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March 16, 2004



When I was a college student, the folk group (with clanging guitars) sang "Lord of the Dance" at the Good Friday service...it sounded out of place even in the 70's.

Karen H.

Actually, I like the song. I don't see the image of the dance as heretical: what about the dance towards the end of C.S. Lewis' "Perelandra", or the mad chase of Chesterton's "The Man Who Was Thursday"?

I agree that you have to keep it in the context of Christian teaching as a whole.

And I REALLY can't see it on Good Friday.


I went to Catholic school in the 70's and man did we have to sing that song a lot. One nun, Sr. Norah Marie, had us sing really softly and then we had to sing = because I am the dance and the dance lives on - really loud at the end. Yikes!



I've always hated that song. Fortunately, the musicians at our parish know that our priest can't stand it either.
But he's retiring soon... oh no!

alias clio

There's a much older song using the same image that may also have inspired the writer of this one, perhaps unknowingly.

It's the Tudor-era (I think) carol, "Tomorrow shall be my dancing day". It goes (roughly):

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play
To call my true love to my dance.

Sing oh my love, oh my love my love my love:
This have I done for my true love.

There are many other verses; the tune is enchanting.

Anyway, I like "Lord of the Dance". There's a very pseudo-early American version by the folky group The Revels, which I'm especially fond of.


Argh! You took me back to the "Family Mass" in the basement of my parish circa 1977. Two guitarists banging away at "Dance, dance.....", nearly drowned out the throbbing of the old organ upstairs in the main church for the "adult Mass."

Fast forward to 2004 when the children's choir broke out with "Let there be peace on Earth," my wife glanced over and saw me break out in a cold sweat.


The appeal of "Lord of the Dance" is the magnificent melody. The lyrics are cringe-worthy (to use Mark Shea's phrase), but the melody is timeless, and so lovely as to overshadow the dreadful lyrics. It's a beautiful old Shaker melody, as someone else noted...it was also the basis for Aaron Copland's "Simple Gifts," another magnificent piece.


Clarification: the Shaker melody, NOT "Lord of the Dance," was the basis for Aaron Copland's "Simple Gifts"! I think my high school English teacher would take off points for "ambiguous antecedent"....:-)


I loved 'Lord of the Dance' when I was in high school. We used to sing it at Young Life and as a kid I was really taken with the notion that we ought to rejoice and dance over what has been done for us. Still think so, actually.

I have a CD somewhere with 'My Dancing Day' on it. I think it's sung at Christmas and it's another favorite.

I never did like "Let there be peace one earth and wow did we sing that one to death in my catholic school when I was a kid...

Sandra Miesel

Some Midwestern Pagans actually wrote fully Pagan lyrics to "Lord of the Dance" that used to be sung at science fiction conventions in the 70s.
"Simple Gifts" is the Shaker song. Copeland did an arrangement of it for OLD AMERICAN SONGS and used it as a theme in APPALACHIAN SPRING.

Catherine of Alexandria

Remember the Ray Repp Golden Oldie, "Sons of God?" I actually saw a copy of a Eucharistic Prayer written for guitar to that melody. There's a nail grater.

One other gem: "Here we are altogether" [as we sing our song joyfully]. I heard one wag refer to this as the "hymn to the obvious."

Cris Rapp

Not to change the subject...but after reading Amy's post about Annie Vallotton (sp?), the illustrator of the Good News Bible, I searched in the internet for postcards or other books with her work. I'd love to find some post-card sized version of her GNB illustrations, but I couldn't find any on the web. Any thoughts?


I cannot hear "Lord of the Dance" without getting a mental image of Jesus and the disciples dancing Riverdance-style in a line. I don't know whether I like or dislike the song, but it always makes me have to suppress giggles.


It's a great song, but not not not for mass. For dancing. No lyrics, just an awesome melody. And I say that as someone who is currently limping from all the shows I'm dancing in this week. I'm probably one of the oldest adult Irish step dancers in the country, a title I'll milk til my feet fall off. Which they are threatening to do these days. But it's one of the best songs ever to slam a hard shoe reel in. And I'm not even Irish!


Peace, all.

The Simple Gifts text is superior, I think. That's the one I was first exposed to in the early 80's, and it still has the strongest association for me, possibly because I had the Copland arrangement in my head first of all.

