Songs to Know #10: Taizé Songs

Twenty years ago, I visited the monastic community of Taizé. It was a rich experience, one I will not soon forget. So…what is Taizé?

Taizé is an ecumenical, monastic order that is comprised of over 100 brothers from Catholic and Protestant backgrounds from over 30 countries. It began in 1940 by Brother Roger (Roger Schutz) who at the age of 25, left Switzerland, where he was born, to go live in France where his mother had come from. During World War II, Brother bought a house in Taizé, France where he began ministering to refugees. From this ministry a monastic community of seven men formed in 1949.

Having grown up with both Catholic and Protestant roots, I was fascinated seeing how Catholics and Protestants lived in community. Taizé is a place where tens of thousands make a pilgrimage each year. It is a place of retreat but also a place to explore the christian faith and ask questions. I was most moved by the many discussions of faith I had with people from all over the world and the wonderful music from Taizé.

Jacques Berthier (1923- 1994) a French composer, wrote 232 songs in 20 different languages for the community of Taizé. These short songs are based on scripture. These songs are repeated many times over by the community, while descants are played and sung over the singing. I found the repetition hard to get used to at first but as I sang, I found I actually needed the repetition to clear my mind and really meditate on the biblical truth found in the song.

I am including a few of my favorite Taizé songs here. They are not folk songs, but I find them to have a lasting quality. I am starting by teaching my children “In the Lord I am Ever Thankful” as we begin our day.

In the Lord I'll be ever thankful, in the Lord I will rejoice.

Look to God, do not be afraid.

Lift up your voices, the Lord is near,

Lift up your voices, the Lord is near.

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