Listen to samples now at SoundCloud!
Janis performed 20+ pieces for this audio book. You can get free downloads of two songs, "Architect of All Creation" and "Joy is Like the Rain" here.
Read more about this project here.
Because the project was such an immense undertaking, Janis had to create her own "script", with copies of the original songs, notes about the way those songs had been recorded (mostly by choirs!), notes on her own phrasing and interpretations as well as guitar tunings and sketches of arrangements. You can see pages 1-28 of the final "script" here.
From Janis: Several years ago I was asked to participate in a tribute CD to Miriam Therese Winter, the foremost feminist theologian on the planet. I was particularly intrigued because MT was, in addition to being a Medical Mission Sister, dean of the Hartford Theological Seminary’s Women’s Studies, four-time Catholic Book Award winner, and breast cancer survivor, a darn good songwriter. In fact, she’d sold out Carnegie Hall with her choir back in the day, and “Joy Is Like the Rain” was a song even I had heard.
That request turned into “I Am the One”, a song adapted from a spoken verse poem written by “MT” in the 1970’s. (And coincidentally, one of my favorite pieces.)
Shortly after, I was telling Stefan Rudnicki, who directed my own Grammy Award-winning audio book, about the project. He and his partner, Gabrielle deCuir, became tremendously excited about the possibility of doing an audio book. Since Audible.com and I were searching for a follow-up project to my own book, they agreed it would make a stunning piece, and away we went.
There were some serious challenges. First, how to make songs written during the folk boom of the 60’s and 70’s sound fresh? Second, as a Jew, how to deliver songs about Catholic beliefs truthfully, without compromising my own feelings? How to arrange pieces written for choirs into something that would work with a single voice and guitar?
There are 28 songs in all, ranging from her very earliest work to our own collaboration. Recorded in the same studio we used for my autobiography, the finished arrangements utilize everything from a borrowed guitar I “high strung” (thank you Mike Bower!) to a few wine glasses I borrowed and tuned with water so I could have bells on one song. There were a few that just had to be done by multiple voices; fortunately, my friends Scott and Kristine Card were in town visiting their daughter Emily and new grandchild. The Card family came to the studio one morning, and with their help and Stefan and Gabrielle’s voices, we recorded several pieces. And in the end, we decided to leave one piece exactly as originally recorded by MT and a group of women she was working with as part of a prison out-reach (or in-reach!) program.
Between the songs, I was occasionally so moved by the narrative that I had to stop and take a deep breath before I could go on. When MT ministered to emaciated children in a makeshift tent with next to no supplies, having only enough for a few, and looking at a line of hundreds waiting the first morning, starving children in their arms. When she found herself providing health care in a makeshift hospital on the Thai-Cambodian border - to the Khmer Rouge, and to the refugees from the Khmer Rouge, all in the same ward. When she learns she has breast cancer, and shortly after, that her mother has it as well.
There were also moments where I had to stop reading and have a good laugh, like when she was told the nun’s habit was no longer necessary, and decided to buy the first “regular” clothing she’d had since the age of 16 at Macy’s Department Store. After she paid, the saleswoman said “What are you? some kind of nun or something?” She’d hoped no one would notice, and was horrified, so she blurted out “Why do you ask?! How can you tell?” only to hear the woman respond “You’re so nice....”
And there were moments of sheer reflection, that brought me back to myself and, as MT would say, “the miracle of coincidence.” Our common interests - quantum physics, the philosophy of religion, music, of course. Our lives as renegades within our own fields. (A discussion we held at Scarritt Bennett Center, moderated by the great John Seigenthaler Sr., was titled “When Worlds Collide: Two New Jersey Broads on Life, Love, and the Holy Spirit”.) Or the fact that this wonderful piece of work allowed me to sing someone else’s songs in ways I’d never imagined, and was a truly American piece of work, put together by a Catholic nun author, Jewish narrator, and a choir comprised of a Jewess, several Mormons, a lapsed Catholic and a semi-Buddhist joining together.
That’s what I love most about Miriam Therese Winter. Wherever she goes, whatever she touches, she creates a community. I think you’ll feel it when you listen to this book.
6-CD set, 7:08 hours of listening time
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Also available from your local independent bookstore!!!