Nice Work If You Can Get It…

I recently completed a ten-day course via Zoom about how one can use Facebook ads to expand one’s circle of musical supporters.

 Photo by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay 

It was a very worthwhile AND affordable undertaking — only $100 for 25+ hours of instruction which included many opportunities to ask questions and get help.

I came away from the learning experience with many new ideas… and a few reservations.

The first thing I liked about this training course was the opportunity to spend time with a hundred other musicians from around the world who also wanted to learn how to expand THEIR listening audiences. 

I felt both reassured and inspired to see that I am not the only musician with challenges, questions, concerns, anxieties, insecurities, ambivalences and dreams.

 Photo by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

The man leading the ten-day course was himself a musician who had formed a band with several high school classmates and toured around the USA for several years.

They ended up working with very good producers, recording a bunch of powerful songs, selling tens of thousands of CDS, gaining millions of views on Youtube, and becoming successful without the services of a manager or a record label.

Then he got married (to someone he met as a result of his band’s performances), started having children, and realized that he didn’t want to tour any more.

 Photo by sarahbernier3140 from Pixabay 

He wanted to stay home with his burgeoning family.

So he began coaching other musicians on how to increase THEIR musical audiences and advance THEIR careers.

And he appears to be successful doing this as well…

Another deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

Photo of George and Ira Gershwin from the Library of Congress

This whole process reminded me of a classic song written by the Gershwin Brothers in 1927 — “Nice Work If You Can Get It” — which was one of nine songs Ira and George created for the movie A Damsel In Distress, which starred Fred Astaire, Joan Fontaine, George Burns and Gracie Allen. 

It was also one of the last songs George finished before he died — much too young at the age of 38 — in 1937 (as Hitler rose to power in Germany and opened the Buchenwald concentration camp near the city of Weimar…)

All of the the successful Jewish songwriters, performers, directors, producers, designers, movie moguls, etc. were very aware of what was unfolding in Europe in the 1930s…

Jewish composer Kurt Weill — one of the Gershwins’ peers — for example, had fled from Germany to Paris in 1933 and then moved to New York City in 1935.

Anti-Jewish German Newspaper courtesy of WIkimedia

I can only imagine how ambivalent the Gershwins, Harold Arlen, Yip Harburg, Irving Berlin, RIchard Rodgers, Larry Hart and their Jewish friends and co-workers must have felt about their extraordinary success in America while Europe was hurtling into war and genocide.

Fred Astaire (whom some biographers claim had partial Jewish ancestry which he chose not to share with the public during his lifetime) was the first person to perform “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”

I wonder if Ira’s lyrics might have been inspired in part by the opulent lifestyle he and his brother and their family were enjoying in Hollywood at the time — living in big houses with swimming pools and tennis courts and huge lawns (perfect for fancy parties under rented tents) —  while much of the world was still struggling to dig its way out of the Great Depression.

Life is full of strange historical juxtapositions…

Yet another deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

Let’s return to my recent ten-day course in music marketing.

All of us participants wanted to learn how to share our musical gifts with more people.

And the guy leading the course was showing us how…while simultaneously grooming us to want to sign up for even more coaching.

Photo by Nattanan Kanchanaprat from Pixabay 

I became increasingly aware during the ten-day-process that he and his excellent support team were both educating us AND laying the groundwork to pitch us more intensive/expensive coaching opportunities at the end of our time together.

I found myself simultaneously admiring their marketing system AND being somewhat repulsed by it.

The first step involves reaching out to potential new fans using short (20-30 second) videos which one can make using one’s cell phone.

Photo by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

Then for as little as $3 per day one pays Facebook to share these videos with Facebook users who have in some way indicated that they are fans of a particular genre of music (such as reggae, hip hop, pop, rock, R&B, folk, musical theater, etc) and/or a particular recording artist (such as Ella Fitzgerald, The Eurythmics, James Taylor, Coldplay, Earth, Wind & Fire, Rosemary Clooney, Bob Marley, etc.)

