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Song Information

The information about the sources and the particular context of each song is a work in progress. These summaries, variously based on the observations of composers, writers, and/or authoritative interpreters of each song, are provided to assist in the presentation, teaching, and performance of this music. We welcome additional or corrective information to this resource, which may be sent to


O Brother Sun

This song is based on a well-known poem by St. Francis of Assisi. Sharon Anway wrote these lyrics for the Feast Day of St. Francis and adapted them to the Scottish tune Ye Banks and Braes at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Cedar Falls, IA, where Sharon is director of Music Ministry and Composer-in-Residence, and hosts an annual St. Francis Day service that includes blessing animals. The St. Luke’s Choir debuted O Brother Sun in October of 2002.

On the Dusty Earth Drum

A hymn text that originally appeared in Singing the Living Tradition in a much more traditional chorale tune setting. This version is in the style of many earth-centered chants, and works well with a hand drum keeping a "heartbeat" pattern. The round is optional, but if used it should begin with the fourth verse.

Oneness of Everything, The

This is an eco-anthem that works well or group singing or a solo voice. The traditional hymn style melody was intended to have a more contemporary feel, not too somber, with steady folk/rock rhythm. SAA, SATB, or solo/SATB arrangements are available from Jim Scott Music.

Open My Heart

This song, like many other rounds, is most effective when the accompaniment is improvised and the voices are cued so that the energy slowly rises and eventually subsides. Performers are encouraged to use more than just the keyboard for accompaniment. Open My Heart was first performed at the Prescott Unity Church. Other rounds and choral works may be found by visiting Flurry.

Open the Window

Composed in 1997 in Cuzzago, Italy, this is the title song of Elise Witt's 8th recording on the EMWorld Records label. Open the Window was inspired by a Spiritual from the Georgia Sea Islands called Heist the Window, Noah. Though Elise's version uses only one phrase from the original Spiritual, it keeps the intention of naming situations in our lives, personal and global, that need opening for the dove to fly in, for us to find peace.

Elise performs this song "a cappella" in almost every concert, and she always gets the audience singing and signing (American Sign Language) along with her in glorious harmonies. It is a stirring cry for peace, and can be sung by anyone and everyone. One of the most exciting performances of the piece was a performance with the Atlanta All Star Gospel Choir. It was also performed by the Young Singers of Callanwolde, and has been used often in schools. It has been translated into many languages (including Arabic, Bosnian, Spanish, and French), and it is open ended for students and singers to add their own verses about situations in their lives that need a visit from the dove of peace. The Unitarian Universalist congregations of Auburn and Montgomery, AL, hosted a community singing workshop and concert with Elise, where they learned Open the Window. They now use the song regularly with their choirs and in congregational singing.

Open the Window can be accompanied by instruments (as in this calypso version), but Elise almost always performs it a capella and teaches the audience to being her accompaniment. It is also greatly enhanced with the addition of Sign Language. Electronic versions of the song can be heard at Elisa Witt's website and eFolkmusic.

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Last updated on Monday, April 9, 2012.

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