Feel Free to Cry


To my old brown earth
And to my old blue sky
I’ll now give these last few molecules of “I.”

And you who sing,
And you who stand nearby,
I do charge you not to cry.

Guard well our human chain,
Watch well you keep it strong,
As long as sun will shine.

And this our home,
Keep pure and sweet and green,
For now I’m yours
And you are also mine.

Pete Seeger, who died last week, wrote To my old brown earth in the late 1950’s, following the funeral of a friend.  With a Native American or Celtic sense of our place on this earth and within the human chain, they are words that might bring comfort and completeness to any who take them to heart.

For those who are close to the St. Alban’s community, you may have noticed that there have been a lot of funerals recently.  Dearly loved parishioners, friends of the parish from long ago, or families that had no church affiliation but realized that it was important to them to have their loved one buried with the prayers of a church community.  I’ve always thought it was one of the great privileges of my work as a church musician to help families think about the music for funerals, looking for ways to incorporate what might seem like an unlikely request.  If I told you about the most unusual things people have asked for you might find them humorous out of context, but after playing for hundreds of funerals, I can say that nothing is unlikely, and in the context of the burial service, each piece of music has deep meaning on some level.

In a quiet, small way we mourned the death of Pete Seeger this past Sunday at St. Alban’s.  An influential musician not only within American culture, but also to many in the pews and the choir here who share his love for spreading the joy of song to everyone.  At the end of communion we sang a choral setting of Seeger’s To my old brown earth, and in doing so many found that they needed to expand the musical choices on their own funeral list (and I do urge everyone to make and frequently revise their funeral plans) to include this song as well.  May Pete rest in peace and now sing with the angels.  May we all give our last few molecules of “I” to this island home of ours as graciously as he.  May we all feel free to cry.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/qkq4nmy6kx3uive/20140202_Epiphany4_1115_CommunionClosingChoralPiece%20%281%29.mp3 – to hear St. Alban’s choirs singing To my old brown earth as arranged by Paul Halley.


This entry was posted in Sonya Subbayya Sutton and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Feel Free to Cry

  1. Penny says:



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