Then one begins interacting via FB Messenger with the folks who respond to one’s ads by sharing a link to one’s own songs — and if they like THAT, one continues interacting with them to get a better sense of their musical taste, if they have ever gone to a live concert, if they have ever bought merchandise (such as T-shirts, hoodies, a mug, a poster, a CD, a magnet), if they have ever supported the career of a favorite musical artist with monthly donations, etc.

Photo by unpetitvoyou from Pixabay 

All of this seems OK and possibly quite exciting — especially if total strangers from around the world respond favorably to one’s marketing outreach and genuinely like one’s music.

On the final day of the training, however, some of the woman musicians started sharing about interactions with new fans which had begun well and then turned into scary stalker situations.

One person in England, in fact, was in the midst of talking with lawyers and protective services while she was simultaneously participating in our ten-day training program.

Argh!!!

The shiny, happy, everyone-can-learn-how-to-increase-one’s-fanbase-using-these-simple-practices vibe of the training sessions became much more nuanced and grounded and real.

Another deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

Having had a few days to reflect upon the training session, I have concluded that sharing authentic interactions with people who like one’s music seems do-able and not-too-morally-bankrupt (although the astounding and somewhat terrifying amount of data that Facebook collects about each one of us in order to be able to sell these specifically-targeted ads is something that deserves much more discussion and regulation…)

However, if one is successful in jumpstarting these authentic conversations with new fans (with whom one is careful not to share too much personal information such as street addresses or phone numbers so that they are less likely to become stalkers…) via FB Messenger and continues to run ads, eventually one becomes unable to keep up with all of these human interactions…

So the next step — not taught in our ten-day workshop but available as a much-more-expensive coaching opportunity — is how to automate one’s responses using chatbot programs.

This is where my reservations really kick in…

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay 

Would new fans understand that they are interacting with very sophisticated, well-programmed chatbots?

Or would they think they are actually interacting with me?

And does this transform an authentic interaction with another human being into yet another cynical marketing campaign/ploy?

I am currently thinking a lot about this potential developmental step in my career.

And I am also realizing how many of the music industry people whose free videos I have watched on YouTube are using a similar chatbot-powered system to interact with me in a seemingly authentic way when I leave grateful comments on their websites.

Hmmm.

How misled have I felt after realizing that I have been getting auto-generated “thank you” messages from them after giving them my email address?

A little…

And then how disappointed/exploited have I felt when I have started to receive a chatty barrage of pre-programmed email messages from them inviting me to continue to interact with them (and eventually sign up for some sort of in-depth, paid, educational experience they are offering)?

Somewhat…

Photo by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay 

But it doesn’t stop me from continuing to learn from them via their free YouTube videos.

So maybe potential new music fans (who have only interacted with a chatbot version of me) would be remain similarly engaged with my music if they found some authentic value from it?

My final misgiving about this generous ten-day training program was that it never mentioned climate change and the environmental impact of using email and Facebook and Spotify/Pandora/YouTube/Amazon/Apple/Etc to share one’s music with the rest of the world.

The training session existed in a bubble of denial untouched by the increasing reverberations of climate change.

And it was being led by a late twenty-something (or early thirty-something?) father of two small children whom I hope is giving SOME thought to the future on behalf of his daughter and son…

One final deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

Photo by Ronny Overhate from Pixabay 

What have your experiences been with marketing to other human beings… and with being the target of marketing by other human beings (and/or their chatbots)?

What are your thoughts and feelings about the environmental impact of our amazing digital communications?

Thank you to the photographers at Pixabay for their lovely images.

Thank you to Doug Hammer for his wonderful piano accompaniment AND his significant production/engineering skills.

Thank you to the Gershwin Brothers for their terrific, timeless songs.

And thank YOU for reading and listening to another one of my blog posts.

Photo by Arek Socha from Pixabay 

You are always welcome to visit my website, and you can find me singing (with Doug Hammer playing his Schimmel grand piano) on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music and other digital music platforms.

Flight

Greetings!

More than two months has passed since my last blog post.

