A brief summary of who I am.....
I was born in 1949 in South Australia.
I write songs.
I was going to be a minister, a preacher. Maybe I had the wrong kind of name. Perhaps my brain, or my personality didn’t fit the bill. Anyway, I liked songs, playing the guitar, singing harmonies to the radio.
I write Australian Christian Songs, perform them, lead people in singing, put song collections together - of my own songs, and lots of other people’s too - record songs, and try to spread them around. Especially songs that Christians can sing together.
Music is a very important gift. A central reason for the gift of music is to praise and tell the story of God. It is a way of communicating that is different from anything else. We can communicate with music when we’re unable to communicate with just words. Songs use both sides of the brain. It’s both an emotional and a reasoning thing. It’s one of the great gifts, part of creation, and music is everywhere.
My songs have been sung by lots of people for a long time. Mostly by people in churches and church schools. More than a hundred of these have been published in various collections.
The biggest number have appeared in the 7 “All Together” Songbooks produced between 1980 and 2014. (1-5 by Openbook Publishers, 6 & 7 self-published - business name, ‘Curly Music’). Eight are in the current Australian Hymnbook, “Together In Song”. A lot more have appeared in the songbooks of the biennial NCYC (National Christian Youth Convention).
Born and bred in southern Australia, I’ve lived in Adelaide most of my life. Making music is my main occupation but I’ve also been a school teacher for a brief period of time and worked for churches.
At Immanuel College, Dorothy Stiller and I got together. The partnership grew both musically and romantically as I entered Adelaide University and Dorothy teachers college. We performed as a duo in clubs and churches around Adelaide.
We were married late in 1969, immediately following Dorothy’s graduation from teachers college. Dorothy has not only been my companion in performing songs, but she’s also been the person with whom I share songs. She has been my editor, critiquer, helper and suggester. Her voice has been ideal for leading singing and for many recordings. Her sparkling presence and great sense of humour complete many a picture.
We have 3 adult children: Kristin, Jon & Thom, and son-in-law Shane, and grandson Owen.
Reflections from Dorothy Mann
In 1973, Robin finished Uni and started teaching. In that year, we had our daughter Kristin. “Father Welcomes” was written by Robin for her baptism. Two years later we found out I was having twins. At this stage the band “Kindekrist” was going to disband, but then St Stephen’s Lutheran Church offered Robin a job as a parish worker. Part of his job was organising the monthly student services, so Kindekrist cranked up again.
The twins, Jonathan and Thomas were born in 1975. Robin wrote “Comfort, Comfort”, but that was for me as I was somewhat daunted by the prospect of having a toddler and two newborns. Luckily I had some great baby-sitters and chose their godparents wisely. I stopped teaching for 10 years to be a full-time mum.
In 2019, we both turned 70 and celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. Our son Thom, who is a professional drummer in Melbourne, suggested we hold a concert to celebrate Robin’s songs. We collected some great musicians, and, on the 24 August, we held the concert called “Robin Mann - 50 Years of Song” in Concordia College Chapel (Adelaide) with about 350 people in attendance. We raised close to $7,000 for Lutheran World Service.
We have continued to sing together for all of our marriage. Robin has done quite a few solo tours to the eastern states while I kept earning the regular income. We were lucky to be invited to sing overseas to the USA three times in the mid 90s. We have also visited Hong Kong, New Zealand and South Africa for singing tours, with some added sight-seeing, of course!
Following a performance by Robin and Dorothy at Scots Presbyterian Church in Adelaide in 1971, assistant minister Rod Jepsen asked if they’d be interested in joining a band. Kindekrist was one of Australia’s early Christian rock bands. Rod was the band’s original drummer. The group produced four albums in the first decade and continued to perform together for another two. Although some of the musicians changed over time, the mixture of theological backgrounds largely held, appealed to a mainstream, ecumenically minded audience.
Kindekrist played in churches across the Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Salvation Army, Catholic and Anglican denominations as well as for Lutheran services. “We played everywhere”, Robin comments. “One of our St Stephen’s services was televised and then another at St Peter’s Anglican Cathedral.”
From 1972, Kindekrist led the music for the packed-out monthly student worship services at St Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Adelaide. Started by then LCA student chaplain, Pastor John Sabel, the St Stephen’s evening services ran until 1998.
