Archive for the ‘Notes from Liz’ Category

The September, 2010 issue of The Congregationalist has a wonderful review of all our Singing Meditation resources: the book Singing Meditation: Together in Sound and Silence,  the songbook, Let Joy Fill Your Heart, and the CD by the Ephemerata Singers. We were so excited and pleased with this review that we’ve copied the full text below. You can see the complete magazine here.


Music as Meditation
A trio of practical guides for combining sound with silence

By The Rev. Lisa Dembkowski, Associate Minister of Plymouth Congregational Church, Wichita, Kansas

For those looking to enhance spiritual growth, the beauties of sound and silence are brought together in a new practice called singing meditation. In their book, Singing Meditation: Together in Sound and Silence, Ruthie Rosauer and Liz Hill describe the origin, scope, and implementation of singing meditation. Also available is a supplemental songbook, Let Joy Fill Your Heart: Songs for Singing Meditation, edited by Rosauer and Dr. Helen Gierke, minister of music at First Congregational Church of Cape Coral, Fla.; and a music CD, Ephemerata: Songs for Singing Meditation, with 14 songs to illustrate the simplicity and the beauty of meditative singing.

In their book, Rosauer and Hill explain the traditions from which the practice of singing meditation has emerged and supply the reader with practical information and tools for launching a singing meditation group in the local church or community. Sound and silence have been used as meditative tools throughout history, and nearly every faith community incorporates one or both of these methods to achieve a closer encounter with the Divine. Singing meditation joins sound with silence in the hope that participants will experience a heightened level of inspiration and fulfillment.

Rosauer and Hill recommend particular songs and chants for use in singing meditation. The music is simple and can be learned easily by both experienced and inexperienced singers. The authors write that “singing meditation helps people re- claim their singing voices by encouraging singers of all abilities to dive into the river of sound and trust in the community of voices for support.”

Songs included in the book represent Christian, Jewish, and Hindu traditions, and the method is well-suited for an interfaith gathering. The supplemental songbook by Gierke and Rosauer also includes songs from a variety of categories, including Eastern religions, earth-centered, interfaith, and non-traditional music, with helpful notes about the songs. At each session, singing is interspersed with periods of silence lasting from two to five minutes. Although the singing component brings great enjoyment, Rosauer and Hill caution against moving through the periods of silence too quickly. The quiet periods, they say, are “an invitation to follow your heart into the empty spaces. Don’t get caught up on technique. Just be still.”

Helpful to those considering starting a singing meditation group is the CD, Ephemerata: Songs for Singing Meditation. Additional instruction, and information about scheduling workshops, is available at http://www.singingmeditation.com. In its fullest form, singing meditation gathers people from a variety of faith traditions for support, contemplation, and spiri- tual growth. Rosauer, Hill, and Gierke have created resources to assist those wishing to explore and implement this new type of ministry.


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After our presentation last weekend at the UU Musicians’ Network (UUMN) conference several people expressed interest in starting a Singing Meditation group, or told us that they had already done so. This was (if you’ll excuse the expression) music to our ears! As Ruthie said in an earlier blog, we’d love to hear from you if you are starting a group. Just email us the date, time, and location of your event and we will post it on the Calendar page of our web site. You can also become a Fan of our Facebook Page and post your events there. The Fan page is also a good place for those starting a group to post questions and chat with each other.

We also offer discount prices — through the Singing Meditation website ONLY — on the materials to help get your group off to a great start.

Our  Starter Kit contains everything you need to start a group:

  • 1 copy of Singing Meditation: Together in Sound and Silence, a primer that provides background and clearly explains the steps to begin and sustain a Singing Meditation group.
  • 10 copies of the song book, Let Joy Fill Your Heart: Songs for Singing Meditation. Includes more than 40 songs with music, lyrics, translations to English, and explanatory text. The excitement in the room as the UUMN members sang these songs was palpable!
  • 5 copies of the CD, Let Joy Fill Your Heart: Songs for Singing Meditation, sung a capella with a group of ten singers. A wonderful teaching tool to help participants who don’t read music to become familiar with some songs that work well in Singing Meditation.

You get the book, songbooks, and CDs, all for just $135 (plus $7.00 shipping)… which is a savings of $102 over the price of purchasing these items separately.

We also offer a Trio (the book, songbook and CD), all three just $33.00 plus $3.99 shipping.

We wrote and published these materials with the goal of spreading the practice of Singing Meditation as widely as possible. We hope you will take advantage of these discounted prices to get your group started.

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Liz Hill (on left) with Ruthie Rosauer

In her talks on Singing Meditation, Ruthie always advises that while anyone can participate in the practice, in order to facilitate you need to be able to read music and have a strong singing voice. This is because you need a broad repertoire of music in order to have enough songs for a session and so the voice of the “shepherd” can help lead the rest of the group through the melodies.

So when I was asked to lead a session at a staff retreat for Beatitude House, a non-profit in Youngstown, OH, my first reaction was “no way.” But Ruthie convinced me that I did know enough songs by heart to make it work. Last Tuesday I led a successful session. It was the first time we’ve done Singing Meditation in a “work” setting for the participants, and also the first time I have ever led a session.

I used the Singing Meditation song book, as well as a one-page handout, but since I don’t play piano I taught the songs orally. This required me to practice them a LOT (or it felt like a lot to me!) before the session. The hardest part for me was not knowing ahead of time which songs would  “click” with the group. This is why you can’t plan to have 5 or 6 songs and call it done; if you plan to teach 6 songs, you need twice that in your song list, because certain pitches, tempos, or traditions might fit better than others, and you will want to adjust your set on the fly. I taught six songs in the “teaching part” of the 45 minute session, including a chant (one-pitch chants are usually safe) and ended with a four-song session with silent intervals.