I started writing several drafts, but none seemed worthy of completion…

This morning, however, I awoke from very sweet dreams — about returning to my elementary school as an adult — and started the day by stretching on our back porch.

Photo by Russell_Yan from Pixabay  

A mockingbird was singing a wonderfully idiosyncratic song from a nearby roof, and the sky above me was totally blue.

Many birds passed high in the sky — swallows swooping back and forth (maybe catching bugs?), a pair of ducks en route from one body of water to another, some cooing doves, a bright red cardinal, and a seagull.

They reminded me of a song by Craig Carnelia called “Flight.”

It was first recorded by actress and singer Karen Akers in 1994, and since then it has been performed by a bunch of Broadway folks including Ben Platt, Betty Buckley, Brian Lane Green, and Sutton Foster.

The Cambridge Center For Adult Education

When I recorded it with pianist Doug Hammer, I was still working as the assistant director of a non-profit in Harvard Square — the Cambridge Center for Adult Education — and longing to break free from my day job so that I could devote myself to making music.

I had started at the CCAE by volunteering to help with a new musical series that the PR director, a wonderful singer named Tracy Gibbs, was putting together called The Cabaret Connection.

My offer to help transformed into a part-time job overseeing not only The Cabaret Connection but also another series called The Jazz Chair and a few other special events.

Then I began sharing responsibility for publicizing these events, and when Tracy left for a new job, I was offered a full-time position as PR director for the entire CCAE.

Photo by Peter H from Pixabay 

This was not my plan.

My plan was to have a part-time day job so that I could continue to do plenty of music on the side.

But now my day job would INCLUDE music — and I would gain new perspectives (such as what it was like to have performers contacting me about the possibility of being booked into one of our musical series…)

So I said, “Yes.”

After a few years, our development director left, and I took over her responsibilities as well.

Eventually I became assistant director and helped to bridge the transition between the retirement of our beloved executive director and the arrival of his successor.

Photo by Bessi from Pixabay 

Then I was laid off.

Yikes!

Time for a deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

This was a surprise and a shock — but perhaps also a blessing.

I had been working 40-70 hours per week for many years — and I was grateful to slow down.

I also have a fair amount of “the disease to please” in my emotional constitution as well as a low tolerance for risk.

Photo by Gerhard Bögner from Pixabay

So even though many of my more psychologically astute (and cherished) co-workers had seen the writing on the wall regarding the pros and cons of our new executive director and had found new employment elsewhere, I had remained loyal (or some might say “stuck”) to the longtime CCAE community of teachers, board members, students and volunteers.

Being laid off might have been the only way to get me to leave.

And dare to focus on music.

Another deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

Photo by Nora Dybdal

So I signed up to learn how to be a Music Together teacher — which some of my musical peers had thought I might enjoy.

And they were right!

I also began putting together one-hour programs of music with a jazz pianist, Joe Reid, who had left full-time employment as a corporate lawyer to pursue HIS love of music.

And I continued writing songs.

Now I listen to “Flight” with a very different perspective from when I first learned it — and was feeling such a longing to break free…

Now my time is completely my own — to vision, to plan, to shape, to fill!

I have nothing I want to escape.

My only deadlines are the minor ones I give myself AND the major ones related to climate change which loom ever larger and more terrifying with each passing day of denial and inaction.

Photo by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay 

Another deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

I love the imagery in Craig’s lyrics — and the flow of the narrator’s thought processes from one moment to the next…

Photo by Jörg Peter from Pixabay 

It reminds me of a sailboat tacking to and fro in response to the ever-changing winds.

However, we human beings were not satisfied with sailboats.

So we created the motorboat, which zooms, noisily and relentlessly — oblivious to what it might run over, hit, injure, or disrupt — in a straight line from point A to point B.

And then the airplane!

Life before fossil fuels seems like it was much less linear.

Paths and roads followed the curves of hills and streams — rather than being bulldozed or dynamited to create the most efficient and convenient line of travel.

