Quaker Artists 3

Elizabeth Hooton

Elizabeth Hooton (1600-72) was an early Friends minister. The leader of a group of General Baptists, she met George Fox in 1647 and became a mentor to him. She was the first person to join Fox in the Quaker movement as well as the first Quaker woman minister. Her gift for performing healing miracles was hootonletterwell-known. As a member of the Valiant Sixty, she travelled widely in central England and the Americas. Hooton was jailed in Derby, York and Lincoln for preaching Quakerism, suffering deeply from her imprisonments. In Massachusetts, by then elderly, she was stripped to the waist, tied to the back of a cart and whipped through the villages. She was also put in stocks, beaten, jailed and left in the forest to die. On her last visit to America, with George Fox, she died in Jamaica.

Hooton published the pamphlets False Prophets and False Teachers Described; To the King and Both Houses of Parliament; and A Short Relation Concerning William Simpson. She wrote what was perhaps the first Quaker document, a letter in 1651 to the Mayor of Derby telling him about her imprisonment in Derby jail and asking for justice.  Seventy-nine of her letters survive, a few addressed to King Charles II. Some of the letters contain eloquent passages.

A vibrant spirit, Hooton was greatly influential in the opening among Friends about the equality of women.

(Above is a letter from Hooton to Fox).

February 2017

Tony Biggin

Tony Biggin, a British Friend, is a composer of classical music.  A long-time tonybigginteacher, he has maintained a commitment to music education and has created several works for youth music theater.  A concern for peace and justice has also sparked several of his pieces.  The Gates of Greenham, considered to be his major work, was created with Alec Davison, his long-time collaborator, as the librettist.  He has composed several other pieces, including The Cry of the Earth; Child of Light; Requiem; The Peace Pudding Songbook; and Quest of the Golden Eye.  The Living Spirit is an exploration in song of Meeting for Worship.  The Fire and the Hammer describes the early life of women'speacecampGeorge Fox.  Biggin has worked with the London Philharmonic Orchestra; the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; the BBC National Orchestra of Wales; and the Manchester Camerata.  For several years he was musical director of Cantor Ltd., a recording studio and music lab.  He has been Head of Music at Edge Hill University and was Director of the East Sussex Music Service.

The Gates of Greenham is an oratorio for orchestra, chorus, soloists and narrators.  The work is dedicated to the Women’s Peace Camp at Greenham Common, the American cruise missile base in Berkshire, England, a camp in which many Quaker women participated.  The music is rendered in seventeen movements, from “Mystery” to “We Have Won Through”.  Its text includes conversations, article extracts, Quaker writings and Biblical quotes.  A brief period of silence follows the conclusion of the piece.  Premiered in 1985 at the Royal Festival Hall, it featured the London Philharmonic Orchestra; the Quaker Festival Chorus; soloists Eiddwen Harrhy, Margaret Cable, Wynford Evans and Henry Herford; and narrators Barry Wilsher and Sheila Hancock.  (Wilsher and Hancock are Friends).  The largest gathering of British Quakers in history attended the concert.  It was subsequently performed in Sheffield, Manchester, Leiden and Utrecht, the latter performance broadcast on Dutch television.  In 1986 a recording was made by Sain Records.  The record included instructions about how to make Sadako’s paper crane for peace.

The Gates of Greenham, with which I am most familiar, is a rousing and moving work.  A fitting piece of art for the magnificient Women’s Peace Camp.  Highly recommended.

Below are links to a Gates of Greenham excerpt; a Women’s Peace Camp article; and a Women’s Peace Camp video.

The Gates of Greenham: http://www.tonybiggin.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Cam-copyright-copy-1.mp3

Women’s Peace Camp article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenham_Common_Women’s_Peace_Camp

The Women’s Peace Camp video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMdrXW72jaw

January 2017

Humphrey Smith

Humphrey Smith (d. 1663) was an early Quaker preacher and one of the Valiant jailSixty. He was also an essayist, poet and musician.  Originally an Independent minister, he joined Friends about 1654.  He preached widely in the west and south of England and was known for his eloquence. He was also noted for healing a young woman’s mental illness. In 1655, 1658 and 1661 he was imprisoned for his ministry. During the last imprisonment, in the horrific Winchester Gaol, he contracted typhus and died.