While I have no strong objection to Carter's text, it's just not a good fit for the tune. If someone were serious, they would compose a new melody. I would really prefer hymnal publishers put the original text back. It's amazing that they don't because the royalties paid for the Carter text (and Let There Be Peace) are at least four times what liturgical publishers charge.


I never heard of "Lord of the Dance" other than the touring show of recent years, which I have NOT seen. I grew up in the 70s as did many commenters, but never heard it at a mass--or at least it certainly does not jump out at me. Oh, but we'd sure belt out "Let There be Peace on Earth and let it begin with me..." What did we know?!

chris k

No Joe Wise followers here? "Gonna sing my Lord" (for all that I'm worth)? Anyway it would appear from the comments that we have quite a few, perhaps, unconscious charismatics hiding within a trad's wardrobe here!



Thanks for the clarification...:-)


Gonna sing my Lord" (for all that I'm worth)?

AAK! I had forgotten about that one!


I was just poking around on the internet to see what other Joe Wise gems I had forgotten about and I found the name of one that sounds vaguely familiar. "To Be Your Body"... does anyone remember this one?

chris k

Well, I vaguely remember (from sitting around with Joe's crowd back in Louisville as a "kid") "And I'm in love with my God .... My God's in love with me. The more I love you, the more I know ... I'm in love with my God: Did you ever see a babe ... My God has and He loves them ... loves them so much He slept in a womb, was born as a Man, learned how to walk, stumbled and fell ... to help us to know how He loves ... My God. And I'm in love with My God, etc." I also remember how everyone thought Joe's bride looked so much like Julie Andrew's Maria!

Hunk Hondo

Amy, have you ever entertained the idea of having a Bad Hymn Contest (sort of like Dave Barry's Bad Song Contest a few years ago)? I'd be interested to know which atrocity racks up the most votes.
My vote: I have a special aversion to the communion anthem "Song of the Body of Christ" or (as I call it) "Queen Liliuokalani's Revenge". Every time I hear this island imbecility (and some of the local clergy are quite fond of it), I end up thinking that those responsible for it ought to hear the words of another famous Hawaiian: " Book 'em, Danno."
BTW, I'm with KH on LOD. (Gad, what a sentence!) The Mass is a formal rite and songs like LOD are informal music.


Copland's handsome reworkings of the tune and text notwithstanding, there is an American greatness in the purity of the original Shaker music: a cappella, fast, and in unison -- particularly if men sing alone and women sing alone.

I am myself fond of another Shaker classic: "I Will Bow and Be Simple".

A lot of the Shaker texts are not exactly "liturgical" in the Catholic sense, and there are texts that present theological problems from a Catholic perspective, but there are other occasions when carefully selected treasures can be just the ticket.

Then again, I am very fond of a lot of late 18th and 19th century American hymnody. It's a joy to see treasures uncovered for new generations.


PS on my last comment

It occurs to me that some readers may be programming "Wondrous Love" at this time of you.

If you do, consider doing up-tempo (it's meant to be sung rather fast, in quick 2 not a leisurely 4; if you've ever sung it in a shape note chorus, you'll know what I mean), and using the original harmonies, which can be found in online versions of the shapenote hymnals like Southern Harmony (I think the Christian Ethereal Classics website has that among many others).

A wonderful Sister of St. Joseph introduced my college church choir to the genre a generation ago, and I will never forget the rapturous reaction (thankfully, no applause -- they knew better) of the congregation when we broke into Wondrous Love in the original four-part a cappella harmony up-tempo at a baptism. It really helped unify and deepen the liturgical moment.

Christopher H.

Pockets: Songs for Little People By Joe Wise

Pockets (I got five pockets in my overalls)
The Grizzleback Snookerhog (Grizzle, grizzle, grizzle, grizzle, back, back back back back...)
I Love to Color (It's a color, its a color and you know I love to color...)
Hawaya Hyena

And more...

Really enjoyed it as a kid and now my kids do too.

alias clio

My guilty pleasures (let's see if anyone here even _recognises_ them):

- "We come to your table". Not to be confused with "We come to your feast", which isn't a pleasure, even a guilty one.

- "Do you really love me?". Based on Jesus's questions to Peter.

- "Jesus, remember me". Based on the Good Thief, of course. This isn't really a song, only a chorus.