I saw this same phenomenon in the sky this morning — with birds swooping in curvy lines while far above them a jet plane left a perfectly straight line of moisture and toxic emissions in the sky…

Photo by Dan Fador from Pixabay 

Yet another deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

The desire to fly — and perhaps to fly away — has been with us human beings for thousands of years.

I often think about the myth of Daedalus and his son Icarus — who enthusiastically flew too high and too close to the sun (forgetting or ignoring his father’s warning about how the wax adhering the feathers of his marvelously-constructed wings could melt…) and fell to his death in the Mediterranean sea.

Oftentimes our human culture in the 21st century seems to be soaring ever higher on a frantic, teen-aged exuberance for relentless, profit-driven innovation and stimulation.

Photo by danny moore from Pixabay 

We ignore wise warnings about how our fossil-fuel-powered desires (for 24/7 computer functionality, for food at any hour of the day or night (much of it shipped from hundreds or even thousands of miles away), for the ability to travel via motorcycle, car, motorboat, ocean liner, bus, train, or plane wherever we want (and as much as we can afford… or choose to put on a credit card), for alternative currencies, etc. are leading us faster and faster towards global catastrophe.

One would think that any one of the challenges we have experienced in recent years here in the USA — flooding of major cities, changing weather patterns which have led to increased wildfires/hurricanes/tornadoes, as well as a year-long viral pandemic — might lead us to re-think and change our habits of consumption.

And might lead us to listen to scientists with a deepened respect.

Photo by WikiImages from Pixabay 

But I don’t see much of that happening…

Denial is indeed an extraordinary human phenomenon.

I certainly understand why the likely scenarios — such as famine, wars over water and arable land, vast migrations of desperate refugees, more epidemics of diseases — are too terrifying for most of us to set aside any time to contemplate.

How about a really deep breath in…

And a really deep breath out….

Photo by Pierangelo Averara from Pixabay 

The most recent — and to me ridiculous — example of our human hubris is Amazon gazillionaire Jeff Bezos building a huge, 500-million-dollar super-yacht.

And — getting back to the topic of flight — the creation of rocket ships — which take our human desire for flight to an entirely different level.

I saw a posting on Facebook recently with which I immediately agreed:

Photo by GooKingSword from Pixabay 

“Mars sucks. Its weather sucks. Its distance sucks. Its atmosphere sucks. The little water it has…sucks. It has sucked for billions of years and will suck for billions more…

You know what doesn’t suck?

Me, earth.

I have life.

I have vast oceans and lush forests.

I have rivers to swim and air to breath.

But the way I’m being treated — that part sucks.

You use me and pollute me.

You overheat me.

You use every resource I have, and return very little back from where it came.

And then you dream of Mars — a hellhole — a barren, desolate wasteland you can’t set foot on fast enough.

Why not use some of that creative energy and billions of dollars on saving me? You know, the planet that’s giving you what you need to live right now.

Mars can wait.

I can’t.”

Photo by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

The only part of this posting with which I don’t agree is the idea that earth needs to be saved.

I am pretty confident that planet earth — having already withstood billions of years of evolutionary changes — will be OK.

We human beings are the ones whose existence is at stake — along with the millions of other forms of life (such as birds and bees and fungi and bacteria and trees and grasses and turtles and whales and algae and shrimp and wolves and bison) which are vital links in the amazing web of life here on planet earth which we are in the process of altering and destroying.

Deep sigh.

Awake, fellow humans!

Now is the time to make significant changes in how we live here on planet earth…

I am very grateful to the wonderful photographers who share their images at Pixabay.

I would also like to thank pianist/producer Doug Hammer for playing so magnificently on this track.

Another big thank you to Craig Carnelia for writing “Flight.”

And a final thank you to YOU for reading — and listening — to yet another one of my blog posts.

Photo by jplenio from Pixabay 

I’ve re-designed my website in recent months to include a LOT more music — and you are always welcome to visit there.

You can also find me on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music and other digital music platforms.

One final breath in.

And out.