Smith wrote prolifically. He is credited with about 30 tracts of theology, education and polemics, several of them composed in jail. Among them were “The Suffering of the Saints at Evesham”; “Divine Love Spreading Forth Over All Nations”; “Hidden Things Made Manifest by the Light”; “To All Parents of Children”; “For the Honour of the King”; and “Sound Things Asserted”.  “The Vision of Humphrey Smith Concerning London” was a prophecy of the Great Fire of London in 1666.  “To the Musicioners, Harpers, Minstrels, Singers, Dancers and the Persecutors” was an influential attack against music and dancing.  (At the same time, however, he lamented the loss of his music).  He wrote “One Hundred and Forty Four Lines of Secret Inward Melody and Praise to the Lord”, one of the first Quaker poems. Commenting on the poem and reflecting the ambivalence of Friends toward poetry, he noted:

“As I was walking alone in my prison at Winchester upon the 24th day of the 5th month, 1662, in much quietness and inward refreshing by the rising virtue of God’s refreshing love; these lines began to run gently through me, with melody in my heart to the Lord, and when I was free in myself to write, it departed not from me, but came so easy and so fast as I could well write, whereby in a very little part of the aforesaid day this was begun and finished with my own hand; yet would I not have it looked upon to be a great thing, nor a pattern nor example for others to run into the like, for since I came into the life and obedience of truth, I durst not write anything in verse until this time”.

And an excerpt from “One Hundred and Forty Four Lines….”:

Behold His glory shines unto His jewels rare,/He visits them betimes, when they in darkness are./Behold His heart is bent towards His little ones;/His love their hearts hath rent, and in His virtue comes.

(Above is a typical 17th century English jail.  Stools are modern).

December 2016

Piers Anthony

Piers Anthony (b. 1934) is a prolific author of science fiction, fantasy and panthonyhistorical novels.  To date, he has written over 170 books.  He is the creator of several series, the most famous being the Xanth novels.  He has also been a pioneer: maintaining an Internet Publishers Survey online for writers; inspiring the DOS video game Companions of Xanth; and investing financially to start Xlibris, the print-on-demand company.  The 1999 Preditors and Editors Award was given to him as a special recognition for his services to writers, and the 2003 Friend of EPIC Award was presented to him for service to the electronic publishing community.

Anthony was born and raised a Friend, his ancestors having been Irish Quakers.  His parents ran a food kitchen in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War for the British Friends Service Committee.  After his family’s emigration to the United States, he attended Westtown School.  He did not like attending Meeting for Worship at Westtown, however, feeling he had been forced to go and disdaining many of those who offered ministry.  Later, rejecting the Peace Testimony, he joined the U.S. Army.  Presently he regards himself as an agnostic and is not a member of any Meeting.  He still retains many Friendly beliefs, though, especially the Integrity Testimony.

I have read a few Xanth novels and enjoyed them greatly.  They are quirky, Xanth being a land with a suspicious resemblance to Florida, though one where all the inhabitants have magical powers.  (And puns run riot, sometimes literally).  Very readable stories!

The Dahlia Gardens

“The Dahlia Gardens”, a poem by Amy Clampitt, recounts the story of Norman morrison2Morrison, a Baltimore Quaker who burned himself to death in protest of the Vietnam War at the Pentagon in 1965.  It is a long work in free verse.  Epic and mythic, it pictures Morrison’s act occurring against a system that devours everything.  (Including Morrison himself).  Asides refer to employees exiting the Pentagon, traffic leaving along the Potomac, troop trains rolling beside the Mekong.  Images of light and fire burst out midway in the piece: headlights, candles, kerosene-lit windows, rush lights, neon lights, napalm, burning ghats, saffron robes charring and others.  The poem is the final piece in her book The Kingfisher.

