By Rev. Carol Bodeau
Some of you may know that, since UU worship has gone “multi-platform” (i.e. since we now produce our Sunday services both in-person and also virtually, live streaming to YouTube), we have had to address a number of new logistical, technical and legal issues. One of these is the matter of copyright restrictions on the music we play and sing during our gatherings. Thanks to the generosity of Merry Levering, and the legacy of Mary Donovan’s love of music, we have been able to purchase a license allowing us to use a wide range of music legally in our broadcast services.
As I was thinking about services for the month of December, particularly for the December 12th service on holidays of light, I found myself humming “Light of the World” from the musical Godspell. This musical, based on parables from the Christian Scriptures, has fabulous songs, including some more widely-known pieces like “Day by Day.” When I was a middle school choir student, we sang a medley of Godspell pieces for an annual concert, and “Light of the World” stuck in my head. Since it’s the Christmas season, the choir has been considering which songs are ‘legal’ for us to sing with our newest licenses, and the service on “lights” is one of the first we’ve had to really consider with our new copyright concerns. Apparently, with our purchased licenses plus the permissions given by UU musicians, “Light of the World” is on the approved list, as are “This Little Light of Mine,” “Light One Candle,” “Let There Be Light,” “Light of Ages and of Nations,” and “Sunshine on My Shoulder” (an outlier, but still…).
Each song we consider singing or playing has to be within our rights as license-holders, or we won’t be using it. The same is true of readings we use—either from our hymnal or from other sources—because these, too, fall under copyright provisions. And our worship and music teams are committed to doing our best to honor these copyrights.
“But why be so fussy about it all?” you might ask (and some already have). “Lots of people put things on YouTube with proper citations or copyright permissions. It happens all the time.” Yep, it does. But here’s the thing: we honor the inherent worth and dignity of all beings, and it seems that honoring the work, the “light” and beauty created by musicians and writers and other artists, is part of our values. The ‘light’ within those creators is special and unique, and we want to honor them by respecting their rights to their creations.
So you may not hear some of your favorite things in coming weeks, or you may notice that we’re quoting fewer authors in extended ways in our services. We will be behaving far more carefully with regard to resources we include in our services, out of respect for the composers, performers, and authors who inspire us. So feel free to continue to suggest musical or written material you’d like to hear in our services…but be sure to do it far enough in advance that we can make sure we’ve got permission in order to honor the light within these amazing artists who brings us joy, inspiration, and encouragement.
Happy holiday season, everyone.