Life goes on…

Help Is On The Way

Image by Comfreak from Pixabay 

“Don’t give up the ship — even when you feel it sinking and you don’t know what to do…” writes David Friedman in his great song, “Help Is On The Way.”

I found myself thinking about this song when I heard Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer say “Help is on the way!” on TV after helping to pass the American Rescue Plan.

Although I have not been able to confirm this from searching the internet, I think David Friedman created this song during a previous plague — HIV/AIDS.

I wrote about David in a post three years ago which you can read if you are curious by clicking here.

Image by Plz from Pixabay

Some were willing and able to ignore the threat of HIV/AIDS when it appeared — as some are still attempting to do with COVID-19.

However, HIV/AIDS left a vast trail of shock and grief for many human beings — as COVID-19 is now doing…

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

I thought of this song again when I was listening to yet another medical expert pleading with us to continue to wear masks, wash our hands, and practice physical dustancing.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

“We have the football on the five-yard line,” he said, “and we’ve got to hang in there so that we don’t lose possession of the ball when we are so close to making a touchdown and winning the game.”

His football metaphor was inspired by the fact that many states in the USA are currently relaxing health measures even as new — more communicable and possibly more lethal —varieties of the COVID-19 virus are spreading exponentially around the country.

Apparently we are now in a contest to see if we can vaccinate enough people before we are overtaken by yet another tidal wave of infections due in part to these new genetic variations and in part to us human beings letting down our guard.

Another deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

Image by Miroslava Chrienova from Pixabay

My heart goes out in particular to the health care workers who — amazingly — continue to care for people infected with Covid whether the infected people had chosen to take Covid seriously in the first place or not…

I’m not a healthcare worker or someone with a job that requires interaction with the public or a senior citizen.

So I’m wearing a mask when I go outside for my daily walks and waiting patiently — as I know many of us are — until I become eligible to get vaccinated.

Singer Bobbi Carrey, pianist Doug Hammer and I recorded this song many years ago as part of a musical program called IN GOOD COMPANY which explored working and business and capitalism using songs and stories.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

I consider it to be a quintessential “helps me get out of bed in the morning” song.

And I’ve been needing these sorts of songs in recent weeks — because I’ve been feeling rather crabby.

Maybe it’s the rising spring energy of the northern hemisphere as we struggle — like bulbs — to push our way through the thawing soil towards the sun.

Maybe it’s the fact that a pandemic which we all thought might last a month or two has now stretched past the one year mark…

Maybe it’s an at-times-overwhelming sense of empathy for all of the folks who have already died due to Covid-19 — AND for their grieving family + friends.

Maybe it’s a sense of frustration that we human beings seem to have done an extremely poor job of teaching one another about the formidable power of exponential growth.

One doubles and becomes two.

Two doubles and becomes four.

Four doubles and becomes eight.

Eight doubles and becomes sixteen.

Sixteen doubles and becomes thirty-two.

Thirty-two doubles and becomes sixty-four.

Sixty-four doubles and becomes one hundred-and-twenty eight.

And sooner than one might think possible, the total rises into the thousands, then millions, then billions…

Understanding exponential growth deepens one’s respect/humility/awe/terror for how a virus left un-checked spreads exponentially through a host population — and thus has vastly more opportunities to mutate into new varieties as a result…

This is why we need to be distributing COVID-19 vaccines to every country in the world — even countries such as Tanzania, led by a Covid-denying leader who recently died after an 18-day period of ill health…officially attributed to a heart condition and unofficially speculated to have been Covid-related.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Clearly it is a huge challenge to change anyone’s mind when they have very strong convictions about a particular topic.

Here in the USA the Covid-related death of a newly elected, incoming, 41-year-old congressman from Louisiana — Luke Letlow — has done little to change the mindset and behavior of some of his Republican colleagues regarding the severity of the risk of Covid infection.

Yet another deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

I don’t entirely believe the message of this song — although I WANT to believe it because it gives me hope.

My favorite line is probably “from friends we may not have met yet.”

I feel that way about some of my fellow bloggers, and also about some of the photographers on Pixabay.

