In Sing for Joy, we learn songs in the oral tradition of call-and-response, instead of using sheet music or written words. Our songs come from many cultures and backgrounds, reflecting a diversity of roots, origins, and inspirations. We sing songs of many themes – for courage and justice, for beauty and peace, for comfort and healing. Below you will find a sampling of songs that we sing together in Sing for Joy. When we share a song in the oral tradition, it’s always good to say what culture or community the song is from, who wrote it (if you know!), and where you first heard it. That way, we can carry the songs with integrity, honouring their origin and roots.
This song is originally from Cameroon in West Africa, and the words mean “Call Mama”. It is a great song to sing in a “round”, to learn what it’s like to blend our voices in harmony. This recording is from the Gettin’ Higher Choir, in Victoria, BC.
Lyrics: Bele Mama Eh (repeated)
This song is by Laurence Cole. It’s a great song for honouring the earth and all those who walked this land before we were here: our first nations people, our ancestors, and other countless beings. We usually sing it as a 2-part layer song. For more on this song, visit: www.laurencecole.com.
Part 1: Humbly we walk here, humbly we sing here, humbly we bless this ground.
Part 2: Humbly, and with gratitude, remembering the ancient ones who walked this ground.
This song is a hallelujah for the Ocean. The music was written by Peter McKenna in the 1970s, and the words are thought to be hundreds of years old. Here is a recording from Mila’s Song Circle at Singing Alive, on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
Lyrics: There is so much magnificence, in the ocean, waves are coming in, waves are coming in.
This song is a beautiful 3-part harmony by Ruth Moody of the Wailin’ Jennys, a Canadian trio from Winnipeg, Manitoba. We are learning it in our winter season this year. Click here for a recording of the 3 harmonies sung together with the lyrics.
Here is a recording below of the 3 harmonies sung separately, verse by verse. The first verse is the melody (middle voices), the second verse is the part for low voices, and the third verse is the part for high voices. In the final song, above, you will notice how all voices start with the melody on the first verse, and then the low voices come in as a harmony on the second verse, and then the high voices come in as a harmony on the third verse. For the last three verses, all voices are on deck. It builds in a beautiful way.
LET US SEE THE BEAUTY
This song is by Laurence Cole, and the words are adapted from a poem by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, called “The Invitation”. Laurence says: “I remember being deeply moved and challenged by this poem when it first came out years ago, and each time it reappears in my life, it stops me short to challenge myself again, or reaffirm myself on my path again, or just to remember to take time each day for “The Beauty”. Many folks have told me how after singing this song, they have also found their way to sourcing their lives more intentionally from the immediate beauty at hand, whether inner or outer. This is also a song that is lifted up by little improvisational embellishments. Have fun!” For more on this song, visit: www.laurencecole.com.
Part 1: Let us see the beauty every day, and source our lives from its presence.
Part 2: I want to know if you can see the beauty, even when it’s not pretty every day.
WHEN I RISE
This is a great song that can be done in unison, or in echo-style call-and-response. The origin is not entirely known, although the words are believed to have been adapted from a poem by Wendell Berry. However when someone asked Wendell about it, he said that he had heard the words from an old Buddhist mantra. Here is a recording from the Joyful Earth Choir, on Orcas Island.
Lyrics: When I Rise, Let Me Rise, Like a Bird, Joyfully. When I Fall, Let Me Fall, Like a Leaf, Gracefully. Without Regret (x2)
This is a wonderful song by Laurence Cole, that can be sung in a powerful 3-part layer. Listen to the original recording below, and click here for more information including lyrics, sheet music, and the full background story.
This song is by Lisa Hunter, and the recording is from a gathering of the Ubuntu Choir Network, in Victoria, BC.
And I will sing this song. And I will raise up to the night sky. And I will sing this song. I do believe I’m back on solid ground.
BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT
This song is a wonderful 3-part layer song. The words are by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s great to get the whole group singing the first part, and let the song rise up with the second and third parts.
Part 1: Breathe In, Breathe Out (repeated)
Part 2 & 3: When I breathe in, I breathe in peace. When I breathe out, I breathe out love.
ONE BY ONE
This song is by Canadian singer-songwriter Andrew Foley. We are learning it in a beautiful 2-part harmony for our final Big Sing event of the fall season. I have included two recordings below: The original song by Andrew Foley, and the 2-part harmony as sung by our Sing for Joy choir.
Recording: Original by Andrew Foley
Recording : 2-Part Harmony by Sing for Joy Choir
NUNG YE DA
This is a welcoming song from Ghana, in West Africa. The translation means, “Surely, you are the son or daughter of my Mother”. We sing it in a 2 or 3 part harmony, and it is quite joyful!
This song is by Meredith Buck. It came to her during a wilderness quest, where she was guided to follow the beat of a drum, blind-folded and barefoot. As she was crossing the river, this song came to her. The recording is from a gathering of the Ubuntu Choir Network, in Victoria, BC.
Part 1: Listen (repeated)
Part 2: Listen, let your body be the guide, let the waters decide… Lose yourself in the meantime.
Part 3: Lay yourself down on the rocks now, let your body down in the river, listen for the drumming on the other side, lose yourself in the meantime.
WHEN DARKNESS FALLS
This is a call-and-response song by Josh Fox, a wonderful song-writer and song-leader from Asheville, North Carolina. We have been learning it together as we welcome the Winter Solstice. This part of the song is the chorus to Josh Fox’s full song, which you can hear on his website: www.foxsongs.bandcamp.com
HOME, I’M GOING HOME
This is a great 2 or 3-part layer song by Helen Yeomans in Britain.
Part 1: Home, I’m going home, I need the land to heal my soul, take me home, take me home, over the green green fields and far away.
Part 2: Home to the Motherland, Home to the Motherland, Home to the Motherland, Over the green green fields and far away.
LEARN TO LIVE
This is a great 3-part layer song, that is really fun to sing in a group. It is a great song for uplifting the spirit and opening the heart.
Part 1: Learn to live your life with all your heart, and all your soul and all your mind, and love all humankind as you would do yourself.
Part 2: Learn to live your life, with all your heart, and all your soul and mind and love all humankind.
Part 3: We’ve got happy lives to live, we’ve got open arms to give, we’ve got hope down deep inside, because in love we do reside.
Youtube video with recording of all 3 parts: https://youtu.be/HaqbkBwsguo
This song is a gorgeous 3-part harmony and layer song, from Namibia. It is sung as a lullaby or “gentle tease”. It is great to start with the harmonies, and then bring in the solo layer. Enjoy!
MALAMA I KA HONUA
This song is a chant from the Hawaiian islands. The words “Malama I Ka Honua” mean “To Cherish the Earth”. This recording is from Daniel Nelson, who directs the Sacred Earth Choir on the island of Kauai.
Part 1: Malama I Ka Honua (repeated)
Part 2: Aloha Aina, Aloha Eh (repeated)
This song is a great warm-up song, to play with different layers and harmonies. It is from South Africa, and is an honoring of the Great Mother in all her forms. This recording is from Emile Dyer, who co-directs the Golden Bridge Choir in Los Angeles, CA.
Lyrics: Helele Mama (repeated)
This beautiful song is by Aimee Ringle and Aimee Kelley. It is a great song to sing anytime you want to feel a lot of love, or to share your love with others. It is used in closing ceremony each year, at a gathering called Singing Alive. This recording is from Mila teaching the song to members of the Ubuntu Choir Network, in Victoria, BC.
I behold you, beautiful one. I behold you, child of the earth and sun. Let my love wash over you. Let my love watch over you.