Peter Kearney | Good Morning Good People! St. Francis of Assisi: A Journey in Song

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Good Morning Good People! St. Francis of Assisi: A Journey in Song

by Peter Kearney

A continuous musical-narrative, folk style. A song-cycle with musical & narrative links. "Cuts through all the sentimentality about Francis that has accumulated. So much here that is refreshing and inspiring." ... "A deeply serious work with great power".
Genre: Spiritual: Contemporary Christian
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Introduction (Live)
5:08 $1.00
2. The Welcome Song (Live)
4:43 $1.70
3. Narrative Song 1: Birth (Live)
1:40 $0.50
4. Narrative Song 2: The Dream (Live)
1:56 $0.50
5. The Changes Song (Live)
6:58 $1.70
6. Narrative Song 3: The Cave (Live)
1:15 $0.50
7. Cave Music (Live)
0:47 $0.50
8. Who Shall I Trust? (Live)
2:44 $1.00
9. The Leper's Song (Live)
6:19 $1.70
10. Francis and the Lady Poverty (Live)
9:21 $1.70
11. Good Morning Good People!, Pt. 1 (Live)
9:39 $1.70
12. The Mountain Song (Live)
4:26 $1.70
13. On the Mountain (Live)
2:15 $0.50
14. The Valley People's Song (Live)
4:04 $1.70
15. Clare's Song (Live)
7:06 $1.70
16. Sister Bird (Live)
9:30 $1.70
17. The Minstrels of God (Live)
8:40 $1.70
18. The Wolf of Gubbio (Live)
9:47 $1.70
19. Make Me an Instrument (Live)
3:08 $1.70
20. The Shadow Song (Live)
2:34 $0.50
21. La Verna (Live)
7:55 $1.70
22. Canticle of the Sun (Live)
9:24 $1.70
23. Good Morning Good People!, Pt. 2 (Live)
4:18 $1.00
24. The Dance Goes On (Live)
2:37 $0.50
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
This is the 'big work' of Australian composer Peter Kearney's creative life. Best heard as whole album. Because this is a recording of a continuous live performance, the creation of track divisions sometimes causes an abrupt start or end to a track. But, joined together, the various tracks make a seamless performance.

THE RECORDING: - Friday 26th November, 1994
This was the third and final concert in Good Morning Good People's premiere season. The venue was Clubbe Hall in Mittagong, Peter's home town in NSW, Australia. A live recording of a concert with 700+ people in attendance will inevitably have some low-level audience noise, a little girl coughing, a door closing, a drumstick dropped by a young percussionist. We hope you will bear with us and listen beyond occasional distractions. In many ways this is a miraculously well-balanced and clear recording, channelled direct to stereo from the PA mixing desk.
SOUND ENGINEERS: Kenny Miller and John Hamilton. MASTERED by Ron Craig and Bruce Sheldrick.

MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Christine Tilley
NARRATORS: David Shapiro & Wendy McMahon Bell.
SOLOISTS: Peter Kearney as Francis; Helen Archer as the Leper; Claire Parkhill as Lady Poverty and Clare.
SMALL GROUP: Helen Archer, Louise Cassidy, Peter Michael, Frank Iacono, Clare Michael, Marilyn Gotlieb
GUITAR: Peter Kearney
CHOIR & ORCHESTRA: Gathered from the local community. Nearly eighty people of many ages, from teens upward. Of many faiths and no faith.
PERCUSSION: Five children from St. Paul's Primary School, Moss Vale.
TUNED PERCUSSION: Two children from Mittagong Primary School.



* Audio-CD of 'Good Morning Good People (1994)
* CD-Rom containing a pdf file with the full narrative script and song lyrics - as heard in this recording. Black and white Illustrations by Dorothy Woodward.
Both are available through Peter Kearney. For contact details and a link to Peter's online-store see his CD Baby 'Artist Profile'.


SYNOPSIS: After introductory music and 'The Welcome Song', we hear of the lively youth, his ideals, his imprisonment following capture in a local war. 'The Changes Song' tells of depression following his release, his solitary searching for meaning. Then, the challenge and discovery of God through an encounter with a leper in 'The Leper's Song'.