Now that I have started including their names underneath their beautiful photographs, I have begun noticing that certain photographers have taken a LOT of the photos I’ve used in past blog posts.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

David Mark is one of them.

Many of the images in this blog post were taken by him.

And he has thousands more at Pixabay.

I will end this blog post with several more of his lovely images.

Thank you to David Friedman for his wonderful songs and to Forbes Magazine for this great interview with him.

Thank you to Doug Hammer and to Bobbi Carrey for their heartful musicianship.

Thank you to all the “friends we may not have met yet” — who are growing our food, developing new vaccines, taking care of us in hospitals, working in grocery stores, delivering packages, etc. etc. etc.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Thank you to Pixabay and all of the photographers who generously share their images there — and allow me to travel far and wide around this extraordinary planet earth without leaving my living room.

Thank you to the cardinals who have been singing and singing and singing in my neighborhood in recent days.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Thank you for the return of spring here in New England.

And thank YOU for reading and listening to another one of my blog posts.

I’ve re-designed my website in recent months to include a LOT more music — and you are always welcome to visit there.

You can also find me on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music and other digital music platforms.

One more deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

“Help is on the way…”

New Blossoms Emerging…

Photo by Alexander Popov from Unsplash.

March has begun!

And I am realizing that it’s been over a month since my last blog post.

Why?

Well… I stumbled into an opportunity to be interviewed by an old acquaintance who writes about the arts for a New England-based magazine.

And after I learned that my mini-profile was going to run in their March/April issue, I decided it was time to re-do my website — which had remained functional but increasingly antiquated in recent years.

So February was devoted to researching website design options, choosing a company, and learning how to use this company’s cornucopia of templates and design features.

Photo by Free-Photos from Pixabay

After all sorts of challenges (which I may share in a future blog post as a case study in hiking up a new learning curve…) I am happy — and relieved — to report that my new site is now up and running at my old website address: willsings.com.

In the process of transferring information from my old site to this new one, I had the opportunity to reflect upon the past twenty years of my musical life — which has been a very sweet and slightly surprising experience.

I had forgotten, for example, exactly how much media coverage I had garnered in past years… and how often certain angels in our local media had written about various musical undertakings, concerts, recordings, collaborations, etc.

Photo by Benjamin Dickerhof from Unsplash.

I also discovered how much I still like various recordings I helped to make in past years.

And this new website makes it relatively easy to create separate pages for all of them, which I can continue to update and improve as time allows.

Deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

Lots of opportunities to practice feeling grateful!

I recorded the musical selection at the top of this blog post with pianist Doug Hammer on his Schimmel grand piano a few years ago when I was putting together an hour-long program of songs created for Disney movies.

Photo by Sunflair from Pixabay.

These three songs were written by the Sherman Brothers — Robert and Richard — for the magical movie Mary Poppins.

Recent weather — very cold with 30 mph winds! —reminded me of this medley.

As usual I have visited the wonderful photographic website Pixabay as well as a new one called Unsplash (when Pixabay was not functioning well) to find some images to grace this blog post and uplift my spirit.

So far the only sign of spring I have seen is ONE snowdrop which has managed to push up through the earth in our tiny front yard and bloom.

Amazing!

Photo by Will McMillan.

Inside the house, a pot of hyacinth bulbs I bought last winter from Trader Joe’s — and then left in the sun on the back porch all summer — has experienced a glorious re-birth.

They are very fragrant.

Another deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

Hurrah!

Spring may indeed return to New England…

This three-song medley is one of many recordings that Doug and I have been finding in his sonic archives — and have been fixing and mixing every Friday afternoon via Zoom.

There is a tiny lyric bobble in this recording which we will re-record when I am vaccinated and Doug is ready to welcome human beings back into his studio.

Did you hear it?

Photo by TheOtherKev from Pixabay.

My favorite song in this medley is the last one — “Let’s Go Fly A Kite.”

I was reminded when looking for images of kites that there are also raptors named kites.

