This coming weekend, I’ll be playing in a music festival. Yay for music festivals! Yay for anything that combines outdoorsiness, tunes, and safe togetherness. Also tacos, I hear.
Which means it’s time for me to do my part and help drum up community support for this all-day affair, tirelessly put together by some very dedicated folks. Which means…promo.
I know of zero writers and only a tiny handful of musicians who enjoy promoting their own work. Taking part in an interview, sure, or maybe designing a poster if your artistic chops extend to the visual arts, but otherwise? Meh.
Case in point: yes, this blog contains clickable images of the books I’ve written, but when was the last time I actually tried to sell you one? Exactly.
But! This music festival is not about me; my set is 30 minutes out of a full day. It’s about COMMUNITY MUSIC! So with that in mind…ahem…may I present:
If you live on Lopez, I very much hope you can make it. If not, I hope you can make some event to support the arts in your community! I’m guessing probablyno one where you live wants to self-promote either. So make it easy on ’em and just show up!
And thank you, thank you for supporting your local artists. Isn’t it wonderful we get to do this again?
There is a word…but not in English. Here’s one to add to your list, along with Schadenfreude and Cafuné (Portuguese for running your hands through the hair of someone you love, according to 41 Fascinating Words From Other Languages We Should Definitely Import to English) :
Dayenu. Or, as it says on our refrigerator magnet,
Jews and other folk who participate in Passover will recognize this word from the Seder ceremony. In Hebrew it means, roughly, “It would have been enough…” with the added connotation of, “…and yet, God did even more! Wow!”
Passover may be behind us for this year, but the season of Dayenu is just getting going, at least here on Lopez Island. Our normally gorgeous woods and fields have somehow become even gorgeouser (hey, I just invented Word #42 for the list) with wildflowers.
Like our woodlands even needed decorating–let alone by hot-pink orchids that look like something invented made by fairies…
…or golden-blooming succulents whose leaves want to get in on the color wheel action themselves:
And those are “just” the wildflowers. Then there are the lilacs planted all over our island, some 100 years old. Don’t get me started on lilacs. Or better yet, do–then read about them in this blog post I wrote some years ago on that heavenly-scented topic.
Extra color, extra scent, in a place which makes daily work of overloading our senses, year ’round? What else is there to say? At a loss for ways to express the feeling, I wrote this song–again, “some years ago.”
Had the rising sun not overwhelmed me…Dayenu.
Had my humble daily bread not filled me…Dayenu.
Had your arms not simply held me…Dayenu.
Had the lilacs never breathed so sweetly…Dayenu.
Had the wild fawn not leapt so neatly…Dayenu.
Had you not loved me so completely…Dayenu.
It would have been enough,
It would have blessed us to the core.
Had this morning been our only gift,
We would not have needed more.
Had the sunset not shanghaied my breathing…Dayenu.
Had the starlight not adorned the evening…Dayenu.
Had you not promised never leaving…Dayenu.
So my “Dayenu” these days–apart from my Mate–is spring flowers, wildand tame. What are yours? What’s better than sharing a cup that’s runnething over?
A friend once offered some questions she’d brought back from a writing retreat. I can’t remember them verbatim, only that they were mind-opening. Especially the one that went something like this:
“Give your Inner Critic a persona and a voice. What does s/he say?”
I didn’t have to think at all. My Inner Critic–sometimes self-doubt, but more often simply my conscience–sounds like Joan Baez. She IS Joan Baez. And she usually wants to know, in her beautiful, stripped-down, poetic but peremptory way, why I’m not making more out of my time on Earth.
Do I need to explain this foible of mine, or defend it? Maybe I will, someday. But right now all I want to do is celebrate and share Joan singing, “The President Sang Amazing Grace.”
The song, written by Zoe Mulford, captures in song the moment Barack Obama did just that, in June 2015, while giving the eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who was shot in his own church along with eight other worshippers by a young man in the depths of hate. But it also captures…amazing grace. The kind that turns hopeless grief into hopeful action. The kind that speaks, decade after decade, in Joan Baez’s voice, asking me if I’m living the best life I can lead.
That’s all I think I need to say. If the hatred of our age is getting to you…just listen to Joan. Then comment and/or share as you feel moved.
