All of these songs are approved for community use, including community choirs, song circles, etc. Please contact Barbara for permission if you are planning to record or perform the songs for money. Donations are welcome! PayPal - firstname.lastname@example.org, Venmo - Barbara-McAfee-2
Begin Again This song was inspired by my friend Patrick O'Brien. One of his friends praised Patrick's dedication to his yoga and meditation practice over many decades. Patrick laughed and said, "Oh no, I quit so many times! The thing is, I was always willing to begin again." Be. Begin. Begin again. I fall down. I begin again.
Bone Crackin' Cold As a native Minnesotan, I have a strange fondness for deep cold. It's a powerful force that can be delicious with the right outdoor gear and attitude. Bone crackin' cold, bone crackin' cold, bone crackin' cold while the temperature goes down. North wind blowin', north wind blowin' Snow drifts down covering the world.
Breathing Breeze Living in a northern climate makes summer into a dizzying blast of sensual pleasure. The flowers perfume the air. The breeze is eloquent. The trees dance. This song was created on one of those perfect early summer nights when everything conspired to be stunningly gorgeous. Breeze, breathing breeze on a warm summer evening Silky-soft and sweet as the sigh of a lily Trees are dancing in the moonlight as the stars chase us home
Cast All Your Votes for Dancing (recording coming soon) Based on a quote by a poem by Hafiz as interpreted by Daniel Ladinsky. Composed by my friend, Miriam Prichard, and I as a power song for her. The joy comes through The pain comes through The rage comes through The love comes through The light comes through My friends come through and they know just what to do: Cast all your votes for dancing Cast all your votes for song Cast all your votes for living, for the strength to carry on.
Every Step Is a Prayer (recording coming soon) I composed this song while participating in a sacred Nibi (water) walk around Lake Superior led by Ojibway elder, Sharon Day. Water from the lake was carried in a copper pail around the entirety of the lake via relay. "Every step is a prayer" is one of the phrases Sharon uses to describe this kind of walking. Every step is a prayer for the water Every step is a prayer
Get Up Based on a quote by my beloved mentor and friend, Angeles Arrien: "If your business is waking up the dead, get up! Today is a workday!" In the many years of reading her work and the handful of times I got to co-present with her, I never heard her say these words. It was after her death that a mutual friend passed along this quote. As I crafted the song using the Acapella app in my kitchen, it occurred to me that there was another song that made use of the phrase, "get up." Thanks to Bob Marley for adding a reggae groove to the song. Thanks to Lisa G. Littlebird for creating these tracks and allowing me to share them here! You can find loads of beautiful community songs plus information about her songleader training at her website.
In Love With a River I composed this ditty while kayaking among the towering stone cliffs on the St Croix River not far from my home. Can you feel the rhythm of the paddling in it? Can you see the shimmering reflection on the lichen-covered stone? Do you think of a river you love as you sing it?
Jewels This song grew out of a conversation I had with a voice coaching client many years ago. The person was struggling to heal after a traumatic brain injury and thought singing would help her brain recover. It did. Meanwhile, when she was having a particularly hard day, I heard myself saying these words to her: "Every time I go into the darkness, I return with fistfuls of jewels." It didn't feel like me talking, but some larger and wiser being. I filed the line away in my memory. Then in a hot tub under the stars on the south shore of Lake Superior, it found a melody and a second line: "Midnight velvet wraps all around me; stars glitter brilliant above." The third line arose in a community song circle. This song baby has traveled far and wide and is a winter solstice favorite in many communities. Every time I go into the darkness, I return with fistfuls of jewels Midnight velvet wraps all around me; stars glitter brilliant above Dreaming darkness, dreaming light
Let the Great Song Come Based on a poem by Wendell Berry My friend, Liz Rog, gifted me with a beautiful book of poems about singing. One of the poems tucked in those pages was the inspiration for this layer song. I composed it in my stuffy tent at Village Fire, a singing camp in northeast Iowa that Liz founded many years ago. Thanks, Liz, for laying so much of the groundwork for this song to be born! And all honor to our wise elder, Wendell Berry as well. Let the Great Song come (2x) In snow I wait and sing of the braided song I only partly hear Even in the rising year, even in the spring The little can hope to sing only of the great
May You Go Easy (recording coming soon) For my beloved friend, Tom McSteen, as he was lingering between the worlds. He passed peacefully surrounded by family and friends. May you go easy as you go May you go easy and may you know How to find the door and go through it Leave your weary body behind How to find the light and become it It's the one we saw there shining in your eyes May you go easy, may you go easy May you easy as you go.