So I am including a photo of this magnificent bird as well.

Even though I live in a suburb of Boston which does not have a lot of green space, I am delighted to see hawks flying overhead on a surprisingly regular basis as I walk around town.

I think this is partly because I do not use a smart phone — so I tend to be looking at what is actually going on around me more than many of my fellow humans — who often seem to be living in a parallel universe defined by their phone.

Image by Stacy Vitallo from Pixabay 

Last week I may have even seen a bald eagle fly around a cemetery where I like to walk which overlooks a neighboring town’s lake.

As many of my fellow bloggers often remind me, there are few things better than spending time outside in/with the natural world!

Yet another deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

I released a new recording at the beginning of March — “Plant A Radish” from the musical The Fantasticks by Harvey Schmidt (music) and Tom Jones (lyrics).

You can click here to listen to it on several digital music platforms if you are curious.

Photo by Romain Mathon from Unsplash.

Now I am looking forward to seeing how many of the crocus bulbs I planted last fall have survived the hungry — and deserving — animals who amazingly manage to survive each winter living outdoors.

And I am waiting for another (warmer) windy day to call up my neighbors and go to a local playing field where we can enjoy a well-masked, kite-flying + pizza picnic.

Thank you to all the wonderful photographers at Pixabay and Unsplash whom I decided I needed to respect by taking the time to credit by name (and whose credits I wish I could figure how to center under their photos…)

Thank you to Doug Hammer for his sublime piano playing and archiving and engineering and mixing and mastering.

Photo by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

Thank you to the Sherman Brothers for writing so many great songs during the course of their impressive career.

Thank you to my friends in Toronto who gave me a slightly used but still very functional laptop computer several years ago — which has allowed me to blog, lead music classes via Zoom, create a new website, etc.

Thank you to planet earth for managing to support as much life as she does — even as we human beings continue to rip apart, poison, and contaminate ecosystems right, left and center with our wildly hubristic over-confidence and greed.

Photo by Will McMillan

Thank you for — and to — the WordPress community.

The illness of a fellow blogger has reminded me in recent days of how oddly intimate — and deeply supportive — the WordPress community can be.

So thank YOU for reading and listening to another one of my blog posts.

You are always welcome find me on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music and other digital music platforms.

Now…

“Let’s go fly a kite up to the highest height.

Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring up through the atmosphere — up where the air is clear.

Oh, let’s go fly a kite!”

Photo by Martin Blonk on Unsplash.

Say Moon, Say Stars, Say Love…

I am writing this blog post as I watch many inaugural events on TV.

So far everything has gone well.

For this I am deeply grateful.

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

The song for this blog post, “New Words,” was written by Maury Yeston — a professor at Yale who also created beautiful songs for the Broadway musicals NINE and TITANIC.

I first heard it sung by a woman named Andrea Marcovicci at Town Hall in New York City.

She also recorded it, along with a bunch of other great songs by contemporary songwriters, on a CD called NEW WORDS.

I performed it as part of an evening of SONGS ABOUT PARENTS AND CHILDREN, and again as part of a cycle of songs I shared at my 25th high school reunion.

Then last year this version gracefully jumped out of my archives of past rehearsals with pianist Doug Hammer — and I decided I would wait until after our new president was inaugurated to release it.

After four years of a certain kind of leadership, I have been hungry for a new tone…

A new sense of respect…

A new vision for the future…

And new words…

Another deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

Ahhhhh….

Yes.

New words!

I have been told — and sometimes have experienced with my own eyes and ears — that underneath anger and acting out and conspiracy theories and doomsday scenarios and threatening comments and violence and all sorts of drama is simply…

Fear.

And pain.

Pain from past hurts…

Past losses…

Past disrespects…

Past disappointments…

Past abandonments…

Past abuses of trust…

Past unhappiness of all different shapes and sizes and colors and tastes and smells and densities…

Yes.

Pain.

And fear.

I breathe them in.

And then I breathe them out.

Ahhhhh….

Like many of us, I’ve experienced new pains and new fears during this past year.

