With great sadness, we have learned of the death of Graham Maule, whose collaboration with John Bell in authoring hymns was uniquely outstanding. Together, they worked hard at crafting a wholly distinctive page in the annals of contemporary English-language hymnody. That will surely stand as his memorial.
We reproduce below some comments from Pat Bennett, on behalf of the Iona Community. The lines of the hymn that follows demonstrate the unique contribution made by both artists to the people’s song:
Graham Maule (24/09/1958 – 29/12/2019)
“Tell him that we love him, and we miss him”
It is with the deepest sorrow that we have to tell you that our dearly loved friend and colleague Graham Maule, artist and musician, founding member of the Wild Goose Resource Group and staff member of the Iona Community for many years, died peacefully on Sunday 29th December after a short illness. A full obituary will follow in due course.
Graham’s funeral service will take place on Friday 10th January at 11.00 in St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, 300 Great Western Rd, Glasgow G4 9JB. For details of public transport, parking etc. please see this information sheet
The Burial will follow at Craufurdland Natural Woodland Burial Ground, near Fenwick in Ayrshire. Directions will be given at the funeral, or see: https://craufurdland.co.uk/burial-ground/
Thereafter there will be a time for meeting and light refreshments in the auditorium at Oran Mor, which is at the Botanic Gardens junction of Great Western Rd and Byres Rd, G12 8QX, from 14.30 to 18.30.
Go, silent friend, your life has found its ending:
to dust returns your weary, mortal frame.
God, who before birth called you into being,
now calls you hence, his accent still the same.
Go, silent friend, your life in Christ is buried;
for you He lived and died and rose again.
Close by His side your promised place is waiting
where, fully known, you shall with God remain.
Go, silent friend. Forgive us if we grieved you;
safe now in heaven, kindly say our name.
Your life has touched us, that is why we mourn you;
our lives without you cannot be the same.
Go, silent friend, we do not grudge you glory.
Sing, sing with joy deep praises to your Lord.
You, who believed that Christ would come back for you,
now celebrate that Jesus keeps his word.
Text: John L. Bell & Graham Maule
Tune: Londonderry Air
24 September 1958 – 29 December 2019
When Graham Maule passed from life to Greater Life on 29th December 2019, the world became a more silent place. He loved music, particularly singing, and – as an untrained vocalist with a captivatingly innocent voice – enabled and encouraged others to join the song in Britain and abroad.
Born in 1958 and having graduated in architecture from Glasgow University, he was within striking distance of his professional qualification when he gave up that vocation because, in his own words, he ‘did not want to make bread out of stone.’
For seven years he worked in voluntary and paid capacities as a youth worker, latterly for the Iona Community, becoming the close colleague and collaborator of John Bell. Their early liturgical work developed in the context of monthly youth events in Glasgow, attracting up to four hundred young people. These always ended with an act of worship in which traditional music from the Southern Hemisphere, and their own songs written for specific events, enabled teenagers who had given up on church music to find their voice and sing in three or four part harmony without musical notation.
Some of these young people became founding members of the Wild Goose Worship Group which, for eighteen years, invested time and creativity in developing materials for participative liturgy which maximised congregational song, symbolic action and shared reflection on Scripture. In conjunction with this group and its professional offspring, the Wild Goose Resource Group, John and Graham produced over thirty volumes of songs, biblical reflections and associated materials for worship.
Graham’s architectural skill, his appreciation of the hidden potentials of ecclesiastical buildings and his innate creativity enabled him to become something of a liturgical pioneer who developed what might be called congregational performance liturgies based on everything from the Tower of Babel to The Messianic Banquet via The Song of Songs. These all involved the creation of temporary structures with which participants interacted. Many such liturgies were first staged in Iona Abbey and several of them have been used in places as distant as Canada and Romania.
Bell and Maule never wrote hymns or songs for competitions; they believed that expressed need, a lack of appropriate materials or a spiritual insight should be the starting point. Nor did they ever write specifically for publication. All their published and unpublished songs were vetted, amended and sometimes rejected by the worship group they led, and then ‘road tested’ in different contexts. It was their conviction that religious songs for congregational use should not be personal devotional ditties, but texts to which the people of God could give their Amen. And because both had been blessed by coming from households where folk melodies were sung to them from childhood, they enjoyed marrying such tunes to new texts – a practice which was regarded as anathema to the elite musical guardians of Scottish Presbyterianism who never registered any objections when it came to Ralph Vaughan Williams’s penchant for folk tune as exhibited in The English Hymnal (1906) of which he was music editor.
Although Bell and Maule never advertised their wares, overseas publishers sought rights to represent them and, in most cases, translate their work into languages as diverse as Frisian and Japanese. Graham, who had a good business mind, oversaw this and deftly persuaded the suitors that just as the texts were the products of several minds, so the translations had to be done cooperatively.
In 2011, Graham was awarded a PhD by the University of Edinburgh for his thesis entitled Sacerludus (sacred game). It is a study of ritual as it pertains to performance art and liturgy, and is a testament to Graham’s deep conviction that the Incarnation was about embodiment as much as theology.
But in tribute after tribute paid to him after his death, gratitude has been overwhelmingly expressed for the sound of his own voice, his infectious enthusiasm for the song of the Christian community, and his conviction that words matter and therefore should be chosen wisely.