Amy Clampitt (1920-94) was one of the most highly regarded American poets.  Her works included Multitudes, Multitudes; The Isthmus; The Summer Solstice; The Kingfisher; What the Light Was Like; Archaic Figure; Westward: Poems; Manhattan: An Elegy, and Other Poems; As If; and A Silence Opens: Poems.  Other books were Predecessors, Et Cetera: Essays; The Essential Donne; and A Homage to John Keats.  She taught at the College of William and Mary; Amherst College; and Smith College. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship; a McArthur Fellowship; a Lila Wallace Readers Digest Writer’s Award; and a Rockefeller Foundation Residency and was a member of the American Academy of Arts & Letters and the American Academy of Poets.

Clampitt was a Friend from rural Iowa.  For a time she was involved with the Episcopalian Church, even to the extent of considering becoming a nun.  Late in life she noted that she thought she was a Christian but she had trouble with dogma.

“The Dahlia Gardens” is a stunning poem.  It is full of rage and pain.  Elaborate, rich images abound.  Morrison’s act continues to be wrong.  But Clampitt explains it.  A quote regarding the moment just before the match is struck:

His mind/plunges like a derrick/into that pitch black as he uncorks the wine jug/and with a quick gesture not unlike/a signing with the cross (but he is a Quaker)/begins the anointing of himself with its contents/with the ostensible domestic Rhine wine/or chablis, which is not wine-which/in fact is gasoline.

October 2016


Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon (1913-1994) was an American politician.  In turn, he was a U.S. nixonRepresentative, U.S. Senator, Vice President and President.  He first became famous as an anti-Communist crusader during the late 1940’s.  In the 1950’s he served as Vice President under President Eisenhower.  He was elected as President in 1968.  During his term he continued the Vietnam War.  In 1974 he was forced to resign the Presidency due to his cover-up of the burglary of the Democratic National Committee offices.

Nixon wrote 15 books, including Six Crises; RN: the Memoirs of Richard Nixon; In the Arena; Real Peace; 1999; and Beyond Peace.  The first three are autobiographical; the others are political.  The autobiographical books are oddly self-serving.  It is as if they were composed by an actor speaking lines on a stage.  The political books were written to regain respectability after his resignation.  They are lucid and lawyerly and focus mostly on foreign policy.

As well, Nixon played the piano. He played during services at East Whittier Friends Church and in public on the Jack Paar Show, the Grand Ole Opry and at the White House. He composed a piece called “Piano Concerto #1”.

Nixon was raised a Friend.  His ancestors were Irish Quakers.  (Joshua and Elizabeth Milhous, his great-grandparents, were the models for Jess and Eliza Birdwell, the lead characters in Friendly Persuasion, the book written by Jessamyn West, his cousin).  He was a member of East Whittier Friends Church.  His branch of Friends were evangelical Quakers with ministers, choirs and revivals. They forbade dancing, drinking and gambling.  The testimonies, like peace, were observed, and cultural legacies, like plain language, were used.  Silent graces at meals were practiced in his home.  On Sunday mornings he attended a service and taught Sunday School, and on Sunday evenings he attended another service and a young people’s group.  On Wednesday evenings he attended another service.

Nixon left Friends as an adult.  When Hannah, his mother, asked him if he felt led to become a minister, he didn’t respond.  He distanced himself from evangelical Quakerism while attending Whittier College, stating that he no longer believed in the literal truth of the Bible and the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  In 1943 he dropped the peace testimony, becoming a “Fighting Quaker” when he joined the Navy and served in World War Two.  After he became a professional politician, he rejected the integrity testimony, engaging in any sort of devious or corrupt tactics.  Nixon attended the Methodist Church in the 1950’s.  In the 1960’s he grew close to fundamentalists like Norman Vincent Peale and Billy Graham.  He declined an offer by Friends Meeting of Washington to hold services for him in the White House, as they had for President Hoover.

Nixon, however, always stated that he was a Friend.  He mentions this especially in his writings.  Until his death he also retained his membership in East Whittier Friends Church.  It is difficult to determine why he did this.  He was a secretive man, and  most of the files on his religious beliefs in the Presidential Library in Yorba Linda are still unavailable.

Clearly Nixon was a driven, ambitious man whose primary goal in life was to become powerful.  It is probable that he dismissed Friends as unimportant.  (He himself commented that he was not “a professional Quaker”).  It may be that he also used his religious upbringing to humanize himself for voters.

