music for ritual


General Information

Guided Meditations

Background Music

Winter Solstice Singing Ritual Transitions

 

 


 

General Information

Having been raised a church musician, in my experience music and spirituality are integrally woven together. I've had the opportunity to write some music for ritual and I'm offering it here. This music is available for personal use. I simply ask that if you do utilize any of it in a public setting you credit me in the performance notes and offer a link to this website. If you wish to make commercial use of any of the music on this page, please contact me to discuss it. We are all in Her service.

On this page I have made available:

 


Guided Meditations

My friend Jen laughs that she's usually doing something different than what I say in these meditations, like right before I say "walk to the left" she's already walking to the right. So don't worry too much about the specifics! Just enjoy the settings and see where these lead you.

Guided meditation pieces can be streamed using the players below. All of them are available for download from the download area of the site. Click here to access the download page.

 

 

The music for Full Moon Meditation was written during full moons between 1998 and 1999. I added the spoken part of the meditation in 2000. This meditation takes the listener out into a moonlit night to meet the Goddess. This meditation is about 11 minutes long.

 

 

The Cavern Meditation takes the listener into a cavern in the earth, to a place where women have gathered for millenia. This meditation lasts around 21 minutes.

Thirteen Affirmations features the work of Mary Gaul, Ed.D. MG has been supporting the National Women's Music Festival Spirituality Series for many years. She is ordained clergy in the tradition of Dianic Wicca, through the Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess, International. This meditation is designed to help you relax and reduce the effects of stress in your life. This exercise is 30 minutes long.

 

 

Rainbow Mediation is another meditation featuring Mary Gaul, Ed.D. This one is a healing meditation that utilizes the engery of color to relax you, and support your immune system. This exercise is about 30 minutes long.

All of my music, including these guided meditations are available for download. Click here to go to the download page.

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Background Music

There's no right or wrong way to place these pieces.

You know, that's something about ritual music, there shouldn't be any set rules. It's all about the flow of energy.

When I'm designing music for a ritual I try to put myself IN IT and find the music that matches what I feel as I go over the whole thing in my mind. If you can't put yourself in the ritual (if, for example, you simply don't have a copy of what the ritual will be, or you're working with a ritualist who doesn't like to figure things out in advance) you might be better off just doing something live, improv-style. Recorded music can be utterly effective, but it's not always the answer.

1. Stages

Stages was originally composed and presented as background for a 8 minute period of stillness during the annual memorial service presented by a hospice provider. I intended it as an exploration of the stages of grief. I hoped the melodic and harmonic motion would urge listeners to move toward a place of healing, basically proving a sonic nudge to anyone "stuck" in their grief.

 

 

Download this track here (10 megs).

2. Viraqua

Viraqua was written with Laurette Frazier. The name of the track is a combination of Virgo (me) and Aquarius (her). Not sure what you could use this for, but I really like the track so I thought I'd include it.

 

 

Download this track here (6 megs).

3. Meditation Background Music

I thought it would be fun to include the backing tracks from a couple of meditations. First is the backing track from the cavern meditation, and the second is a backing track from a meditation not included on this page. Maybe you might like to use them to accompany your own meditation!

 

 

Download the first meditation backing track here (24 megs).

 

 

Download the second meditation backing track here (41 megs).

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Transition pieces for A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual
Ritual by Julie Forest Middleton and Stasa Morgan-Appel
published by Emerald Earth Publishing
(It's now out of print. Sometimes you can find copies available from other booksellers via Amazon.

As of 2021 there is an private Facebook group for people who present the ritual.

I served as co-music director for the initial Indianapolis presentation of this ritual at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Indianapolis in 2003. and have participated as a song leader every year since. This is a great ritual that appeals to all kinds of people. I highly recommend it, especially if your group is looking for a ritual that is accessible enough to appeal to non-pagans. Now when I say it is "accessible," don't get the wrong idea. This ritual can be deep enough for serious pagans, but also easy enough for little kids, and non-threatening enough for most Christians. I can't say enough good things about it.

We have had great success with this ritual at UUI. Several hundred people turn out every year and everyone really looks forward to it.

We made a few changes to the ritual over the years.

  • We replaced a couple of the songs with chants either better known in our circles or easier to orchestrate with our resources. Make sure, if you do this (which at least one of the authors seems to strongly discourage) that you get permission to use the different songs you intend to use. Licensing music for public performanace can be complicated, so you may want to stick with what's written unless you are familiar with the process.

  • We do use a chorus (usually around 40 singers) to do several numbers, but only use a select few (usually active or former members of the Indianapolis Women's Chorus) for the most difficult song, Kore Evohe.

  • We work with a chorus comprised of people with different vocal ranges, so we have written parts for people with lower vocal ranges (the original score is for SSAA, treble voices only). Click here for a .pdf document with the lower range parts for "Keep the Fire." For the rest of the songs we just have those with lower voices double one of the treble voice parts an octave down.

We put our own spin on the ritual

  • We use a cellist and several drummers for live musical support, and also use recorded synthesizer transitional pieces to underlie some of the narration and provide starting notes to the chorus. This helps, in our opinion, to create a seamless musical flow.

  • We employ the use of a person (or people) we refer to as "song leaders" who interact specifically with the audience to let them know when and what to sing. Always there is one specific person doing this, and the narrator, choral conductor, and certain choir members also perform this role at different times during the ritual. This keeps the audience from having to flip through a program to see what to do next. If a song leader stands up and begins singing, the audience knows it's time for them to sing. This helps with all the sing-along songs, but especially the rounds. The song leaders also serve as a sort of ritual channel, not only guiding the audience but also acting as energy wranglers. There is one specific song leader, the narrator is another, and the choral director actually directs everyone, including the audience, not just the choir.

