Modern concerns to get singing about

Dan Damon
My Child is a Flower: Seventy New Hymns, Chants and Arrangements
Hope Publishing 2017

Ian Worsfold welcomes hymns on significant contemporary themes by American hymn writer and musician Dan Damon.

In the Foreword to Dan Damon’s new song collection My Child Is a Flower, the Revd Jackson Henry suggests that its contents “are invitational, offering both a welcome to work for justice and a home for those seeking shelter from the barrage of exclusion and inequality”.

The song for which this collection is named certainly points in that direction. Written in response to the experience of a mother in Damon’s parish, it highlights attitudes towards children with impairments. The mother said: “My child is not broken. My child does not need to be fixed.” And so Dan wrote, “My child is a flower, a joy to be shared.”

It’s fair to say that the collection stays for the most part in the four part harmony genre, musically speaking. This will make it accessible to many congregations, but the style will be less appealing to those churches with a worship band. Occasionally we find echoes of the African American Spirituals, such as in “Ain’t no grave”, linking us with the struggles of the slave trade and the challenges that still present themselves to us from that time.

Throughout the collection there are a number of biblical stories simply retold in musical form, “Elijah bowed down on the earth” being one example. Damon offers no interpretation for these texts, which enables them to be used as congregational experience of singing scripture rather than the more typical way of one voice reading to a congregation.

The key to this collection is in the description of the contents from the Foreword above. A cursory glance down the topical index highlights words such as ‘aging, ‘depression’, ‘gender identity’, ‘human trafficking’, and ‘LGBTQ’ – words largely absent from many other Christian music collections, but words that are current in our societal understandings. “When human life is bought and sold”, for example, takes us to the heart of the human trafficking industry – the modern day slave trade. It reminds us of the plight, not only of those sold into the sex industry, but also of those refugees being exploited as they flee their war-torn countries.

If you’re looking for the latest powerful worship song from the Songs of Fellowship or Spring Harvest store, then you’re unlikely to find it here. If, however, you’re looking for songs of lament that challenge us in our worship, holding before God the struggles and the challenges faced by many, you won’t be disappointed.

My Child is a Flower is available from Hope Publishing. Also see our review of Dan’s early collection, Faith Will Sing.

Categories: Damon, Dan (auth), Damon, Dan (comp), Reviews.

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