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Social Justice repertoire suitable for liberal church worship

I'm leading a course in music from the social justice community that is suitable for a church service.  This does not have to be a sacred text.  Example: Holly Near's "I Am Willing" or Sweet Honey in the Rock's "Ella's Song."   I would love to hear from any of you with additional ideas. Thanks.
on July 1, 2013 2:21pm
Wow, great course topic! I've used "popular" or alternative music in church quite a bit; I'll consult the archives.  Are you possibly also interested in music
that's not necessarily social justice but can fit into scriptural themes? (Example, Nickle Creek's "Doubting Thomas," Sufjan Stevens "Transfiguration..."
Lisa Mischke
Brooklyn, NY
on July 2, 2013 5:17am
Hi Dennis,
We do a lot of social justice songs. You can check out videos, samples, lyrics, etc at If you're interested in any of the pieces, please contact me directly and I'll see if I can link you up to sheet music.
Sing on!
on July 2, 2013 5:49am
We just did Krouse's arrangement of Kurt Bestor's "Prayer of the Children".  Very potent.
Stephen Foster's "Hard Times, Come Again No More" is possible.  I've got an arrangement at, also available on JWPepper.  You could also consider "Prayer of Dedication" (Prayer of St. Francis) at the same locations.
I don't know any particular arrangements, but there's a lot of social justice in the folk music of the 50s and 60s - Woody Guthrie; the Weavers; Peter, Paul, and Mary; Bob Dylan.  I also like "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?".
Good luck!
on July 2, 2013 5:59am
You need to contact Eugene Glickman in Brooklyn, NY.   He has a huge catalog of self-published SATB a cappella arrangements of social justice songs.   They aren't easy.  They have a greatness to them.
Nick Page
on July 2, 2013 7:59am
I Had No Right by Dar Williams
on July 2, 2013 7:59am
Screendoor on a Submarine by ???
on July 2, 2013 8:02am
Other contacts with this kind of repertoire: Eugene Peace Choir, In Accord (in Eugene, OR) Tom Sears at Eugne Unitarian Universalist church. MUSE women's choir in Cincinatti. Aurora Women's Choir in Portland, OR.  
on July 2, 2013 8:34am
Here are a few our choirs have performed over the years:
Famine Song (Vida, arr. Matthew Culloton)
Guantanamera (there are several good arrangements out there including one by Gene Glickman in the earthsongs catalogue - hat tip to Nick Page)
Hine Ma Tov (Behold how good and pleasing it is for people to sit together in unity - this is a paraphrase) - there are many settings of this text out there, but I particularly like Sally Albrecht's version, which sets it as a round - very simple but effective.
How Can I Keep from Singing (take your pick - there are many good arrangements)
Inscription of Hope - Z. Randall Stroope
Like a Mighty Stream (Moses Hogan)
Lo Yissa Goy (traditional round - A nation shall not raise/a sword against a nation/And they shall not learn/any more war.)
N'kosi Sikelel'I Afrika (pan-African anthem - I've used the Sontonga/Ladysmith Black Mambazo arrangement from World Music Press)
Song for Everyone (There are No Outsiders) - Steven Heitzeg
Somos el Barco (arr. Judith Tucker World Music Press)
Almost anything from the collections "Freedom is Coming" and "Freedom is in Your Hand".
This is just a quick list. If I come up with more I will add.
Liz Pauly
on July 2, 2013 10:39am
Hi Dennis,
Please consider these pieces on social justice themes:
  • The 21st Century (A Girl Born in Afghanistan) - Unaccompanied SATB setting of excerpts from Kofi Annan's Nobel Peace Prize lecture.  Available in both a full-length (7 min.) and an abbreviated (4 min.) form.
  • The Promise of Liberty - an adaptation of the refrain from The New Colossus ("Give me your tired, your poor, ...) available for 2-part Treble Choir and for SATB choir, with piano accompaniment.
You will find recordings, complete texts, and free downloadable perusal pdf scores on my website:
on July 3, 2013 6:52am
As Nick Page recommends, I would highly suggest taking a look at the choral arrangements of Gene Glickman.  I did a two part annotated bibliography of them a few years ago for the Research Memorandum Series--available for download on the Chorus America website.  He has written close to 200 arrangements, all of which have to do with social justice.  Not every one of them would be appropriate for a church service, but many would.  If you are not a Chorus America member, I can send you PDFs of the articles, if you wish.  I know of no one else who has written such a wonderful and interesting selection of (primarily) a cappella works related to social justice.
on July 4, 2013 7:48am
Hi Dennis:  Like someone said, Great Topic!  Our church is a peace and justice church, and I have used a lot of music
in worship that I called "Secular music with a Sacred theme". 
Someone has already mentioned "Prayer of the Children" that I have used many times with our men. 
Two more favs are "God Bless the Outcast"  from The Hunchback of Nortre Dame (can't remember who did the choral arrangement)
and "Bless the beast and the children".
It's a great topic to work with.  Have fun!
on July 5, 2013 5:52am
Try "Singing the Journey" Unitarian Universalist Association.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on July 6, 2013 6:18am
To clarify on Edwin's comment, Singing the Journey is a supplement to the hymnal.  It  has many wonderful social justice pieces.  Here is the music part of the UUA website for ordering:   There is also a page of "songbooks."  
"I Dream A World" - Langston Hughes poem set by Andre Thomas.  Beautiful.
"Earthsong" - Frank Tichelli
Many others . . . if I think of more I will post . . . 
Good luck!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on July 8, 2013 9:42am
Hi Dennis!  Great course!
Quaker Peace Testimony

Contemporary. Advanced. Octavo. Composed 2005. 8 pages. Duration 3:40. Published by De Stijl Music (D1.SM-05-0001).

George Fox and the Quakers wrote this pacifist manifesto to King Charles II in 1660. Harmonically rich, angular, and complex.

This is available in SATB and TTBB with piano accompaniment; SATB a cappella; and SATB with orchestra.
It's available through JW Pepper, Sheet Music Plus, and Theodore Front Musical Literature.
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