We joined our local UU (Unitarian Universalist) church last year and attended quite a lot in the beginning. Now, well, not so often. Why? The main turn-off for me is that the music is just so damned BORING. In fact, I recently rewatched the Winona Ryder version of LITTLE WOMEN and, guess what? They were singing some of the very same hymns for in our UU hymnal.
Often, when the words are chanted in unison instead of sung, it’s not that bad. But whenever the time comes for us to have to stand and sing I feel so, the only word for it is “Puritanical”.
The blog coverlaydown.com wrote a post on the UU songbook, Singing the Living Tradition. Part of what they had to say is below in italics:
The current UU hymnal Singing the Living Tradition, first published in 1993, is a hodgepodge of folk songs and gospel spirituals, poetry set to old English and shapenote tunes, and biblical texts set to classical melodies. A few psalms remain from earlier ages, and composers such as Bach and Hayden have a presence, but they nestle among songs from sixties folk singers Holly Near and Richard Farina, and modern settings of lyrics from Confucious and Rumi, Emily Dickinson and Sara Teasdale. Martin Luther is there, but so is Duke Ellington.
As I will be discussing in my sermon, the current hymnal has some major flaws, mostly stemming from the way in which its songs were selected for their lyrical content rather than any sense of singability. The relative inaccessibility of the songs is coupled by the inherent tension between an everchanging religion which reflects the world-as-it-is and the very commodification of the canon which results from publishing a definitive hymnal in the first place. Just fifteen years past its original publication date, the hymnal is already seen by many practitioners and seekers as far out of date, and desperately in need of renewal.
My suggestion to the UU church is to immediately run out and rent a copy of Whoopi Goldberg’s SISTER ACT. If Sister Mary Clarence can bring some toe-tapping tunes into the church, then shouldn’t a church that claims to be so liberal and modern do the same thing? I’d even settle for the occasional AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH or even Jem’s IT’S AMAZING.
The right message is there for me and the teachings are mostly on track with what I believe. The people are welcoming and open and the services offer a wide variety of topics and lessons from all religions.
But the music? Come on. Welcome in the 21st century Unitarian Universalists — because, your message is modern and hip — but your music is is better fit for a Mayflower full of Pilgrams.