Music DVDs in R.E. Class by Brendan O'Regan
many of the songs/performances mentioned here can be seen on the Video
pages of this site.
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 cdwow.ie, play.com, amazon.co.uk 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
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).
request (use contact link on left) I can provide, as Word document attachments,
some relevant worksheets, and song word sheets relating to this article.
was originally published in An Tobar.