Now Lyrics from "i thank you god" by e e cummings
I've loved this poem for many years, especially the mysterious and delicious closing lines: now the ears of my ears awake now the eyes of my eyes are open This simple, three-part song is a quick teach -- and exemplifies how we are called to be when singing in the oral tradition.
Only in Silence Based on a text by Ursula LeGuin I love how much wisdom is packed into these few words. As you sing it, be sure to let the silence ring after the word "silence." Don't hold that note too long or the silence won't have its say. Only in silence, the word Only in dark, the light Only in dying, life Bright the hawk's flight on the empty sky
Only That Day Dawns This layer song piles up a Henry David Thoreau quote, a line from a song in Rogers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma, and a beloved hymn. I wrote it on the east end of Mallard Island on Rainy Lake, huge watershed on the Minnesota/Manitoba border. This sacred place has been the birthplace of many songs over the decades. Part of my soul is always there.
Only that day dawns to which we are awake (2x) O, what a beautiful morning! O, what a beautiful day! I've got a wonderful feeling everything's going my way! Morning has broken like the first morning; blackbird has spoken like the first bird Praise for the singing, praise for the morning, praise for them springing fresh from the Word. (from "Morning Has Broken" by Bob Chilcott and Christofer Johnsson)
Promise (Near and Deep) Back in the 1990's I was in a car accident. Though I escaped injury, the experience made me a nervous driver and passenger for awhile. The first long drive after the crash took me to Winona, Minnesota to do some work. On the way home, the snow began. The fat flakes rushed at my windshield of the pitch blackness. In my fear, I called out a prayer for help. This song was the answer to that desperate call. It came clearly, simply -- and I sang it all the way home. Since then, it has been sung by various people at sacred sites including Machu Picchu and Maeve's Cairn in Ireland. The Morning Star Singers comfort choir sings it to people facing challenges with living and dying. The version here is sung by The Flowering Women: Lia Falls, Maria Genne', Debra Lach, Teresa Riley, and me on our CD, Coming Home.
Seed Song I composed this song around the winter solstice in 2018. It's a dialogue between two voices -- one lost in darkness and despair and one who holds deeper wisdom. Oh, the darkness has swallowed me whole and I cannot remember the light. Oh, I feel I am losing my soul to the night, to the night. You are a seed. This is the waiting time. You hold a dream of green that will call you to the sky.
Sun Come I wrote this joyful morning song while walking along the beach in Chacala, Mexico. I've led retreats there for years at the lovely Mar de Jade retreat center on the Pacific coast. Mar de Jade is tucked into the lap of an extinct volcano. It takes the sun a long time to crest the volcano and, when it finally does, watching it hit the waves is a great joy. Sun come over the mountain Waves run up to the shore Morning in all her glory brings the gift of one day more
Surrounding You Sometimes a song unspools ready-made into my head. That is what happened with this one as I read an email from a friend describing her daughter's grave illness after giving birth to her first child. (Everyone came through just fine eventually.) In that moment, my heart cracked open and this song started being born. I raced to my piano, composed it in minutes, and then taught it that evening to the Morning Star Singers. This little comfort choir I founded in 2008 is singing it in this recording. It is a frequent song choice when we are singing for people in hospice, hospitals, and memory care. Many years later, I realized that one of the phrases, "unexpected joy," was something my friend, Jack Heckelman, said frequently in his conscious dying time: "Every day brings some unexpected joy and today you are that joy to me." His beautiful process was captured in a film by his sister, Nancy Poer. It is now available on YouTube under the title, "The Most Excellent Dying of Theodore Jack Heckelman." My story is that Jack dictated the song to me from the other world through that crack in my heart.
Table Grace (recording coming soon) In conversations with friends I have come to the realization that if I deny the blessings that come to me, it doesn't mean that others will receive them. My practice has become this: to fully accept my blessings and wish them for everyone else as well. This recognition has turned into a table grace. I've got food on my plate, water in my glass Loved ones around the table What more could I ask? I receive this great blessing and send it along May all living things be fed by the singing of this song.