All of these are quite indefensible as music or poetry, but I love 'em anyway. And I think they're all theologically sound.

Paul Pfaffenberger

And how could you forget Erich Sylvester ..

"Stay with me, pray with me, ... leave all your blues in your shoes at the door"


>"We come to your feast", which isn't
>a pleasure, even a guilty one.

I just encountered that one for the first time about a half hour ago.
The middle school choir asked if we could look at it, so I read through, while they sang -- it turned out they didn't really know the melody, sang half descant, half melody and all out of tune. Not their fault, it is absurdly written, the ranges are ludicrous. I couldn't help smiling, and when they asked if I were laughing at them, I assured them, truthfully, that I was laughing at the song -- it's words are so unbelievably cheesy. (I expected it to go into "the look, the feel of cotton....")

Gad, the last few decades had a lot to answer for in lousy ersatz liturgical music.


"...the most celebrated religious song of the 20th century"? Hmmm. Notorious, perhaps.


Does anyone remember "Tramp on the Stret?"
"Jesus he died on Calvary street..."

How about.."Hear O Lord, the sound of my call..." We sang that one into the ground..

Patricia Tryon

This is a hymn I much dislike, but many years ago I played for the funeral of a 12 year old girl, a victim of an intentional hit and run. (The perpetrator, a juvenile, was also a member of our parish.) Lisa was a dancer and the family insisted that this song be sung at the offeratory. Heartbreaking.


"Here I Am, Lord" gets my vote for the worst hymn. It is unfortunately a favorite at our parish, and seems to always appear in the annual Bishop's appeal video as well. It's almost impossible to sing the chorus without breaking into "Here's the story ... of a lovely lady ...who was bringing up three very lovely girls..."

alias clio

About "We come to your feast": the choir mistress (?) at the parish whose church I used to attend played it EVERY Sunday for several years. (I tried to regard mass-going there as an exercise in humility.)

As for the song's silly ranges, she got round that by playing a taped accompaniment, complete with what sounded like bongo drums in the background, to cover the choir's deficiencies.

Do you suppose that the reason the song strains so hard is to prove its point about inclusiveness? "The young and the old, the strong and the bold, the bass and falsetto?"


I concur on "Here I Am, Lord." It seems to pop up a a Communion song every other week.
It was sung at the Ordinations of two priests.

James Kabala

My least favorite is "Anthem", although the some of the ones mentioned above sound even worse.

Rinon Mavar

The Mythopoeic Society has their own lyrics, which I haven't looked at lately, but I think are Christian, albeit heavily symbolic. _Laeta in Chorea Magna_.

I couldn't find it now, in Google.


One of my least favorites is "Ashes."

"We rise again from ashes
Of the good we've failed to do
We rise again from ashes
To create ourselves anew....

Why do I think of the mythological Phoenix?

to create ourselves...?

This, of course, is sung on Ash Wednesday and all during Lent.

Mark R

No, James Kabala, "Anthem" really is the worst. These other hymns at least have some genuine sentiment. "Anthem" is 100 per cent pure self-regarding tripe.

chris k

How 'bout "the Monks of Weston Abbey"? "Come back to me"?? "Mary's song"? The main artist/composer of old has left - no? Our guitar/flute group regularly made their annual retreat up to the Vermont hills (no, not the ones that are "alive", another part) to drink in the latest compositions and then,... to inflict the latest upon the poor sheep back home. As you see, a rather limited repertoire.


Lynn -- The phoenix is one traditional symbol for Christ, so that's all right, then!

Geri -- I totally agree about "the fabric of our lives".

Sandra -- Pagans still sing that thing. There's about three or four sets of verses by now, as well as an original tune which supposedly gets used at conventions out west. I've never heard it, though.


Thanks, Maureen; I didn't know that.


I don't know if you're still looking for awful songs, but one of the worst surely was "The Mass is Ended," whose lyrics include "The Mass is ended, now go in peace, we must diminish and Christ increase. We take him with us, where e'er we go, so through our actions his love will show... etc." This tune was similar to "It's Johnny's Birthday." This was used during the early 70s when we were still singing "Let's Get Together" by the Youngbloods and "Eleanor Rigby" during guitar Mass. Groovy.


I am trying to find a recording of a song my kids used to sing as small children for my grandaughter. It was "I've got five pockets in my overalls". Can anyone help me in locating a copy?

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