I knew this group was coming to perform on my island. One of the singers is friends with someone here. From New England, I heard. Tight 4-part harmonies. That was all I knew, till a friend sent me this video of Windborne singing “Song of the Lower Classes” in front of…yep…Trump Tower, in Manhattan. In the snow.
Now THAT is what this society needs. Immediately, I could not WAIT for that concert.
And I wasn’t disappointed. They sang in a small church, the natural acoustics amplifying the weave of their voices better than any microphone.They sang of struggle, hardship, love, longing, labor–every song a call and an inspiration, both musical and political.
Funny story they told at the concert: apparently all of the singers of Windborne had kept their day jobs; they enjoyed singing together but none thought it would become a full-time gig. But after their impromptu Trump Tower song went viral, they were more or less drafted into touring…by internet fans!
I won’t go on and on; I’ll leave it to you to check out Windborne if you don’t know of them yet. They’re actually pretty famous by now, having been discovered by music critics at the NY Times and NPR, among others. As for who they are, here’s what they have to say about themselves:
Windborne is Lynn Mahoney Rowan, Will Thomas Rowan, Lauren Breunig, and Jeremy Carter-Gordon. All four have traveled extensively in the US and throughout the world with Village Harmony, Northern Harmony and the Renewal Chorus, leading workshops and giving concerts. Windborne has toured New England several times, and in 2010 their vocal agility and power won them first place in Young Tradition Vermont‘s Showcase Competition. Since then, they have appeared at the Flurry Festival, the Shelburne Harvest Festival, the Young Tradition Vermont Reunion Concert, and have taught master classes at Keene State College. In January 2014, AMA sent Windborne on a month-long tour to Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Angola performing and teaching as musical ambassadors for the US!
Keep hope alive!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go learn some new harmonies for “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?”
Spring, like new-fallen snow, makes photographers of us all. Whether or not we have a camera to hand, the freshness of new green and new blossoms sets our noticing muscles to full workout mode. Everything is worth capturing.
And everything worth capturing is worth musing over. Spring beauty is full of metaphors. One that caught my eye a couple of years ago was the hawthorn, a blooming European tree that’s gone feral all over our island, spread by birds who enjoy the hawthorn’s deep-red berries in fall.
So I wrote a song about lovely spring, and what its loveliness hides. Since it speaks for itself, I shall let it do just that:
Bless the spring, bless the earth,
bless the blossoms of rebirth.
Bless the hawthorn’s sweet perfume,
bless the thorns beneath the blooms.
There’s no place for suffering on such a golden day,
Hip-hop and Bluegrass: could there be two American musical genres further apart? (OK, maybe Hip-hop and Country. But I’m not holding my breath.) Chances are, if you love one, you loathe the other.
image from Gangstagrass.com
In this oh-so-polarized nation of ours, any sign of crossover strikes me as positive, like hearing about about interracial, inter-political, or interfaith marriages.
Gangstagrass , out of New York City, is almost exactly what it sounds like, except their style of rap is NOT what I would call “gangsta.” It’s progressive. Literally; just the fact of its existence moves us, as a country, forward. My friend Steve recently came across Gangstagrass at the Wintergrass Festival in Bellevue, WA this year. (Thanks, Steve, for sending the videos.)
Here’s what their website has to say:
Gangstagrass has toured internationally, blowing minds on main stages from SXSW to Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, with a live stage act taking full advantage of the improvisational aspects of both hip-hop and bluegrass. With two emcees R-Son and Dolio The Sleuth trading verses, Dan Whitener on Banjo, Landry McMeans on dobro, and Rench on guitar, and frequent 3 part harmonies, the Gangstagrass live show has garnered a reputation among fans for its dynamism and spontanaety. Currently touring across the US, Gangstagrass is using live performances to organically develop new material for an album that will further explode the boundaries between genres generally thought to be incompatible.
This is not a puff piece, so I’m not going to claim that Gangstagrass is top-level bluegrass OR rap. What they are, though, is a group worth listening to: for the music they make, and for the fact that they came together to make it at all. Whom else might they be bringing together?
Give them a listen, OK? And feel free to recommend other mixed-genre groups you might know about. Our country needs them right now.