Thank You Based on a quote by Meister Eckhart I composed this song the day after Thanksgiving while driving to northern Wisconsin to feast with friends on the south shore of Lake Superior. My friend, Tom Fiebiger, had posted the Eckhart quote on his Facebook page and on my long drive from the Twin Cities, it began to form into a song. I pulled over at the Brule River and caught the rest of the song there. Did I mention it was raining? By the time I returned to my car, I was soaking wet and deeply happy. Uh thank you, uh thank you, uh thank you..... If the only prayer you ever said was thank you, thank you That would be prayer enough for the rest of your life Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you
The Dark (recording coming soon) Based on a poem by Wendell Berry I composed this song the day after Thanksgiving while driving to northern Wisconsin to feast with friends on the south shore of Lake Superior. My friend, Tom Fiebiger, had posted the Eckhart quote on his Facebook page and on my long drive from the Twin Cities, it began to form into a song. I pulled over at the Brule River and caught the rest of the song there. Did I mention it was raining? By the time I returned to my car, I was soaking wet and deeply happy. Part One: To know dark, go dark Part Two: Walk without sight, walk without sight to find Part Three: That the dark blooms and sings, that the dark blooms and sings Part Four: And is traveled by dark feet and dark wings
There Is Music (recording coming soon) Based on this quote by the great mystic Hildegard of Bingen. "There is music in all things, but we can't hear it until we sing." On a women's singing weekend in Minnesota, my friend Sarah MacDougall brought this quote to the group. I immediately heard the musicality in it and composed this little layer song in the moment. Part One: There is music, there is music, there is music Part Two: In, in all things Part Three: But we can't hear it, but we can't hear it until we sing.
There Are Songs Here is yet another song that was born at Village Fire, the wonderful singing camp in northeast Iowa founded by Liz Rog! Singing breeds more singing, clearly. Standing by the dining shelter, I suddenly perceived that all of the living world was filled with song. This song is the title track of my eighth solo recording. There are songs in the soil and rivers and trees And ears of your heart can hear them And some come alive in the meeting of eyes When you take the time to see them Chorus: I will listen to the deeper story I will see how life's gonna move .... in me. There are songs in my bones, won't leave me alone Calling for creation And some that fly on the whispering wind Seeking incarnation - Chorus There are songs in the clouds that shout out loud In the dark voice of the thunder And some that shine in the cool blue fire That splits the sky asunder - Chorus There are songs that ride on the dancing tides That swirl through all the oceans And some that dream in the bitter seed That grief will set in motion - Chorus
Walk Through (recording coming soon) Lyrics by Andrea Gibson, tune by Barbara McAfee and Miriam Prichard Andrea Gibson is the poet laureate for the state of Colorado. They are a powerful poetic voice and author of many books. Used by permission. If your wounds are still open Trust they are doors To an answer And walk through.
You've Been Traveling The first line of this song is from a poem by James Haba called "The Greeting." I wrote it in the shower in the middle of the Circle, Song, and Ceremony retreat I co-led with Quanita Roberson and Tenneson Wolf in the Twin Cities. A few hours later, the group gathered around the piano and sang it together. It is such a joy when a song comes so quickly and is sung so immediately by the people who inspired it! You've been traveling, I can see it in your eyes And the questions that have called you here are deep and wise At every journey's end, the next one begins You've been traveling and now you've arrived. (2x)
Your Grief for What You've Lost Based on a quote by Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks) I've carried this quote around in my head for years. It's worked on me in a deep way. It became a song at Village Fire, a singing camp in northeast Iowa, as I stood knee-deep in beautiful Bear Creek. I wasn't sure if it worked as a round, so I hurried to another part of the creek to find Village Fire founder, Liz Rog, and her daughter, Ida Rotto. The three of us confirmed that the new song was indeed a two-part round. It has traveled widely in the world as a resource for grief rituals, comfort choirs, and other settings where people are walking through the sacred territory of grief. The "ah" at the end of the song evokes the universal sound of grief. Your grief for what you've lost holds a mirror up to where you are so bravely working - ah!