His embracing of the leper leads on to the adoption of a radically simple lifestyle, symbolised in his betrothal to the 'Lady Poverty'. He discovers his mission to bring news of God's Kingdom to the people. This is announced with energy and joy in the song 'Good Morning Good People!'. Others are inspired to join him in his way of life. The first half closes with 'The Mountain Song'. Francis and his brothers are lifted up in their newfound love of God.

An important theme of the second half is the tension Francis feels between 'Mountain' (the joys of solitude and contemplation) and 'Valley' (active involvement in ordinary life). Unable to decide what is his way, Francis trusts the decision to the prayers and discernment of Clare. The issue and the special relationship between them is explored in a song that Clare sings to Francis.

Directed to the Valley, Francis sings farewell to Sister Bird ('bird of my soul') and goes down to the troubled world of the Valley People, entering into dialogue with them in 'The Circle Song'. He comes up against desperate, hard-headed, hard-hearted forces in 'The Wolf of Gubbio' and 'The Shadow song'. Troubles follow from the rapid growth of the Order.

Eventually, 'wounded and weary' he follows the path of suffering to the mountain of 'La Verna' where the experience manifested in the stigmata takes place. The account of his final months is interwoven with the 'Canticle of the Sun' and a reprise of 'Good Morning Good People!'


by Peter Kearney
Good Morning Good People is the 'big work' of my creative life. It began with the reading a book from Basildon town library. That was in 1970 while I was living in England, having travelled from Australia two years earlier. 'In The Steps of St Francis' by Ernest Raymond led me to read other books on Francis and I was deeply impressed.

The greeting of St. Francis: "buono giorno buono gente!" inspired the title song. Later came the idea of writing more songs to tell the whole story. I didn't start with a whole conception. The image of an archaeological excavation seems more appropriate; the shape of the whole emerged as I dug here and there on different sides of a large buried object. The story of Francis was already known, but I had to discover my own approach to this story, my own selection of events, personalities, words and symbols. From the start, my approach to Francis was personal and reflective, but expressed in universal terms which would, hopefully, make it accessible and relevant to others.

When I first discovered Francis and became so entranced by him, the initial appeal was partly the romance and the exhilarating freedom and simplicity of his life. These aspects found expression in the earliest songs, 'Good Morning Good People!' and 'Francis and the Lady Poverty'. Later I tuned in to some of the difficult changes Francis went through. Though his personality was very different to my own, I found connections and parallels that led me to continue this large scale work.

The scale of the project led to a change in my approach to songwriting. The songs were written slowly. Previously, my songs would usually be conceived and created in a short burst of energy, but with this project I would come up with a fragment of a song that had promise but which would then have to be left aside for weeks or months … or years … until I could take it further. Patience was needed and new skills. I found the emerging songs were longer and more complex than usual. And I soon realised my musical story of St. Francis was not going to be a catchy, fun creation like 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat', but rather a slowly unfolding, deeply reflective and serious work.

Meanwhile my life moved into the 'Valley' through marriage, parenting and full-time work in a school for maladjusted children from 1975-1979. During this period, I worked on little else, creatively, except 'Good Morning Good People!'. Among the songs to come out of this period were 'Sister Bird', 'The Minstrels of God’ and 'Changes'.

The nature of the 'drama' underlying Good Morning Good People is rather symbolic and abstract. I passed over opportunities for more nitty-gritty, flesh and blood drama, for example the conflict between Francis and his father, or the camaraderie and tensions within the Franciscan Order. Instead I looked for the crucial encounters and underlying patterns. The interplay and interdependence of opposites is important: light and dark, beauty and ugliness, success and failure, mountain and valley, cave and town, animus and anima, death and resurrection. There is a strong sense of the cyclical, seasonal nature of life.

