, “Yoruba Folk-Lore,” African Affairs, vol. VIII, no. XXX, January 1909, pp. 180-181

For a different version of this story, see ?gb??n ju agbára on The Yoruba blog.

Line drawing of a tortoise
Centrochelys sulcata, from Tortoises, Terrapins, and Turtles (London: Sotheran Baer & co., 1872).

Tortoise and Elephant

Another story for liberal religious kids, this time from the Yoruba people.

Tortoise one day told the other animals that he would ride Elephant, the way humans ride horses. But all the other animals said: “No, you can’t ride Elephant.”

Tortoise said, “Well, I will make a bet with you that I will ride Elephant into town.”

All the other animals agreed to the bet.

Tortoise went into the forest and met Elephant. He said, “Elephant, all the animals say you are too fat and too big to go into town.”

Hearing this, Elephant grew angry. He said, “The animals are fools. I do not go into town because I would rather stay in the forest. Besides, I do not know which path leads to town.”

“Oh, if that’s all,” said Tortoise, “you can come with me. I will show you the path that leads to town, and you can put all the other animals to shame.”

So Elephant followed along, and when they were near to town, Tortoise said: “Oh, Elephant, I am tired. Will you kindly allow me to get on your back?”

“Of course,” said Elephant. He knelt down, and Tortoise climbed up on his back. Then they continued along the path to town.

Then Tortoise said, “Elephant, you need to put on a good show when you get to town. So when I scratch your back, run. When I knock my head against your back, run faster. Then you will impress all the other animals.”

Elephant agreed that this sounded like a good idea.

When they came near the town, Tortoise scratched Elephant’s back. Elephant began to run. Next, Tortoise knocked Elephant’s back with his head. Elephant ran even faster.

The animals, when they saw this, were frightened. They went into their houses, but they looked out of their windows. And Tortoise called out to them: “Did I not say I would ride to town the way humans ride horses?”

“What do you mean that you ride me like humans ride horses?” said Elephant, growing angry.

“I am only praising you,” said Tortoise.

But Elephant saw the other animals laughing, and grew more angry. “I will throw you down on the hard stones here, and break you to pieces,” he cried.

“Yes, yes, that is right,” said Tortoise. “Throw me down here. That will be all right. Then I shall not be hurt. If you really wanted to kill me, you would carry me to a swamp. If you threw me in a swamp, I would die at once, for the mud and water would drown me.”

So Elephant ran to the swamp, and threw Tortoise into the mud. Then Elephant stretched out his foot to kick Tortoise, but Tortoise dived in the muddy water, and came up in another place.

The other animals were there, looking on, and Tortoise called out to them, “Did I not say I would ride Elephant the way humans ride horses?”

When Elephant found that he could not catch Tortoise, he ran back to the forest. There he said to the other elephants, “Do you know what Tortoise has done to me?” And he told the other elephants the story.

But the other elephants only said, “You were a fool to carry Tortoise to town.”

Since then Elephant has not come to town any more.

Source: Alfred Burdon Ellis, The Yoruba-speaking peoples of the Slave Coast of West Africa : their religion, manners, customs, laws, language, etc : with an appendix containing a comparison of the Tshi, Gã, ?we, and Yoruba languages (London: Chapman and Hall, 1894).

Even more copyright free hymns

I found four more copyright-free hymns that I’d been meaning to upload: “Yielding and Simple,” a Shaker song; “Trouble in Mind,” the blues and jazz standard; “Hold On,” also known at “Keep Your Hands on the Plow”; and “Rise Up O Flame,” which I once thought might be protected by copyright but am now convinced in public domain.

You can find them on this webpage. Descriptions below the jump.

That webpage is static HTML, by the way, which I code by hand in the text editor Atom. Thank goodness this is the last of the hymns I have which are ready to post. Writing static HTML takes up too much time, time that I’d rather spend creating content (e.g., writing actual posts for this blog). This bout of hand-coding proved to be especially time-consuming because Filezilla, free open-source software which I use to upload the HTML to the server, suddenly stopped talking to the server. I spent half a day troubleshooting, until I finally gave up and purchased Transmit, another FTP application. However, static HTML is more resistant to attacks by malicious hackers, and requires less energy consumption to render — so I suppose writing static HTML is worth it in the long run.

Continue reading “Even more copyright free hymns”