MotherTongue at the Parliament October 93
MotherTongue in concert
MotherTongue, EarthSpirit’s performance troupe, had a busy and exciting time representing EarthSpirit and Pagan spirituality at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago August 28 – Sept. 5 1993. After busking in Harvard Square, helping with the EarthSpirit garage sale, and giving two concerts in Salem and Turner’s Falls in order to help pay the way, the group gave four official performances and one impromptu surprise appearance during a week full of opportunities to present Earth-centered spirituality to a mostly receptive audience drawn from all of the world’s faith traditions.
Our week started Tuesday when Andras Corban Arthen, Deirdre Pulgram Arthen, and Sarah Stockwell Arthen invited the group to join their performance “Songs of the Spirit” in the Wabash parlor at the posh Palmer House Hotel in downtown Chicago, where the Parliament was centered. Andras, Deirdre, and Sarah performed the potent songs from their repertoire which opened people inwardly, and left them visibly moved. At the end, MotherTongue joined these three for a short set. All were appreciatively received, and the people there bought tapes and promised to come back for more.
Our second performance came Wednesday night at the C.O.G. Full Moon Circle in Grant Park which had been delayed from the night before when problems with the Chicago Parks Department, which had threatened to prevent the event altogether, were finally ironed out through the intervention of the ACLU. MotherTongue, with colorful costumes and drummers leading, entered the circle of 300 plus participants—including lots of press people with cameras rolling—dancing and clapping to start the circle. EarthSpirit was well represented in the circle (written principally by Deirdre with consultation from several others). Sue Curewitz Arthen helped give a beautiful poetic invocation call and response to the God and Goddess: “Feel Her within You! Feel Him within you!” Deirdre gave an enormously strong and moving version of “I Am the Earth.” And Andras held the center telling a story about Mother Earth and her Children. For MotherTongue, this evening was special because it marked the ritual debut of the new arrangement of Spinner’s chant “Gaia, Carry Us Home.”
Thursday was MotherTongue’s big day in Chicago. We began with a 10 A.M. performance of the Wheel of the Year concert, a journey through the seasons with music, poetry, drumming and dance, with a little stage magic thrown in for spice. The Empire Ballroom, an ornately decorated room just off the Palmer House lobby, was comfortably filled as Magnus warmed up the house with some conjuring. MotherTongue then processed on stage and the performance began, one season’s music weaving with poetry into the the next, all punctuated with drumming and special effects. The performance went very well, and the audience was most responsive. Afterwards Pagan friends likeArchdruid Isaac Bonewitz of Ar n’Draiocht Fein, Anodea Judith from Church of All Worlds, and Don Frew, cauldron with flames and Brett W. of Covenant of the Goddess, all had glowing comments. Many audience members who were new to us also expressed their enjoyment of the performance and went away with a much better understanding of who Pagans actually are. Anodea Judith summed it up best when she said that “you have beautifully summed up everything about our religion: the fun side as well as the serious.”
As we waited our turn to go on stage for the Festival of the Performing Arts on Thursday night, someone heard familiar music coming from the next room. When we went in to check it out, we found several Hindu dancers, in full exotic costume, listening to the MotherTongue tape, FireDance. Wintry Queen “Oh yes,” they said, “We’ve been listening to this for a year now. We love your music!” (We hear that they are now planning to attend Rites of Spring).
At the Festival of the Performing Arts, MotherTongue played to a large audience in the Grand Ballroom. Following a candlelight processional and “Invocation,” we did our high energy repertoire, featuring “Ocean of Love,” “FireDance!,” Firedance and “Gaia, Carry us Home.” Preceeded by the B’hai Gospel choir and followed by the Jains, this performance too was well received.
Although we all thought that our work at the Parliament was done and were ready to relax or to head for home, this was not quite true. On Saturday, Phaedrus, a member of MotherTongue, was at the band shell in Grant Park checking arrangements for the final Plenary Session, which was to feature a talk by the Dalai Lama. Someone recognized him from MotherTongue, and said that singers were needed. Apparently, Kenny Loggins, the well-known pop invocation of water singer, who was performing in the afternoon concert in the park, was looking for singers to back him up on his last number, “Conviction of the Heart.” Phaedrus immediately returned to the hotel and after lots of scrambling, about a dozen of us, plus two members of the Baha’i Gospel Choir met backstage, were introduced to Kenny Loggins, learned the chorus to the song (“Hey, you have a nice voice,” said Loggins to Sarah Stockwell). We waited excitedly, and then marched on stage in front of 100,000 people for our 90 seconds of glory. It was a lot of fun and a great way to end a great week. The closing Plenary followed and most of us stayed to hear the Dalai Lama give a thoughtful and moving address.
MT left the Parliament proud of the good work we were able to do there on behalf of EarthSpirit and on behalf of Paganism, and also grateful to all the contributions by so many EarthSpirit members in time, energy, and money to help make this trip possible. This week showed us that working together we can make a difference.