But beyond symbolism, Francis is Francis- an historical figure, a great Catholic-Christian saint. In writing Good Morning Good People, I had to grapple with his 12th Century spirituality. Often I felt uncomfortable with the language and imagery used by his biographers, even by Francis himself. Sometimes instead, I used more universal language and symbols, but at other stages I knew I had to stay with Francis' own self-understanding. At the heart of all is his intense focus on Christ, so intense that the culmination of his journey is when the wounds of Christ are imprinted on his body - the Stigmata. During one Lenten season I grappled with all of this and emerged with the song 'La Verna'.

In 1979, I travelled home to Australia with my wife Madge and two children and we stayed for a year at Fr. Ted Kennedy's place in Burrawang on the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. During this period, I was influenced by the theology evolving from Ted's experiences in the poor inner-Sydney parish of Redfern where he was deeply involved with Aboriginal people, many of whom were alcoholic and destined for short lives. For a period Ted had opened the Parish House as a refuge for these people. In this context, I was led to reflect on the main turning point in the life of Francis- his encounter with the Leper and the embrace that followed. During the year at Burrawang I wrote `The Leper's Song', 'The Wolf of Gubbio' and 'The Mountain Song'. I also expended much effort, trying to make Good Morning Good People into a play with dialogue as well as songs. But that was a false direction. Eventually I realised that I was getting out my depth and was going to finish up with a mammoth five hour performance!

Back in England, in Kettering 1980-1982, I developed vocal and instrumental arrangements for some songs. I came to realise that the songs already written, made in themselves an almost complete shape. The underlying sequence started to become clear to me and the interweaving of recurring musical motifs started to give the work a feeling of wholeness and unity.

In late 1981, wanting to try out new vocal arrangements, I started to teach a few songs to the Kettering Catholic Church choir. The choir enjoyed the songs and their enthusiasm encouraged me to push on to a 'full' performance. A venue was arranged for January 10th, 1982. This date was rather hair-raising in the context of the time, because Madge and I had decided to return to Australia to settle. We had found buyers for our house and were expecting to fly out in late January.

The deadline focused my efforts and over an intense period of 6-8 weeks I put together a workable sequence and script. Friends were enlisted as solo vocalists. Local musicians - a new-age folk band called Dibjak and the Ise Recorder Consort, agreed to take part in the performance. Hand written or typed music and sequence-scripts were prepared for all involved. There were separate rehearsals for choir, Dibjak, Recorder Consort and soloists. Rehearsals were made difficult by the coldest English winter on record with temperatures dropping to minus 17 degrees Fahrenheit.

One last role had to be filled, that of the Narrator. We thought of Madge's brother John O'Brien - he would be perfect with his rich voice and soft Irish accent. The only problem was - he was living in Germany! But we persuaded him to come and we reckoned we could cover costs by taking a collection at the end of the performance. So John came to prepare his part just a couple of days before the performance.

Two full rehearsals were arranged in the concert venue for the Friday and Saturday. But blizzards on the Friday made travel impossible. The various sections of the performance group didn't meet until the Saturday, the day before the performance!

The performance was very simple (had to be!). Choir of twenty-five. Ten musicians. Narrator reading at lectern in centre stage. Solo vocalists stepping forward from choir to sing their parts. About eighty people ventured out in freezing conditions to hear us. The performance went well. Audience attention was deep and feedback was enthusiastic. Primitive audio and video recordings made at the time were enough to remind me in years to come that Good Morning Good People had once 'worked' in reality, not just in my mind.

In 1982, Madge and I with two children Jason and Niamh moved to Australia, and made our home in Welby, near Mittagong on the Southern Highlands south of Sydney. With the move to Australia I also took the step of leaving the security of a teaching salary to earn my living through music. The transition was made successfully enough, but pressure of work - concerts, recording, publishing and so on - meant that Good Morning Good People stayed on the shelf. I was always keenly aware that this was the big work I still had to bring forth in its fullest potential. Every year I kept saying 'next year'.

