The Wild Goose Worship Group: The Celtic group from the Iona community

Tuesday 1st February 1994

Long before a band adopted the name lona and went on to counterculture stardom, another band of musicians, THE WILD GOOSE WORSHIP GROUP, were exploring the origins of Celtic spirituality. John Irvine reports.

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You often get the label folky ...

(Grimaces) "Aye."

I was wondering if you saw yourselves as part of that tradition or not?

(Laughs) "It's a term of convenience - people have to label you. Culture should be embraced by Christ, whether it's the rock culture or the folk culture, and if that's one of our jobs in the church then fair enough! The kind of tune you sing depends on the kind of words you use. If you sing a very grandiose, stately hymn melody, you wouldn't use words like bulldozer, kitchen, AIDS, cancer - it just doesn't go. But Jesus Christ met people in their kitchens, bulldozed the barriers between heaven and earth at the crucifixion and he had an interest in people who had particular diseases. If that kind of intimacy is going to be reflected in the songs of the church we may have to use folk tunes, to use words that are not churchy words."

It's been said that the lona Community sees itself in the tradition of the Celtic Church, of the Benedictines, and of the Protestant Reformers. How is this reflected in your music?

"The Celtic thing is strong, especially the Celtic fascination with the incarnation and with God being three persons; with a personal relationship with Jesus of intimacy and not of distance; with the care and affection for creation as the arena in which God's glory is manifested. The Benedictine thing? They were a bit more contemplative, so we have contemplative chants, sometimes in Latin. The Reformers were keen on the Word of God being accessible to all the people and that's reflected in the fact that one in four of our songs is a paraphrase of scripture."

What was the thinking behind your new volume of Psalms set to music?

"A whole lot of things came together. Some folk were fed up with the metrical Psalms in a 16th century translation. And there are a good number of Psalms in the scriptures which reflect the shadow side of life, the depressive and angry feelings, the questioning of God, that we don't generally sing. We wanted to allow the whole gamut of experience in the Psalms to become accessible." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About John Irvine
John Irvine is a regular Cross Rhythms contributor specialising in classical and choral music.

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