  • We school all the participants in how to intentionally work the energy throughout the ritual. This is an important part of serious ritual, and should not be overlooked when presenting this one. The first year the audience and the singers were so into it, the energy had been so carefully brought up, by the climax of the ritual we sang "We've Got the Power" more than fifty times! It was one of my favorite ritual moments ever, as the audience and chorus sang and danced and whooped it up. It was ecstatic ritual at its best.

I'll take you through the ritual, and offer playback and download links to the mp3 files of the transitional pieces I have written in context.

Note - There is a lot of silence in the audio files after each transition piece. This is simply because I often forget to turn off the playback device right away! If you don't need this, edit it out.

The chorus is outside the room for the introductory words. One of the song leaders is in the hall, seated. The chorus begins "Round and Round" as they process in with the drummers leading. The audience usually wants to start singing pretty early on, so the song leader and narrator lead them. When the whole chorus is in place the choral director splits the room using hand signals and the round begins with the chorus being part one, one half of the audience as part two, and the other half as part three. This goes as long as it needs to. You're aiming for centering and letting go before it stops.

There is a synth ostenado that plays underneath the next narration.

 

 

Download the track here.

If you time it right this synth piece should be just the right length. Go slow. Let one phrase go before you start. Phrase should restart on:

  • the second in
  • Feel
  • entangling
  • in-breath
  • down your arms
  • feel the wind
  • we are all rooted
  • still entangled

The synth piece ends on a C, the note you need to begin Keep The Fire.

Next there is a chime, a narrator piece, and then Reader #1.

At the end of Reader #1's talk the intro for "We Are A Circle" beings.

 

 

Download the track here.

This leads into the audience sing along, "We are a Circle." NOTE - We do not do the Circle piece that is in the book. We use The chant that goes, "We are a circle, we are within a circle, we are moving together we are one... I am spirit and I flow in you. You are spirit and you flow in me." I believe that the original version of this was written by Marae Price. This one is a round, and pretty familar with our attendees.

Right at the end of the circle piece, as soon as everyone settles, there's a chime. Then the next transition piece starts.

 

 

Download the track here.

Reader #2 comes in after the first phrase of the piece. It should be timed so that the transition in the music happens just before "Blessed is the darkness" is spoken. This transition piece ends on the A that "Benedicta Es" starts. The way we have done it, the lower voices double the alto part between measures 11 and 15, and then come back in at 25 to the end.

After "Benedicta Es" there's a chime. The next part weaves narration and the chant "Deep, Deep, Deep" also known as the "Solstice Chant." We use drums, a synth backing track, and improvisational cello playing here. We start with a drum heartbeat, steady about 60 bpm, with the synth background fading in. This continues throughout this segment. We add the cello fairly quickly. The cello improvises around the tune of the chant under the narration. So there's narration, then singing, narration, then more singing, narration, then the last singing. We add the lower voices on the last time through, holding a low D. If you didn't have an acoustic melodic instrutment to use, you could use the backing trace alone. We did that a couple times when our cellist was not available.

Download the track here.

 

 

The cello plays the last phrase of the next round underneath the next narration. That's how the chorus gets their note to start the next round.

We leave silence behind most of the next back and forth narration, which utilizes all the speakers. But near the end the next transitional piece starts with "Do we fear the darkenss..."

Download the track here.

 

Download the track here.

This transitional piece ends on the first note of "Wings" which is an A. Following "Wings" there is silent meditation for two minutes, then a chime. The next track, the introduction to "Light is Returning," (the chant we have replaced "Deep In the Dark" with) begins and the narrator speaks over it. "Light is Returning" is a chant written by Charlie Murphy (Recorded on: "Canticles of Light," Charlie Murphy, Jami Sieber and the Total Experience Choir - Out Front Music, P.O. Box 12188, Seattle, WA 98102). Pam Blevins Hinkle (Indianapolis Women's Chorus Artistic Director and music director for the ritual at UUI) has done a great arrangement for chorus which we use. If you are interested in the arrangement, please contact me and I'll put you in touch with Pam. The audience sings the main chant, the choir sings the other parts of the arrangement. After this chant there is a narration.

The next song is "Kore Evohe" and the cello plays the opening phrase as the singers leave the choir area and gather around the altar. From here the smaller chorus sings the piece.

Now there is lots of narration, chimes and the candle lighting. The next track is a series of songs, all audience participation, "This Little Light of Mine," "Imani" and "We've Got the Power". This is the energetic climax of the ritual, and we sing these songs many times each, with the audience up and dancing around. We get our note to start "This Little Light" from the following short track, which plays right after the narration following the candle lighting. The subsequent songs are started by the song leaders, getting their starting notes from the previous songs.

 

 

Download the track here.

After everyone settles down, and this usually takes a minute or two, there is a chime and then a narration, followed by another chime. The "closing meditation" that begins "Close your eyes, please..." is accompanied by a cello improvisation. The cello plays throughout the meditation. At the end of that there is a short silent meditation. Then the next track starts and continues underneath the narration that begins, "I think over again..." This track is in the key we use, not the one in the book. This one has been transposed down a few steps for the second alto soloist that usually sings it.

 

 

Download the track here.

Next all the speakers do the closing. The final track starts when they begin speaking. It is timed to end just as the speaking does. The last note is the first note of "When We are Gone" as written.

 

 

Download the track here.

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