New Arising Index: Recording Quaker Chants with Paulette Meier

On my way to Ohio last weekend I had a layover in Philadelphia. My first flight had been delayed and with about 12 minutes to get from E terminal to B terminal, I got off the plane and took off sprinting. Not altogether the serene mystical picture I had conjured to begin a four-day trip to record a Quaker chant album with the incomparable Paulette! But that’s when I ran right by our friend Jeanine Siler-Jones, God bless her. As I was flying from one gate to another I looked over and there she was. Without slowing down I kept looking at her and then she glanced up and our eyes locked across the concourse and we burst into waving and laughing smiles and I knew the whole shindig was already well-in-hand. 

I’ve never been to Ohio and I admit I thought it was a long flat stretch of farm from one end to the other. But then Nick Weiland picked me up from Columbus airport (I made my connection!) and took me on a drive through a beautiful rolling countryside down wooded country lanes to the beautiful property he and his wife Molly keep, tucked deep into a forest. It was breathtaking, the high tree canopy, the deepening light, the sound of cicadas and the warm-cool breeze, the sound of kids playing across the road, the warm glow from Nick and Molly’s house. Paulette joined us that evening and quite suddenly we were all sitting around a hand-crafted kitchen table and toasting one another and the Wisdom community over a bottle of red wine. It felt surreal, magical, and yet utterly meant-to-be. Exactly the spontaneous, surprising energy that always seems to infuse good-old third force new arisings.

I don’t want to over-Wisdom this experience, but it would be difficult to describe it outside of the vocabulary we often use in this community. We recorded 18 tracks in about two and a half days. 18! Two and a half days! In music recording, this kind of velocity is impossible unless something finer is at work. Each morning Paulette, Molly, Nick and I gathered to sit in silence with one another for 20 minutes and each morning this tiny little group sit carried us straight through the long, difficult day like it had been infused by the love and will of many more…Our little input was incommensurate with the result, and this pointed easily to all of you, our wider community, and to God, fons plenitudino.

Recording music is both grueling and humiliating. It is repetitious, finicky, difficult to perform under time pressure, tiring, aggravating and baits the ego endlessly. It beckons one to criticize fellow musicians and exonerate oneself and question the very raison d’être of the project in the first place. Oh it does all of this and more. But in the energetic container we found ourselves held by, these things—so absolutely standard to recording sessions—virtually vanished. Speaking personally I felt able to breathe in the stream of comments and corrections without knee-jerk identifying, and I watched Nick and Paulette do the same day after day. Our recording engineer was a veritable sensei of patience and insight. Triggering critiques or personality clashes died in their infancy. I’m still energized a week later by the miracle of all this. Because it really was like this, idealized as it feels in rereading these lines. I wish to celebrate the power of our community coming together not only financially but with deep spiritual attention and conscious effort. It doesn’t seem right to apologize for being a witness and participant in such an outpouring! Only endless gratitude.

The whole project happened in this creaky historic house in downtown Logan. So quaint, so picturesque, so creaky, squeaky, and loud. Sean, our sound engineer managed all of this easily. By the third day, we even had a few hand signals down pat like when I would look through the front window and he would silently motion that, yes you may now walk across the outside porch, but no, don’t open the front door yet. In the front room where we recorded, we had 12 or 15 baffles set up—large, light-weight mattress-type objects used to block sound waves and hone tone. I can see Paulette peeking out from behind one of these just after absolutely nailing a take and raising her eyebrows at me like, “did I get it?” Another time she shifted her weight while holding the last note of the chant and we got a really delicious creaaaakkkkk out of the floorboard. “Again?” “Yes, Paulette, you’ll have to do it again, and we’ll have to just sit through your stunning rendition of a chant, one more time.” I could probably write this whole post by simply saying, “Paulette’s Voice!” and you would all know what I mean. Her voice is holy. Her voice opens and Light streams right through it into your being. Yes. Paulette’s Voice. Pardon me for bragging about having been amidst the brilliance of this Friend! 

