Paulette Meier’s new album, Wellsprings of Life: Quaker Wisdom in Chant is available now for download, offering song medicine for these times. “It seems as if this season of Holy Week is a good time to get these chants out there!” Paulette says, “The words uphold such a deep faith in the power of the Light to overcome darkness and death, a faith that is surely needed in the world crisis we are in now.” In the liner notes to the collection she writes:
“As an activist, when I first discovered the Quaker faith I wondered what enabled Friends to take huge risks to follow their conscience in the causes of religious liberty, women’s suffrage, abolition of slavery, and peace. How did they stay loving in the face of brutal oppression? I found answers in the texts from which these chants come. The practice of deep stillness, alone and in their communal worship, led to a deep sense of surrender and to the “Living Water” of the “eternal Christ spirit.” Friends found sustenance, inner peace, and joy, even in harsh external conditions.”
Hold fast the hope, which anchors the soul, which is sure and steadfast, that you may float above the world’s sea.
~ George Fox, from Epistle #314 (1675).
“…The words of George Fox and others testify to their conviction, grounded in inward experience, of the power of Love to overcome wrong, no matter how evil. My hope is that the testimony of Friends presented in these chants may provide us with reminders to go deep into Presence, to enter that stream of Love and be nurtured by it, even in traumatic times like these.”
In May 2019, at the Pendle Hill Quaker campus in Wallingford Pennsylvania, Paulette joined Cynthia and Quaker scholar Marcelle Martin for a second week-long gathering in the waters where the Christian Wisdom tradition and the Quaker Wisdom stream meet. With musicians from the Wisdom community joining in, Nick Weiland on double bass and Andrew Breitenberg on piano, Paulette’s powerful voice rose throughout the retreat as she was spontaneously called upon by Cynthia, “Paulette, can you share a chant here?” Within moments the room would swell with the sound, often bringing people to their feet in song. As one participant put it “The wonder is still with me! I have not felt this happy and uplifted since I don’t remember when.”
Click on the arrow for a video from Pendle Hill, “Hold fast the hope that is sure and steadfast…” courtesy of Bill Britten photographer
Cynthia writes that, “Paulette’s chants are creating a whole new musical and spiritual art form, introducing mainstream Christian contemplatives to the pearls of transformative wisdom waiting to be discovered in the Quaker mystical tradition, and introducing many Quakers to these treasures as well! This new album adds nineteen new chants to the repertoire and two talented instrumentalists to the mix. The results are lively, inspiring, moving and deeply practical, all at once. Concepts as subtle and challenging as surrender, inner stillness, non-attachment and the indwelling Christ spirit come powerfully alive through these mystical chants!”
Here is joy, unspeakable joy, joy which the world cannot see or touch, nor the powers of darkness come near to interrupt, and this joy is full of glory. “
~ Isaac Penington, from “The Scattered Sheep Sought After” (1659)
Michele, member of a high-church Episcopal congregation says, “I connected in an intimate way with the very different music and “lyrics” of these chants. For me, they had a grounding, deepening, and awakening effect…the Quaker Wisdom words activated my brain and lingered in my heart…(and) opened new understandings of cutting-edge teachings on enlightenment.
“Experiencing these words and tones at full tilt in a large group of seekers was powerful indeed! It created a field of jubilant, focused, hopeful energy, ‘…an infinite ocean of light and love.’ It was a whole-body experience that resonated deeply in my soul…Back in the “real world”—true healing is beginning.
“A question arose near the end of our time together as to how we could sustain the energy of our gathering and carry this learning into the world, kindle this fire in others. For me, the chants were a precious gift that have done just that.”
That spark caught fire, and before the end of the retreat a group dedicated to producing a recording of the chants had gathered a number of funding commitments and a promise from Northeast Wisdom to facilitate the process in any way possible. Now—in the midst of a challenge and potential greater than we have ever seen in our lifetimes—and at the beginning of Holy Week—these chants are now available to all in Wellsprings of Life: Quaker Wisdom in Chant.
Paulette describes her process leading up to the creation of this second album of chants based on selected quotations from the writings of Quaker leaders:
“The first collection, Timeless Quaker Wisdom in Plainsong, developed as I ran across texts from the founding 17th century Friends that were so profound I wanted to memorize them. So I set them to song. Since then, I’ve discovered the power of chanting as a spiritual practice, and the emergence of this new album reflects this discovery.
“The publication of that first album occurred right as I was reading a book by Cynthia Bourgeault… Her vision of Jesus as Wisdom teacher who modeled the path of inner spiritual transformation so reminded me of the early Quakers’ experience of the transformative Light of Christ within, that I sent her the CD. This led to us exploring ways to bring the Quaker stream and the Christian Wisdom stream more intentionally together. I began to facilitate chanting in her Wisdom retreats, and out of this collaboration the new album was born. I am excited that the movement of the Spirit has led to this and to the resulting broader awareness of Quakerism as a modern day contemplative path with deep roots in the Christian Wisdom tradition.
“The chants on this album are shorter, more easily sung in groups, and they include vocal harmonies and instrumental accompaniment. Communal chanting is an age old Wisdom practice for centering and opening the body and heart—a perfect conduit into silent prayer.
“My hope is that these chants will inspire more of this practice, and that the deep peace to be found in Quaker spirituality will fill the hearts of all who chant them!”
There is a great difference, between comprehending the knowledge of things, and tasting the hidden life in them. I fed on the sweetness of the former, before finding the true manna of the latter.”
~ Isaac Penington, paraphrased from Memoirs of the Life of Isaac Penington: by Joseph Gurney Bevan.
Check out Paulette’s page here on bandcamp to receive this download now!
Wellsprings of Life will also be available for download here on Paulette’s website in the coming days. We look forward to the CD format coming soon.