I began attending Friends Meeting during the early 1970’s.  The Vietnam War was central in my life in those days.  And for me it was always a real struggle to find that of God in a man who butchered two million Indochinese and twenty thousand Americans

The Leaveners

The Leaveners is the Young Friends arts association of Britain Yearly Meeting.  Its leaveners2purpose is to encourage reflection and dialogue and inspire commitment to changing the world on issues like human rights, ecology, justice, peace, inequality, spirituality, etc.  It works with people of all ages, both Quaker and non-Quaker.  Based in Birmingham, it was founded in 1978.

Currently the Leaveners sponsor several projects.   Quaker Youth Theatre holds week-long workshops, culminating in a performance.  It has staged plays at Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre and at Meetinghouses.  Quaker Music Making offers concerts as well as singing workshops at Meetinghouses.  Past performances have included The Gates of Greenham, Beyond the World and Embracing the Tiger and were staged at venues like the Royal Festival Hall and the Birmingham Symphony Hall.  Words, Signs and Vibes puts on drama workshops for deaf, partly-hearing and hearing people.  (In 2008 WS&V separated from the Leaveners and became an Independent Voluntary Organisation).  The Poet’s Corner presents workshops for aspiring poets and publishes Poetry for Change.  The Doing the Right Thing Project holds drama and debate workshops on conscientious objection.  It also produced the “Quakers in World War One” exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Gallery, based on the stories of Quaker conscientious objectors.  The Refugee Project curates a poetry archive of female refugee poets from around the world as well as the textile prints they have created.  In the past other Leavener projects have also featured dance, painting and stop motion animation.

The Leaveners are facilitated by a core team and a wide network of volunteers.  Workshops and performances are held at schools, youth clubs, arts centres and Meetinghouses.  Participants are honored with arts awards: Discover, Explore, Silver and Bronze.  Funding comes from individual Friends and Friends Meetings; non-Quaker organizations; and the Leaveners Patrons (Judi Dench, Ben Kingsley, Sheila Hancock, John Whitney and Sally Beamish).

Now nearing 40 years old, the Leaveners continues as an active and vibrant organization.

August 2016

John Maynard

One of my favorite Quakers -though he doesn’t call himself a Friend -is John Maynard.  His lightness of spirit has always been a delight for me.

John is a bagpiper, calligrapher and sign-painter.  He plays bagpipes in the New York University marching band and in New York City parks.  His pipes include Scottish Cauld-Wind Pipes; Parlour Pipes; and Scottish Highland Three-Drone War Pipes.  (He has renamed the War Pipes the Peace Pipes).  His repertoire includes Scottish and Irish marching tunes and airs with the NYU band, and hymns, Broadway, pop, horas, protest and Mexican songs on his own.  It also features “Merrily Danced the Quaker’s Wife”.  John has performed for many groups, protests and marches, among them the War Resisters League, Gays Against Guns, and Queens St. Patrick’s Day; in NYC hospitals; and in Dominica, Italy and Turkey.  He has also played his bagpipes at Fifteenth Street Meeting, the Fifteenth Street Shelter and Sing Sing Prison with visiting Friends.  When he plays, he enjoys people’s surprise.  He has used his calligraphy to create numerous Quaker wedding certificates.  He has also painted signs for dozens of Friends Meetinghouses in the United States and England and for many businesses.

John is a member of Fifteenth Street Meeting in New York City.  His mother had graduated from Swarthmore and had told him about Quakers.  He began attending Fifteenth Street Meeting in 1956 and joined in 1964.  He doesn’t call himself a Friend because he feels he doesn’t fit Quaker standards.  He is also concerned with Friends wealth, lack of integration and attitudes toward gay and lesbians.  If asked, however, he will respond that he is a member of Fifteenth Street Meeting.  John feels a connection between his Quakerism and art when “the painting, lettering or music makes people feel better, more grateful and positive, get proper directions to a Meetinghouse or celebrate a wedding”.  He was also active in the Free Speech Movement and VISTA.  As well, he was a conscientious objector, performing two years of public service by videotaping student teachers in schools for their self-analysis.  He continues to wash dishes at the Catholic Worker St. Joseph House.