Molly and Nick deserve special praise for hosting us so consciously and making us feel instantly at home. Molly constantly sent forth a stream of nutrients, day and night, sustaining us all the while with her glorious cooking, not to mention her keen photography skills–as evidenced by all the imagery included in this post! Nick’s bass kept us grounded every day. He was just tireless in his ability to go the extra mile and give me a wink when I tensed up, lending his affable grin just when I needed it. They came to their posts so easily and it left a vivid impression upon me of what it means to be open-handed and deeply-rooted all at once. We went out for pizza, did car-pool karaoke, got lost in the woods (well that was just me), stayed up too late analyzing song structures, opened the second bottle of wine, deep-breathed it for yet another take of a track, laid on carpets not daring to stir or make a sound until the all-clear was given, hiked in the forest, climbed around in gorgeous caves, and came to know the joy of producing a sound pleasing to the Lord.

In all of this, I am also deeply grateful for Paulette’s encouragement that I should join her in singing. I’ll never forget the feeling of listening back to the harmonies and grinning like a schoolboy at her. This opportunity has given me so much encouragement and reinforced my love of music in new ways. It’s been a wild witnessing to the fibrous strength of the ley lines that bind our Wisdom community and the very real transformation of this Love and Spirit right into physical matter, energy and music. I went into the experience of recording this album expecting that it would just be some kind of help or service to Paulette or the community, but of course, in retrospect, it’s no surprise that in the giving was the deepest receiving. That sweet, sweet Divine Exchange! 

This is the first in a series of posts we are calling the “New Arising Index.” As Andrew says, “the story of recording this album is an entry in the register of beautiful New Arisings that are happening all around the community.” 

To find out more about the collaboration between Nick Weiland, Andrew Breitenberg and Quaker Wisdom Chant Master Paulette Meier, please visit Paulette’s homepage; and go to the New Quaker Chant CD page on her website.

Andrew Breitenberg is a Principle at Straight Path Management, a consulting group based in Virginia Beach, VA which helps non-profit organizations with strategic planning and brand design.

He is also co-founder of Parallel Service, a 501(c)3 fostering two primary initiatives—spiritual mentoring for young postchristian men and Pilgrim Bible, an ongoing Bible translation project.

Andrew went to Living School in Albuquerque, NM in 2015 (now doing his post-grad work with Cynthia B. whenever he can) and has two kids, Wills (7) and Isobel Grace (5). On the side, Andrew pursues art, music and being outside.

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4 thoughts on “New Arising Index: Recording Quaker Chants with Paulette Meier

  1. YES! That sweet sweet Divine Exchange. What a delight to read your heart felt description of what transpired as you all recorded together. I also felt that moment in the airport as a sweet connection and happy synchronicity. I was heading back to Asheville after a powerful five day Wisdom School, co-leading with Marcella Kraybill-Greggo, held at Moravian Seminary in Bethlehem PN. Almost 40 of us had experienced a deep dive into the Divine Exchange, so seeing you was a grace and a sweet knowing of our ‘quantum entanglement’. Can’t wait to enjoy and share this new CD! Deep bows of gratitude for the creativity and the willingness to dance in abundance together. Grateful!

  2. Oh, my! What a beautiful (and also humbling) gift to read Andrew’s reflections on our time together creating this new album! I am so filled with gratitude! And what a gift he brought to the making of it! His piano accompaniment is so intuitive and “Spirit led,” and his beautiful tenor harmonies are simply exquisite! Between this and Nick’s expert acoustic bass arrangements and gift with harmonizing as well, I felt totally supported all the way, and am extremely pleased with the recording we’ve done. The support of the Wisdom Community, as Andrew indicated, has infused this entire project with such love and joy. There’s a lot more work to do before the CD is finalized, e.g. liner notes, package design, mixing and mastering, and manufacturing, but we are well on our way! I’m forever grateful!!

  3. Thank you Andrew. This makes my heart sing. I can hear the music and sense it’s power to move the soul. I tear up with gratitude for all you name. Deep bow to each of you for holding your post and offering your gifts including Molly. And we were with you.

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