After I had the honor and pleasure of opening, with two fellow local musicians, for Beppe Gambetta’s modest Lopez Island show, several friends of mine told me I was “awesome.”
Thanks, guys, but seriously–let’s apply that “A-word” more carefully, shall we?
If you’ve heard of Beppe Gambetta, good for you. I hadn’t, till he toured out here a few years ago. Since then I’ve become familiar with the delightful story of this 11 year-old Italian kid who somehow got his hands on a Doc Watson record, over in Genova, and had his life changed by the ol’ flatpicker from Deep Gap, North Carolina. Beppe, with zero background in anything but traditional Italian music, started practicing, and kept on practicing…till he learned to do THIS: (note–keep watching; he speeds up as he goes!)
If you check out Beppe’s website and his music, you’ll see that he actually does way more than “just” American-style bluegrass flatpicking. He plays traditional and modern Italian music, composes his own melodies, and sings in four different languages.
Check Beppe’s tour schedule (he and his delightful wife Federica tour all but 100 days per year–year after year!). If he’s playing anywhere near you, get tickets IMMEDIATELY. And save up your use of the word “awesome” till you see him play live.
Have you ever noticed that the words of some of your favorite Christmas carols make you uncomfortable? Maybe they frame the holy spirit in a way you don’t. Maybe their picture of Jesus isn’t yours. Or maybe they go too far in the other direction, pretending naively–or with obnoxious commercialism–that the holiday is really about Santa Claus and gifts.
I love Christmas for its traditions–food, evergreens, decorations, family, gifts, and, yeah…food. (I love food.) Raised in a vaguely Judeo-Christian tradition, I don’t call myself a Christian, but I deeply admire Jesus, and singing to celebrate his birthday seems like a good idea to me. I just need the right kind of song to sing.
So I wrote one.
Come ALL Ye Faithful by G. Wing, 2012
O come all ye faithful and sing a Christmas song That doesn’t make non-Christians feel as though they don’t belong
Let’s sing about a birthday that brings so many joy
A humble, patient mother and a tiny baby boy.
I know that we can’t all agree on what the season means
So let’s avoid divisive lines that highlight our extremes
For some Christ is the Savior, for some he is the King
But for many, Jesus’ teachings are the real gift he brings.
A man of peace, a man of prayer, who turns the other cheek
And preaches that the earth belongs to the blessed meek
Now that’s a man whose birthday anyone could celebrate
Without regard to questions of his anointed state.
So Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan, Jew, and yes, even atheists
Should all feel welcome in this song to join with Christian deists
And sing a joyful glo-o-ria about a starry night
Without the lyrics telling them their own beliefs aren’t right.
If you find this song offensive to your sensibilities
Just look at all the Santas and the glowing Christmas trees
If they can all be blended with a Christian world view
Then surely you can harmonize this carol with them too.
In honor of the season, here’s a classical Madonna and Child image:
Madonna with Child and Angels by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato (courtesy OpenClipArtLibrary)
And here’s one a little closer to my heart, Dorothea Lange’s 1936 Migrant Mother:
The least of these…
If you want to hear what my Christmas carol sounds like, send me your email and I’ll send you a recording. Meanwhile, whatever it means to you: Merry Christmas!
Is it only coincidence that “empty nest” sounds so much like “emptiness”?
Look, Ma, no one to say “Look, Ma”!
Wing Son One left last week for the east coast…after being “home” for a whole five days…mostly, we suspect, because we had his car. J/K. Sort of. No, really, we had a sweet visit–which just made the jolt all the sharper when I came home from work the following day to the empty spot where his car had been parked since last summer.
And that’s when I realized there was no English word for what I was feeling: sweet and sad. NOT “bittersweet.” Bitter implies regret, disappointment, wishing things were otherwise–none of which applies to our feelings about our son. We’re thrilled he’s off on his own. We just miss him like hell. Isn’t that the way parenting is supposed to be?
At least, that’s what my parenting song is about:
It’s OK if you didn’t listen to the song–you’re busy people, and it’s also a terribly amateur recording of my second-ever concert. But here’s what I would like help with: a word for what I’m describing.
[Note: it isn’t “Schadenfreude,” as some people mistakenly think. Schadenfreude means taking delight in the misfortunes of others.]
Sweet & sad = ? Help me out, readers. What you got?