…for the earth forever turning

Born in 1939 in Altoona, PA, saxophonist Paul Winter formed the Paul Winter Sextet when he was a student at Northwestern University. The group went on to win the Intercollegiate Jazz Festival contest and was quickly signed by Columbia Records. The following year (1962) they played 160 concerts in 23 Latin American countries (serving as cultural ambassadors for the State Department) and became the first jazz band to perform at the White House.

A pioneer of the “World Music” (as in “someone else’s local music”) and “Space Music” (as in contemplative spaciousness) genres, and a recipient of the Courage of Conscience Award for “creating music that celebrates the sacredness of life,” by the late ‘60s Winter had changed the name of his group to the Paul Winter Consort.

Today’s selection comes from their 1982 album “Missa Gaia” (“Missa” is Latin for “Mass”, “Gaia” is Greek for “Mother Nature”), also referred to as “Earth Mass” composed after the Paul Winter Consort became artists in residence at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Written by Kim Oler (and featured in a slightly different arrangement in the pleasingly venerated UU Hymnbook as “For the Earth Forever Turning”), the text for “The Blue Green Hills of Earth” was suggested to Oler by Winter who was inspired by Robert Heinlein’s 1947 short story, “The Green Hills of Earth” which in turn was inspired by C. L. Moore’s 1933 short story “Shambleau”.

In Heinlein’s futuristic story an aging spaceship engineer and poet (who has been blinded by radiation poisoning) crisscrosses the solar system, writing songs along the way.  Now near the end of his life he hitches a ride on a shuttle back to Earth so that he can be buried where he was born. After entering an irradiated area to save the ship from destruction he asks that the crew record his final song and dies moments after reciting the final verse…

We pray for one last landing/ On the globe that gave us birth/ Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies/ And the cool, green hills of Earth.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Sunday 8 July

The Blue, Green Hills of Earth

 For the earth, forever turning

For the skies, for every sea

To our Lord we sing returning

Home to our blue green hills of earth

For the earth, forever turning

For the skies, for every sea

To our God we sing returning

Home to our blue green hills of earth

 For the mountains, hills and pastures

In their silent majesty

For all life, for all of nature

Sing we our joyful praise to thee

For the sun, for rain and thunder

For the land that makes us free

For the stars, for all the heavens

Sing we our joyful praise to thee

For the earth forever turning

For the skies, for every sea

To our Lord we sing returning

Home to our blue green hills of earth

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