In the meantime, in October 1988, at the invitation of Fr. Cyril Hally a scratch performance of GMGP took place at St. Columban's College, North Turramurra with Claire Parkhill and myself singing the solo parts accompanied by a tiny choir and band consisting of guitar, recorder, organ and percussion. Even in such a threadbare production, the sequence still proved its capacity to hold and move people.

From the time of moving back to Australia, it was to be twelve years before GMGP was realised in its full form. Over that period I did further work on the project - revising the narrative script, developing fuller vocal and instrumental arrangements. I also wrote two new songs: 'Clare's Song' and 'Make Me an Instrument', a setting of the the Peace Prayer of St. Francis.

It became obvious that to mount a full scale performance I would have to seek financial assistance. Otherwise I would never find the time, space and resources to complete a useable score and to gather the people needed. So in 1992, I put together a 'begging kit' - a tape, script and letter explaining the reasons for my appeal. I ‘launched’ the kit during a small concert at St. Joseph's House of Spirituality, Baulkham Hills. Several of the Religious there: Josephine Mitchell, Susan Connelly, Bernadette Douglas, Carole Gibbons, Kerry Keenan (all Josephite sisters) and Cathy O'Keeffe PBVM formed a committee to help with the fund-raising. In Newcastle NSW, Dorothy Woodward (a Lochinvar Josephite) formed another fund-raising committee with Leo and Michelle Drinkwater, Carole Barnett and Louise Roach.

In response to the appeal, Religious Orders were generous, and out of the blue I received contributions from several individuals. A successful application to the Mercy Foundation, North Sydney resulted in a grant of $5000. I will always be grateful for the help provided by those many organisations and individuals. The result of the fund-raising was that after many years of travelling, giving over 100 concerts a year to support family, 1994 became a blessed year, a creative sabbatical, mostly free for me to work on a full choral and orchestral score. Invaluable ideas and help were received in this time from Louise Roach (choral score) and Christine Tilley (musical direction).

The GMGP fund also allowed me to purchase some essential equipment for developing arrangements and producing professional quality music manuscript.

In mid-1994, I began to gather local people interested in performing GMGP. Eventually, we became a choir of forty-five, an orchestra of thirty-two and the two narrators. The people, believers and non-believers, came from all sections of the local community and ranged in age from ten to seventy. On November 12, 20 and 26, 1994, performances took place in Clubbe Hall, Mittagong, On the opening night we received a standing ovation from the large audience and after that, local word-of-mouth was so strong that the final performances were fully 'booked out' in the 700-seat auditorium. In all, nearly 2,000 people attending the three performances, including some who had travelled from Brisbane, Armidale, Wagga Wagga and Melbourne.

In 2005, the Mittagong cast (which grew to 100 in 1995) was invited to perform Good Morning Good People at the National Folk Festival, Canberra on April 17, 1995. In November there were three further presentations including one at the Riverside Theatre, Parramatta. Thanks to the inspiration and commitment of Dorothy Woodward, there was also a Hunter production in 1995 with a different cast supporting me in the singing and playing. Two performances at the Mission Theatre, Newcastle, March 15 and 17, 1995 under the musical direction of Craig Wattam were very well received.

Good Morning Good People! was then ‘on the shelf’ again for another nine years. The full-scale performances in 1994-95 had been a wonderful culmination, but also a great drain on my time and energy. As a singer-songwriter I have always lived and worked at the cottage-industry level of the art-world, so I had to get back to my ordinary concerts in parishes and schools to put bread on the family table.

REVIVAL: IRELAND & U.K. 2004-5 and 2007-8
Extended stays in Ireland (my wife Madge’s homeland) led to Good Morning Good People! finding a new lease of life in an unexpected way. Struggling to make a start with my music in a country where name and work were mostly unknown, I stumbled on the idea of offering my musical story on the life of St. Francis, whose name is universally known. Initially, three invitations were received - from Kilnacrott (Norbertine) Abbey in Co. Cavan and from Capuchin Parishes in Cork and Dublin. The new presentation had to be small scale. In preparation, a lot of time and practice went into reducing the orchestral score to one guitar! On the day before each concert I would coach a couple of local people as narrators. As for the sung parts, I was fortunate to work with a talented female singer, Josephine Mulvenna who sang the parts pf the Leper, Lady Poverty and Clare. The simplification was radical yet somehow appropriate for a work about the little poor man of Assisi. But I knew the essence was still there and I felt confident that the story and the music could still engage.

