BENDING TOWARDS THE LIGHT – Music Bob Kindred. Lyrics Anne Phillips & Henry Timm.

by Sister Julie Ann on December 1, 2008


Aware that the child in each of us longs for a heart-felt Chrismas pageant each year, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity feature a more than sentimental, truly spiritual song, Bending Towards the Light, music from Bob Kindred and lyrics from Anne Phillips and Henry Timm from Anne Phillips’ production Bending Towards the Light…A Jazz Nativity. Splendid stained glass windows from Fox Valley and Cudahy Catholic parishes in Wisconsin visualize the lyrics that retell the wondrous Christmas story of Jesus’ birth.

ap-conducting-pic-sept-06-kirtley-001.JPGBENDING TOWARDS THE LIGHT has an interesting history. In 1985 the Rev John Garcia Gensel of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church at CityCorp in New York asked me to write a jazz version of the traditional Christmas pageant. It was performed there that Christmas. The next year we moved the show to a larger space and began doing it annually at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church on Park Ave. Then, literally, one morning I woke up and said to my husband, tenor saxophonist Bob Kindred, “That song of yours, “Bending Towards the Light”  THAT belongs in The Jazz Nativity!”  He had written the song for a children’s show at a boy’s camp, Camp Dudley in the Adirondacks, The show was “Gamines” about the street children of Bogotá, Columbia and the song was sung by the Catholic priest who had formed a village for the homeless boys. The children were “Bending Towards the Light”. So, with the permission of the original lyricist I went to work on writing a Christmas lyric. We put it into the show that year and the minute we heard it in that context we knew that “Bending Towards the Light”  was the title of the show. In the show it is sung by a boy soprano who plays the role of a shepherd boy and when he hits the high a flat on “the light” there’s not a dry eye in the house.


We have since performed The Jazz Nativity in many different locations from Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln center to the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue. For the past three years we have been doing it at the famed jazz club, Birdland. This year we will have seven performances there from Dec. 21-25. Believe it or not, we do two shows a day on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at 5 & 8 pm!  Full houses!  Only in New York! -Anne Phillips

Anne Phillips, singer, composer, arranger, conductor, producer, has been active in almost every area of the music business. She began her career as a sing/pianist in clubs such as No. 1 Fifth Avenue, on television with the Ray Charles Singers, and on hundreds of recording sessions with such artists as Burt Bacharach, Carole King and Mahalia Jackson. As a soloist, her classic album, Born to Be Blue, has recently been released to rave reviews. On her most recent CD, Ballet Time, she sings with such old friends as Dave Brubeck and Marian McPartland. 


jncard08_jpg.jpgAnne is widely known in the industry as the writer/arranger/producer of many national commercials among them Taste That Beats The Others Cold for Pepsi Cola which she arranged and produced for such rock stars as the Four Tops and Martha and the Vandellas. Some of her memorable melodies won her Cleo, Pen and Ink and Cannes Film Festival awards. Her show Bending Towards the Light…A Jazz Nativity, the Christmas story told through the medium of jazz, has starred such greats as Dave Brubeck, Lionel Hampton and Tito Puente and has become a “a new New York Christmas tradition.” (New York Magazine)

Her musical Damn Everything But the Circus, book by Stephanie Braxton, music and lyrics by Anne Phillips is nearing a New York production. Her children’s musical, The Great Grey Ghost of Old Spook Lane, is performed around the country, her Easter Mass, Sing, For the Lord Has Risen, was given its debut performance at St. Patrick Cathedral; A Spark of Faith, a group of twelve songs connected by New Testament scripture, has played throughout the east coast, and another recent work What Are We Doing To Our World? had a showcase production at The Players Club this fall. In order to introduce inner-city children to the Great American Song, Anne and her husband, jazz saxophonist Bob Kindred, have begun Children’s Jazz Choirs through their not-for-profit organization, Kindred Spirits. Anne has been a National Trustee of NARAS, the Recording Academy, was on the faculty of the NYU Jazz Department and is a recipient of the Heart of Gold Award from the Best Friends Foundation for her work with her Children’s Jazz Choirs. 

CD is available on CDBaby and sites  and  Mark Kolter, Kolter Creative, Milwaukee, WI, artistically produced this podcast.  


   Music by Bob Kindred      

Lyrics by Anne Phillips & Henry Timm


O’er the hills of Bethlehem

In the dark of night

Shimmering and glimmering

A shiny wond’rous light


All the grass and trees that grow

Everything in sight

Is shimmering and glimmering



On the road to Bethlehem

Open to the sky we are

Open to the tender light

Of sun and moon and star


Look how it shines o’er the manger

Look how the darkness has waned

Replaced by the light,

The blessing, the miracle


And on this night in Bethlehem

On this holy night

We may see the world begin



30 thoughts on “BENDING TOWARDS THE LIGHT – Music Bob Kindred. Lyrics Anne Phillips & Henry Timm.”