Toning, which is usually popular with participants, was not a hit with this group; I ascribe that to my lack of teaching skills and perhaps lack of demonstration. It was also the first thing we did, and since this was a “work” setting I think people were extra-shy about the singing with their co-workers. They seemed to relax and feel a bit more comfortable after I used “Ruthie’s Rant” to reassure them– after all, singing is our birthright!

I must say this particular “work” setting was ideal because its location was the chapel at the Ursuline Mother House.  I was able to set the chairs in a circle and arrange an altar as a focal point. The session was shorter than typical, only 45 minutes, which is not a lot of time to explain a little about the practice, teach some songs, and hold an actual session with silence between the songs. But people seemed to appreciate the time to relax and get away from the usual business of the day.

After the session one of the Sisters asked if I would lead a session for them and their associates– I was flattered! But I took the opportunity to ask if they had anyone musical who might be interested in learning to facilitate. Training facilitators seems to be the next step in our Singing Meditation journey.  She was interested in exploring this with us. We’ll be posting more information about facilitator training on our web site soon. If you are interested in exploring the idea of facilitator training, let us know.

I’m grateful to Ruthie’s encouragement in saying “yes” to the request, it was a blessing to be asked and lots of fun to lead!

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Ruthie is hitting the road again!

She arrived in Ohio last night and Liz will be joining her today to head off to the Joseph Priestley District Annual District Conference in King of Prussia, PA. Introduction to Singing Meditation will be presented twice on Saturday April 17 at 11 a.m. and again at 1:30. Books, CDs, and songbooks will be available for purchase in the conference bookstore.

We’re looking forward to meeting and singing with the UUs of Priestley district, which includes eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, northern Virginia, Delaware, southern New Jersey, and the Washington DC.

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Ruthie and I presented Singing Meditation at the Ohio Meadville District Assembly on March 26-27. The conference was held at the Eastern Campus of Ohio State in St. Clairsville OH. The theme of the conference was Transformational Living, and it included a well-attended training for interfaith youth work.

We were assigned to present in an auditorium that holds 250, because it was the room with the piano. Ruthie pondered how to make this big venue work for a  group of 15 people, and we arranged chairs in a circle on the stage, with the candles and angel cards on an altar in the center. Voila! It worked beautifully. After the session several people expressed interest in starting a group at their home congregation, which is what we are hoping for.

This was an especially exciting conference for me because I was able to present some of the material in the “lecture” portion of the workshop. I was particularly interested in presenting the benefits of starting a group, including the fact that it is an interfaith experience.  Singing Meditation is a beautiful way to get a taste of another religious tradition. And because you are actually doing something — singing with others– not just talking about the religious tradition or its teachings, the experience is much richer.

On the trip down from Youngstown, we crossed into the tiny northwest sliver of West Virgina near Wheeling, and on the way back we drove up across from it. Some of Ruthie’s family roots are in West Virginny and she lived there as a young adult so it revived quite a few memories for her.

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Video-ed in Youngstown

Yesterday Ruthie and I met with a photographer from the Vindicator (local Youngstown paper) who was to take some photos for an article on Singing Meditation that should run this weekend, in advance of Ruthie’s Intro session at First UU Youngstown. We got to the church a little early so Ruthie could run through some of the hymn choices for the service on Sunday, so she was playing piano and singing when Bill Lewis arrived. He took one look (or should I say one listen?) and said, do you guys have some time? Because I think I’d like to get some video instead of just still shots.

Did we have time? Of course! Bill fired questions at Ruthie about Singing Meditation, then pointed the camera at her. Some people (oh, say…. me for example) would flinch at the thought. But Ruthie isn’t camera shy AND she knows how to talk about Singing Meditation, and she was terrific! She talked about how every one can sing, and about the interfaith aspects of the practice. Bill filmed us singing a few songs and once he even zoomed in on Ruthie’s hands on the piano.

We’ll post the link to the video and story in the Vindy when we know it.

As if that were not enough fun, Bill told us he plays in the Irish band County Mayo and they’ll be playing at Quinlans Irish Pub in Niles on Wednesday night. So if you’re trying to reach us on Wednesday around supper time… try our cell phones.

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November 14, 2009 was a red letter day in the history of Singing Meditation! Ruthie Rosauer, Helen Gierke, and I were all together at a one-day Singing Meditation workshop held at St. James the Greater Catholic Church in Eau Claire Wisconsin. The event was attended by more than 30 people interested in learning about and experiencing the practice. Here we are at the end of the day– still smiling!

Liz Hill, Ruthie Rosauer, Helen Gierke

In the morning, Ruthie and Helen talked about the origins of Singing Meditation. As always, they interspersed the lecture with teaching songs. In my mind, this serves two vital functions: it teaches the songs so that when it’s time for an actual Singing Meditation session, the group feels comfortable with at least some of the songs being sung. This comfort level is important to allowing people to really relax and sink into the song, which takes them to a deeper spiritual level. But teaching songs throughout the workshop also gives those who came with a great desire to SING the chance to jiggle those vocal cords right away!

In the afternoon attendees chose from breakout sessions on Starting a Singing Meditation group, Walking Meditation, or Care of the Voice. The day closed, as most of Ruthie and Helen’s workshops do, with a beautiful Singing Meditation session.

Spiritual Director and psychotherapist Carla Peterson attended, and here’s what she had to say about the workshop on her blog Loving Presence.

This was the first day we had all of our teaching tools available to the attendees– the Skinner House book Singing Meditation: Together in Sound and Silence, the CD Let Joy Fill Your Heart by the Ephemerata Singers, and Let Joy Fill Your Heart, Volume I of Songs for Singing Meditation.

Big thanks to Dan and Moira Kneer for arranging the workshop at St. James and being so generous with their time and talents.

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