I remember once being upset about something at Fifteenth Street Meeting and running into John in nearby Union Square.  He was playing his bagpipes.  He tootled and clowned and didn’t ask me what was wrong.  Cheered me up completely!

For a video of John (in platinum wig) playing “Santa Baby” at Fifteenth Street Meeting go to:

July 2016

Blair Seitz

A friend has encouraged me to become more active on Facebook.  One of the pages I discovered recently was the Fellowship of Quaker Artists.  On it I found the photos of Blair Seitz.

PA landscapes, Farm Contours, Mixed Cropping, Berks County, Pennsylvania Aerial Photograph Pennsylvania

Blair Seitz is a photographer of wide-ranging subjects: war, nature, poverty.  He has been a photojournalist, working for the United Nations and Camera Press and traveling world-wide, especially in Asia and Africa.  His photos have been included in 21 books (Pennsylvania’s Tapestry: Scenes from the Air; Pennsylvania’s Natural Beauty; Amish Ways; etc., and the series Pennsylvania’s Natural and Cultural Heritage).  The volumes were published in part by RB Books, a company established by Seitz and his wife.  As well, many magazines have featured his photos (Time, Newsweek, National Geographic Traveler, The Guardian, etc.)  His stock file contains over 60,000 photographs.  He was awarded a fellowship grant from the Pennsylvania Council of Arts and a silver medal in New York’s International Film and Television Festival.  His photos have also been exhibited at the World Exhibition of Photography and New York’s Museum of Natural History.

Seitz is a member of Reading (PA) Meeting.  He was raised a Mennonite, with a concern for simplicity and service.  During his overseas travels he encountered Quakers, and back in the United States he began attending Friends Meeting in Harrisburg.  His Friendly activities center around inequality, climate change and mass incarceration.  Meditation also remains a focus.  He has conducted workshops and been a resident student at Pendle Hill.

Seitz’s photographs are gorgeous, many appearing as if they had been painted in primary colors.  They reflect his concern for the beauty of the human spirit and of nature, even in his pictures of war and slums.  They also mirror his commitment to simplicity, his photos rarely being digitally manipulated.  A richly gifted artist.

June 2016

Sally Campbell

Sally Campbell (b. 1941) is a songwriter, singer and musician.  She was unable to Sally_Campbellsing or play an instrument when she began writing songs.  With the help of teachers, however, she learned to sing on-key and play the autoharp.  Gifts Songs and Blessings, her CD, is a collection of songs recorded at a concert for her 70th birthday.  She also works closely with the Peoples’ Voice Café, an alternative coffeehouse.  A former children’s librarian at the Library of the Blind, part of the New York Public Library, she is now a “de-cluttering consultant” helping people to clean and organize their livingspaces.  She is also a peace, disabilities and environmental activist and was president of her library’s union.

Sally is a member of Morningside (NY) Meeting.  She became a Friend as an adult, coming out of a Congregationalist background.  She started writing songs at Friends General Conference Gathering in 1982, and many of her songs have been inspired during Meetings for Worship.  Her first song, for example, was “Hug a Friend”, and another, “Give Us This Day a Gentle Song” was written when a couple brought their baby to Morningside Meeting.  She has co-led songwriting workshops at FGC Gathering and performed at First Day Schools, too.

I was delighted with Sally’s Gift Songs and Blessings.  Reminiscent of Malvina Reynolds, her songs are short and pithy, often funny, always warm.  She calls herself a “song-catcher”.  This reflects her gentle and light spirit perfectly.  (She is a dear friend of mine).

(Gift Songs and Blessings is available for free by emailing Sally at scampfriend@earthlink.net.  An interview with Sally, during which she shares some of her songs can be heard at http://www.northernspiritradio.org/episode/giftsongs-and-blessings-sally-campbell-song-soul.  She will also be offering a concert for her 75th birthday on November 19 at 8 PM at the Peoples’ Voice Café, 40 E. 35th St. in New York City.  Admission is by donation of $20 or whatever one can afford; no one will be turned away).

May 2016