  1. Sister Marie Bernadette says:

    So inspiring to begin Advent. It is also a song for anytime of the year as we all need to bend toward the Light/light we see in others and ourselves. Humility requires that we acknowledge the Light in ourselves,also. May the Light inspire us to do so.

  2. Sister Mary Carol says:

    What a beautiful song! In December we enter into the darkest time of the year. The darkness is overcome with lights
    everywhere: candle lights, lighted ornaments and trees, outdoor decorations. However, the greatest light is Jesus who comes in peace in humble surroundings for our salvation. This is truly “The Blessing, the Miracle.”

    The simplicity of the music and clarity of the vocalist’s tone enhance the imaginative text.

  3. If ever a saint was smitten by the incredible love revealed in the Incarnation, it was St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226). St. Francis was repeatedly moved to tears when he thought of God’s limitless love and total self-emptying as revealed in the birth of Christ.

    This mystery of God’s humility and love in entering the world of humanity and of every other creature motivated Francis to celebrate Advent and the feast of Christmas in an extraordinary way. In the year 1223, for example, he staged a dramatic rendition of the birth of Christ. He wanted to showcase God’s great love and the “humility of the Incarnation,” according to friar Thomas of Celano, his disciple and biographer.

    Near the little Italian town of Greccio, Francis had a manger set up and requested that there be plenty of straw and an ox and an ass brought in.

    The people of the neighborhood came, illuminating the night with their candles and torches.

    There, as Celano put it, ”

    Poverty was exalted, humility was commended and Greccio was made, as it were, a new Bethlehem….The saint of God stood before the manger, uttering sighs, overcome with love and filled with a wonderful happiness….He spoke charming words about the nativity of the poor King and the little town of Bethlehem.”(from by Jack Wintz, O.F.M.)

    As the faithful in the time of St.Francis and St.Clare illuminated the Christmas night with their candles and torches; so too may we bend toward the LIGHT of Jesus with our response of faith, hope, and love throughout this time!
    We would love to hear your thoughts about this Advent/Christmas meditation!

  4. Leslie says:

    “And how does this happen that the Mother of my Lord should visit me.” Elizabeth’s words are always touching to me. She is so grateful that Mary would come visit her. Really Mary and Elizabeth are cousins and I know that when my cousins are pregnant they expect me to visit them. Elizabeth is not blinded by expectation she is ever grateful for the act of kindness that Mary has given her. Also, I think this moment is so important because aside from the angle Elizabeth and John are the first people to see Mary for who she truely is. The Mother of Jesus. This moment is for me one of the most beautiful moments during advent.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing the beautiful faith response you have in your everyday life with your own cousins Leslie and with God during this Advent time! It is easy for me to reflect that Mary is smiling as you share your heart with her!

  6. Indeed, sun-light illuminates the exquisite stained glass designs of these precious parish churches, while the music and lyrics of ‘Bending Toward the Light’ hold a radiant energy of transforming power in their call to contemplate Jesus, the Son-light. Together the windows and the wonder of Christ’s birth recall a brief passage from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Marble Faun’ quoted during the Holy Father’s last visit to the United States…”Christian faith is a grand cathedral, with divinely pictured windows. Standing without, you see no glory, nor can you possibly imagine any; standing within, every ray of light reveals a harmony of unspeakable splendors.”

  7. Connie Garcia says:

    Very inspiring! I loved it. Thanks for sharing this on facebook.

  8. Thank you for inviting me to come listen to this. I love the imagery of bending toward the light. “In him there is no darkness at all” is a favorite verse of mine, and this song reminds me of how Jesus came to bring God’s light into the world.

  9. We are glad that you enjoyed the Advent/Christmas meditation Ruth! In these dark December nights it is a blessing to remember and ponder the reality that “in Him there is no darkness at all” Blessings upon you!

  10. Connie, it is great that you found this Advent meditation piece! May the message of Jesus’ Light in our lives bring you and your Mom much peace and healing!

  11. I was moved not only by the tender lyrics and moving melody but by the origin of the melody and the connection to the street children of Bogota, Columbia. For me, the thread of Incarnation and Social Justice is very strong. The comfort of the manger scene compels us to also follow the demands of the Gospel:to include the “least among us” in our love and affection. As God “bends toward us” we “bend towards God” in the form of our brothers and sisters. I will be listening to this more frequently as Advent progresses.