This proved to be so. During our four years in the Northern Hemisphere, nearly fifty presentations of ‘Good Morning Good People’ were well received. Irish venues included Franciscan Friary Churches in Dublin, Galway, Killarney, Wexford, Athlone and Clonmel. Shauna Boyle (singer) and Roma Dix (flute) visited Ireland from Australia and performed Good Morning Good People concerts with me. Several performances in Scotland including Franciscan Churches in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

In September 2009, before returning to Australia, I was joined by flautist Roma Dix for a series of concerts around England. Franciscan venues included Woodford Green (London), Chilworth (Surrey), Canterbury (Franciscan International Study Centre), Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford (Greyfriars Parish) and Preston.

By this time, through much practice I had reached the stage where I could perform the narration and songs ‘by heart’ as well as accompany on guitar.

AUSTRALIA 2009 onward
Madge and I returned to live in Australia in November 2008. In January 2009 I mailed many Parishes, Retreat Houses and Tertiary Institutes to offer the possibility of performing Good Morning Good People. The response was pleasing. There were forty concerts in 2009, including week-long seasons in Melbourne and Brisbane. I was fortunate to know female vocalists - Claire Parkhill, Shauna Boyle, Louise Cassidy and Catherine Mahony who all were happy to come along when the location suited to sing the female roles and add their beautiful harmonies. Often it was just me and my flautist friend Roma Dix who would drive to Sydney, Canberra and other centres to present Good Morning Good People.

Since 2009, there must have been a hundred Australian performances, including one in Perth with my German niece Fiona O'Brien playing flute. That was special.

The small scale version of Good Morning Good People developed a life of its own. Through repeated performances I found that my narrative script evolved. Some sections were shortened and a couple of new stories were added - in particular about Francis and his first companions walking to to Rome to get the Pope's approval for the new order ... and also about the remarkable encounter between Francis and the Sultan during the crusades.

An admirer of the small scale version offered to meet costs for a good recording of this evolved small-scale version. I was happy to accept. And so it was that in 2013 at St. Jude's Church Bowral, a performance by Catherine Mahony, Roma Dix and me was recorded by Mat Hili and made into a double-CD.

In recent years, as might be expected, invitations have dwindled. The last performance at time of writing was in May 2015 with Roma Dix and Catherine Mahony in the Adamstown Uniting Church, Newcastle. Perhaps that was the final GMGP performance. But who knows? The story of ‘Good Morning Good People’ continues to unfold.
Pax et Bonum
Peter Kearney
16 November, 2017


"Cleverly written and produced, each turning point in the life of St. Francis of Assisi is masterfully executed. Claire Parkhill singing 'Lady Poverty' and David Shapiro's flawless storyteller narration are sustaining features in a production which has no weak links." (Highland Post)

"The whole audience was gripped from the first notes and obviously enjoyed every moment, with their spontaneous standing at the conclusion proof positive that here is a notable new work." (Southern Highland News)

"Good Morning Good People tells the story of Francis in an authentic and inspiring manner, and for me it was a spiritual experience. Peter Kearney has immersed himself in the life of Francis and captured the essence of Franciscan spirituality. His lyrics reflect his depth of understanding and spiritual insight." (Pina Cousins - Secular Franciscan)

"I value the way it cuts through all the sentimentality about Francis that seems to have accumulated over the centuries. It is like seeing through to the person, Francis, with all his disturbing, challenging and vulnerable faces. There is so much here that is refreshing and inspiring."(Joan Saboisky)

"I'm not what you'd call a religious person ( my last contact with lives of the saints was 35 years ago in Primary School) but I saw the entire show and found it very moving, as well as superbly cast and excellently staged." (Simon Kravis, Program Co-ordinator, National Folk Festival, Canberra)



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