Singing My Way Through Catholicism

Two weeks ago I celebrated my 66th birthday and give thanks for those who sent good wishes. Today I mark another milestone with the 66th anniversary of my Baptism.

Yes, with names like Anthony Gerard it is pretty obvious that I was baptized Catholic an acknowledgement I make with some trepidation in the current climate.

However, there is a spectrum of Catholicism. At one end you will find George Pell and at the other, Andy Warhol You will find Mary Queen of Scots, but you will also discover St. Mary MacKillopTony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce carry membership cards as did Mum Shirl. and Fr Ted Kennedy of Redfern. Scoundrels, saints and sinners , have filled the pews,written our history and taken us on the highs and lows of human experience.

I grew up in a era of Catholicism that nurtured a love of music and singing. The popular Hymn, “How Can I keep From Singing” is rarely sung in Catholic Churches but it captures a sentiment that some of us will identify with as we scroll our social media and watch the reports of clergy abuse dominate our screens.:

Thro’ all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul—
How can I keep from singing?

Each year I publish a list of hymns and music that I have sung in Catholic communities from childhood to my adult years. The list now runs to 66 pieces to commemorate this anniversary. If you are Catholic you might enjoy a trip down memory lane. If you have never sung with Catholics, you will probably be amazed at the clips you can find on youtube!!!

I hope the sharing of this post nurtures hope for all of us who live in these days of “tumult and strife”

Singing My Way Through Catholicism

David Page RIP

Today I joined  members of the Page family and the Bangarra Dance Theatre for the funeral of Roy David Page.

I knew David Page only by his reputation with the Bangarra Dance Theatre. By the time the funeral finished I felt I was mourning a friend.

We laughed, wept, sang and clapped his spirit home as those who were close to him shared generously of their love of a most remarkable man.

I was honoured to be among family and friends today from the First Peoples of this land and those I have met through the arts community. 

I am inspired by David’s living of his identity as a gay man and I hope I can honour his legacy in my queer community.


Dance into the Dreaming David.

Holy Week 2016

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This week in the Christian community of the West is known as Holy Week. it is a time of intense drama and memory retold in story and ritual. It has the power to shatter our self image as much as the original story recorded in the Gospels.

The ancient texts proclaimed this week tell of the “turning away” both of the imperial might of Pilate and the loyal followers of Yeshua of Nazareth.

It has been the turmoil of history in the Church as prophets and outsiders challenged Popes, clergy and civic authorities who turned away from the vision of a new world founded on justice and peace.

In our own days we witness the “turning away” of religious leaders from the long history of sexual abuse in the name of religion.

It is not unusual that the voices that challenge come from outside the structures of religion. That has been the pattern of reform from the time of Abraham and Sarah.

The powerful lyrics of Pink Floyd won’t make their way into the formal liturgies of this week. But they will touch the hearts of those who have seen the signs and heard the words that lead to life.

Ronnie Gilbert RIP

Ronnie Gilbert

Ronnie Gilbert

My parents gave me an LP when I was about 12 years old, The Weavers at Carnegie Hall.The songs and spirit of this album formed my social conscience and inspired my commitment to singing and music.

It was the defining experience of t my life as the voices of Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman, Erik Darling ,Frank Hamilton, Bernie Krause and Ronnie Gilbert touched my heart from the family radiogram.

Last year I grieved the passing of Pete Seeger who will always be one of my life mentors and heroes. Today the very first item on my Facebook feed was from Pete’s grandson announcing the passing of Ronnie Gilbert.

The tears I weep are for the loss of an inspirational and talented woman as well as a voice that sang of life, passion, justice and human rights.Rest in the songs of life Ronnie Gilbert. Your voice for justice will live on in the recordings you made and in those who will carry your passion for justice and music to a new generation. Farewell great lady,may the angels sing you home to paradise.

I heard of Ronnie’s death via a Facebook message:

Kitama here, Pete & Toshi Seeger’s grandson.

If there is a heaven – Grandpa (Pete) and Lee Hays were there last night welcoming Ronnie Gilbert in with open arms. They probably sang all through the night together. Of all the people my Grandpa knew and worked with I always felt that Ronnie Gilbert shared my Grandpa’s vision of unwavering activism and took on new issues as she got older as times called for them in a way that very few others did.

Just as Grandpa took on the environmental movement, she became a champion in the women’s rights movement. They saw how all movements are connected and how you cannot be a champion of one without being a supporter of another.

The NYT wrote a great obit on Ronnie. But, before reading that, I’d like you to take a look at this concert from 1980 where the Weavers had a reunion concert at Carnegie Hall. FYI, Ronnie was a founding member of The Weavers with Grandpa, Fred Hellerman and Lee Hays.

Ronnie Gilbert will be missed and my heart goes out to her family.