The demands of recording and regular performance, especially for worship, meant that Robin’s song writing skills were brought to the fore and honed by necessity.
Robin comments about Kindekrist’s popularity with young Christians: “It was an accident of history because it was new and also because we were, in fact, cross-denominational. It just caught people’s imagination at the time. I think a large number of the traditional hymns just didn’t speak to people anymore. I have to say that was true for me, even though I grew up in the church.”
Never a professional or commercial band, Kindekrist recorded 3 LP records, 3 cassettes and songs for “All Together” collections (3 & 4). Robin wrote a good percentage of the songs recorded on these albums. “Commonplace Forms” and “Father Songs” released in 1973 and 1974 were popular albums in the “Jesus Movement” era.
Doctorate awarded to Robin Mann*
Lutheran songwriter and pastoral musician Robin Mann was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree by the University of Divinity.
He was presented with the university’s highest academic honour by Chancellor Dr Graeme L Blackman AO at a graduation ceremony in Adelaide on Friday 6 December 2019.
The university, of which Australian Lutheran College (ALC) is a part, awarded the degree in recognition of Robin’s “sustained and distinguished contribution to practical, theological scholarship through original music composition that advances the celebration of Christian teaching, communal life and identity, and faith-practice through congregational song”.
Pastor Adrian Kitson, chair of the LCA/NZ’s Commission on Worship, said Robin had “enabled us to sing and pray the word of God as community for a generation or more. He has helped us connect more fully with our own land, Australia. Robin has done this with a gospel heart, with Dorothy at his side, and with commitment and creativity born of the Spirit. We congratulate him and Dorothy, and thank God for the song.”
Robin’s response: “I am delighted and honoured to receive the award. It’s a real honour to get it - it’s just terrific. At the same time I feel it’s a bit unusual, as it’s an academic award and what I’ve done is not academic. On further reflection though, the University of Divinity giving this award is saying that it is an area that’s important and that’s great. So I’m receiving it on behalf of lots of people who have been writing and playing music in all sorts of ways.”
*excerpts from Lutheran Church of Australia article 10 December 2019
Recognising Robin Mann**
by Andrew Dutney
Three things stand out to me about Robin Mann’s art.
First, he is an elegant poet, economic in his use of words and images, and frequently surprising in what he chooses to draw the singer’s mind’s eye towards. His uses very concrete imagery – objects, bodies, places, scenes, specific human interactions – drawn from Australian experience and, through his poetry, inviting the singer to know them afresh.
Secondly, his poetry consistently carries mature, informed theological insights and reflections. It is only possible for Robin to produce the sort of lyrics that he does because he is not only a poet but also a theologian in his own right, who has continued to grow as a theologian throughout his ministry.
Thirdly, Robin has a singular awareness of the singing congregation. His melodies and harmonies are shaped specifically for communal singing. The songs are easy to teach and learn, and enjoyable to sing from the outset. Moreover they do not become less pleasing with familiarity. Such is the melodic strength of his songs, most of them can be successfully sung unaccompanied - for occasions when there might be no accompanist available, or when you might just be in the garden singing quietly while you work.
Robin Mann “writes” Christian songs the way the great iconographers “write” icons. And he has been doing so with unique accomplishment for fifty years. Thank you Robin. And thank you University of Divinity for acknowledging on our behalf what Robin Mann has done among us and for us for more than a generation.
**excerpts from article by Andrew Dutney 28 November 2019
Backyard Theologian website
The Musical History was compiled by Mal Graetz in collaboration with Robin Mann.
15 November 2023
Dorothy and Robin rehearsing at
St. Peter's Cathedral in Adelaide 1971
The band KIDEKRIST on the back cover
of "Father Songs" album 1974
KINDEKRIST playing at Unley Town Hall
for Kairos '74 in Adelaide 22 Feb. 1974
Robin and Dorothy appearing in an article
from Lutheran Church of Australia
celebrating Robin's "50 Years of Song"
21 July 2019
The University of Divinity Chancellor
Dr. Graeme Blackman AO presenting
Robin Mann with a Doctor of Divinity Degree 2019
The Word Became A Song