Bernadette Farrell, music and social justice crusader

Life has been too busy to maintain a blog.  Among the many things I have done lately is to attend Grandparents’ Day at grandson Keenan’s parochial school.   One of the hymns they sang was “God Has Chosen Me”, music and lyrics by Bernadette Farrell.  The tune is lively and the lyrics are certainly appropriate for any Christian denomination.  When I noticed the composer, I looked her up.  What a life she has had!

Bernadette was born in 1957 and raised in Altofts, West Yorkshire, England.  She studied at King’s College in London and the Guildhall School of Music.  Though quite English, she is well known in Catholic music circles on both sides of the Atlantic. She came to the public scene in the 1970’s as one of the founding members of the St. Thomas More Group where some of her popular songs were first published.    Later, her work has been published by Oregon Catholic Press. OCP publisher, John Limb said “She has a way of communicating the Gospel message that gets under your skin.  Every song is like a mini-homily, calling people to live their lives in such a way that makes God’s Kingdom a reality on earth as it is in heaven.”   This is certainly the message I saw in “God Has Chosen Me” which says: “God has chosen me to bring to birth a new kingdom on earth”.     Her texts are based on scripture, but she also puts to music the words of others, including those of New Zealand writer Shirley Erena Murray who is featured in my book, Sisters in Song. She has been a workshop presenter in both the UK and USA. She served on the Roman Catholic Bishops Liturgical Commission.

Her interests go beyond music and liturgy, for she worked for decades in London’s East End as advisor to Bishop Guazzelli, a sponsor of the East London Communities Organization and as a community organizer.  She authored a report on immigration, adopted by the government; and led campaigns for safety, sanctuary, housing, wages and health.  She is a community organizer for CitizensUK, an influential organization for social change, and which is composed of schools, churches, mosques, synagogues and trade unions.  As much as I applaud her passion and action for social justice, my interest in her for purposes of my blog relates to music.  Her social justice will have to wait for another blogger.