  12. Austin Rodriguez :) says:

    This song reminded me of Christmas. I know thats an obvious observation but it was more than just Christmas. To me it described what the actual trip looked like and everything was heading towards the light. The light is Jesus.

  13. Austin, thanks for ‘obviously’ pointing out that someone(Mark Kolter)needed to do some creative planning to get all the stain glass images in the right sequence to tell the Christmas story (as well as take the pictures with the proper light!)

  14. this song is sayin that the darkest time of the year is December and the true reason that we put up the chrtismas lights is to counter act the effects of darkness and make the night turn into day….i love this song and im sure that other people would too if they really got the meaning of the song down

  15. Roland Flasch says:

    Bending Toward the Light is a very soothing song. The soothing saxaphone along with the relaxing voice of the cantor brought peace to me. It helped to to forget my worries and remember that everything is in God’s hands. It also helped me remember the true meaning of Christmas and Advent and know that its not just about the gifts and family traditions. The the glimmering glass of the windows reminded me of my childhood and also brought the song into reality for me. This is a song that I would listen to for relaxation and to just remember the true meaning of Christmas as well as what Jesus all did for us and his amazing sacrifice.

  16. Emily LaChance says:

    “Bending Toward the Light” was a great way to reflect during this Advent season as we prepare to celebrate Christmas. The music was very calming and the images of the stain-glass windows were beautiful. I have never seen a combination like this before. While watching the slide show I was reminded of the love that God has for us and the love that He asks us to give to one another. This Christmas season, I pray with all the ups and downs we have in this world and have dealt with that we always remember that God is with us in our hearts and that when times get tough to remain close with God and not drift away.

  17. Roderick, Roland and Emily, thanks for allowing yourselves the time to bend toward the light of Christ and comment on the meaning of this podcast. Your thoughts (you) shine with a depth that can only come from God.

  18. Jayven Jackson says:

    The video is very interesting to me because it tells the miracle of Jesus being born with church windows and the idea is very creative. The song is also calming and goes along with the story perfectly. It’s definitely a good way to display the story.

  19. Jayven, thanks for commenting. Continue to use your own creative gifts as a leaven of the Gospel in the world.

  20. The lyrics, music, and stained glass images are beautiful. I was happy to see that so many have caught the meaning of this song. We live daily with this miracle of love and yet at times we allow the darkness to cover our real reason for living. Each is called to bend and embrace the light of the world with an open spirit. There lies our joy for the day,our hope for the future, and the peace that must reign in our hearts before it can fill our world.

  21. Mary says:


  22. Sister Estelle says:

    Music and words captured well our Advent yearning.

  23. Sister Mary Rose says:

    Lovely. Beautiful windows, beautiful script and music.

  24. Sister Caritas says:

    Wonderful call to a source of HOPE: JESUS THE LIGHT!

  25. Sister Johanna says:

    Beautiful art on windows. Nice music and singing.

  26. Sister Karen Ann says:

    VERY appropriate.

  27. Sister Karen says:

    Inspirational. Made me feel like bending toward the Light-have to be flexible to do that.

  28. On this Christmas eve as we plan to participate in a Christmas Mass in a meaningful place of worship, I was reminded of this Angeles message from our Holy Father on the Feast of St. John Lateran as I watched and listened to this podcast one more time:

    The beauty and the harmony of churches, destined to render praise to God, invites us human beings too, though limited and sinful, to convert ourselves to form a ‘cosmos’, a well-ordered construction, in close communion with Jesus, who is the true Holy of Holies…every community therefore has the duty to carefully guard their holy structures which constitute a precious religious and historical patrimony.

    The parishes who allowed us to share their spectacular stained glass windows in this podcast are to be commended for ‘guarding their holy structures’.

  29. Sister Pat Sevcik says:

    As I listened to, “A Bending Towards the Light,” I thought about how bright and “lighted” the world outside my office is because of all of the snow that continues to fall. The trees are laden with such beauty! They are raising their arms to praise Christ, the King, Whom we celebrate today and throughout the Christmas season. We are invited to come and bend towards the Light. May Jesus be Light for us at all times and in every season! Let’s let in the LIGHT of the world! Have a blessed and Joyous Christmas!

  30. Sister Pat Sevcik says:

    As I listened to, “A Bending Towards the Light,” I thought about how bright and “lighted” the world outside my office is because of all of the snow that continues to fall. The trees are laden with such beauty! They are raising their arms to praise Christ, the King, Whom we celebrate today and throughout the Christmas season. We are invited to come and bend towards the Light. May Jesus be Light for us at all times and in every season! Let's let in the LIGHT of the world! Have a blessed and Joyous Christmas!

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