Video Clips

Using Music DVDs in R.E. Class by Brendan O'Regan

Note that many of the songs/performances mentioned here can be seen on the Video pages of this site.

Using music in religion teaching has a long history, but usually this has been on tape or CD. With the advent of music videos and DVDs more possibilities are opened up. For prayer and meditation services the CDs are still the best bet as listening is the key thing, but in the classroom situation watching the music DVD provides an extra focus of attention for the class.
Mostly when using these new resources I use them as part of an arts and faith course in Transition Year. When doing religious themes in music I give one double class to looking at a variety of songs in performance, with students filling in worksheets - tailored to specific songs, or of more general application. This can be followed by discussion of the themes and issues involved. For more impact I try to show the songs on the big screen, by hooking up the DVD player to the data projector and a decent sound system (one with auxiliary inputs). It makes for a really interesting and relaxing class - how about getting paid to sit back and listen to music? We deserve it!
Using DVD has the advantage over video of individual tracks being more accessible, but do familiarise yourself with the menu system in advance - I got caught out at a recent inservice when I needed help to navigate through awkward menus to find a song. The downside is that you often can't wind forward through the introductory stuff on the DVD. But during the copyright notices and menu navigation I get the students doing their writing, so that the next track is ready to go by the time the discussion is finished. Songsheets are also advisable as some performers are unfortunately not as articulate as one would like, or are drowned out by their bands. Not to mention the acoustics problems of our classrooms. Song words are easily available on the internet - enter a title or even a phrase with the word "lyrics" into a search engine.
Apart from class sessions devoted to music DVDs I often use individual tracks to introduce or highlight a theme I am covering during a normal class. The possibilities are improving all the time as more material is released on DVD, and buying them is not that expensive - most are cheaper than equivalent CD albums, especially if you buy from internet sources like,, or ebay. Beware of DVDs from the US, becauseif they are for Region 1 only they will probably not play over here. Also if they are in the American NTSC format older equipment over here won't play them properly. The ideal is PAL format Region 2 or Region 0.
Enough of the technicalities - time to highlight some useful material. For the lads, heavy metal group Iron Maiden is usually a hit. Many of their songs feature religious imagery - e.g. Sign of the Cross from the Rock in Rio DVD - "Why then is God still protecting me/Even when I don't deserve it/Though I am blessed with an inner strength/Some they would call it a penance". Down in the River to Pray is usually popular - Alison Krauss sings it beautifully on Down From the Mountain, a music DVD concert featuring music from the film Oh Brother Where Art Thou?. Texas singer-songwriter Jewel sings Hands on her Live at Humphrey's DVD - it's a song full of symbolism about hands and more: "I won't be made useless/I won't be idle with despair/I will gather myself around my faith/For light does the darkness most fear/My hands are small, I know/But they're not yours, they are my own/But they're not yours, they are my own/And I am never broken". Julie Miller is a popular singer-songwriter in the roots genre and her prayer-song Broken Things is available on the budget DVD Singer Songwriters: "Then you walk right into my darkness/ And you speak words so sweet /And you hold me like a child till my frozen tears /Fall down at your feet/ You can have my heart /If you don't mind broken things". More familiar performers with useful material include Bruce Springsteen singing a spellbinding version of If I Should Fall Behind on the Live in New York City DVD. It's not specifically religious in nature but conveys self-giving love effectively. Bob Dylan's Knockin' on Heaven's Door, on the MTV Unplugged DVD should provide plenty of interpretation and discussion points, while Eric Clapton's moving Tears in Heaven (Unplugged DVD) is useful for considering ideas about the next life. James Taylor's song Shed a Little Light is somewhere between inspiring and simplistic depending on your perspective, but comes across as a heartfelt prayer, especially on the DVD Squibnocket, but also available on The Pull Over Tour ("Let us turn our thoughts today/To Martin Luther King/And recognize that there are ties between us All men and women/Living on the earth/Ties of hope and love/Sister and brotherhood"). You're the One by Paul Simon, on the You're the One in Concert DVD, is a touching reflection on relationships between parents and children: "May twelve angels guard you/While you sleep/Maybe that's a waste of angels I don't know/I'd do anything to keep you safe From the danger that surrounds us". More traditional sounding is Eva Cassidy's train-themed People Get Ready on Eva Cassidy Sings: "All you need is faith /To hear diesels humming /You don't need no ticket /You just thank the Lord". Of course there is some material by more religious artists like Liam Lawton for example. The imagery in The Clouds Veil (on the In Concert DVD) should provide plenty of material for discussion and interpretation, while one of my favourites John Michael Talbot has some beautiful material on Live in Concert (still only on video as far as I can determine). Most of this material is readily available, but you can add to your collection with creative use of your video and DVD recorder. There are often excellent one-off performances on programmes like The Late Late Show, Songs of Praise (BBC 1 Sundays), Faith and Music (UTV Sundays).

On email request (use contact link on left) I can provide, as Word document attachments, some relevant worksheets, and song word sheets relating to this article.

This article was originally published in An Tobar.