I don’t need to go into any of the details, which I have so far chosen to keep private.

Suffice to say that some of them involve rites of passage related to families and health and time and aging which all of us inevitably experience in one form or another.

And some of them involve things which have happened locally, nationally, and globally.

I have a sense that our new president — who has himself experienced some of the most profound losses a human being can experience — and our new vice-president — who has experienced life as a child of immigrants, as a woman, as a person of color, as an attorney general, and as a US senator — may be able to offer us some new words of consolation.

And comfort.

And acknowledgement.

And justice.

And inspiration.

And healing.

We shall see…

Yet another deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

As regular readers of my blog already know, in addition to writing postcards to potential voters in swing states and going for long walks in local cemeteries full of trees, I find refuge and inspiration in music.

The song “New Words” reminds me of the Music Together classes I lead each week — which give me much-needed infusions of joy and spontaneity and playfulness and creativity and connectedness and love.

We set aside the worries of the world for 45 precious minutes and are present with each other — having fun clapping and snapping and drumming and waving scarves and shaking rhythm eggs and singing and dancing together — even via Zoom.

Some families have stayed with me for many years — so I experience the happiness of bearing witness to their children’s new movements, new vocabulary, new ideas, new competencies, new stuffed animals, new Lego creations, and, yes, even new siblings!

Part of me is amazed that anyone would dare to bring a child into a world teetering on the brink of so many disasters.

Yet part of me also sees how these precious, blessed beings can awaken a profound sense of responsibility and interconnectedness in their parents.

I hear mothers who are breast-feeding begin to re-think what they are themselves eating — and start to become curious about how and where and by whom our food is grown and processed.

I bear enthusiastic witness to families’ participation in social justice marches, in political activism, in fighting for a more respectful and sustainable future here on planet earth.

And I feel hope.

I feel love.

I do not know if love really IS capable of overcoming systemic racism, economic inequality, environmental degradation, accelerating rates of extinction, ignorant non-mask-wearers, brain-washed insurrectionists, and the myriad other challenges facing us here in the USA.

A very brave man who was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee over 50 years ago once said:

“We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.” (1958)

“We must combine the toughness of the serpent and the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart.” (1963)

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” (1963)

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” (1963)

And “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” (1967)

Yet ANOTHER deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

Ahhhhh….

This song inspires me to stick with love.

Thank you to Maury Yeston for writing it.

Thank you to Doug Hammer for playing such beautiful piano and then helping me to mix and master it via Zoom.

Thank you to the generous photographers at Pixabay for these glorious images.

And thank YOU for reading and listening to another one of my blog posts.

If for some reason you want to listen to this song on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, YouTube, Amazon or Tidal, you can click here for a link to those digital music platforms.

ps: As I was doing my final proof-reading of this blog post, I received an email from one of my favorite former Music Together parents.

She wrote:

“We have been enjoying your music on Spotify! I started following you, and now new songs of yours come up on my new release playlist that Spotify sends out periodically.

Scarlet (her super-sensitive, fairy-like, delightful daughter) especially loves ‘New Words’ — she stopped what she was doing and came over and gave me a hug when it came up on my playlist. She found it so moving, and she didn’t even know it was yours.”

One more deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

Ahhhhh…

This is why I do what I do.

If you are curious to learn more about my musical life here on planet earth, you are welcome to visit my website.

You can also find me on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music and other digital music platforms.

It’s Not Over…

I’ve been feeling stunned and disheartened and — yes — terrified by the events unfolding recently here in the USA.

Maybe you have been feeling something similar.

And I have been wondering — yet again — how music might in some small way help to heal the soul of our country.

I shared a blog post 14 months ago which featured a song I co-wrote called “Let The Day Unfold” and which I recorded using Apple’s wonderful GarageBand program.

You can click here for a link to that blog post if you are curious.

The version I am sharing at the top of today’s blog post is a stripped down piano + vocal recording I made with the wonderful pianist Doug Hammer at his studio north of Boston.

There are so many things one could write about recent events here in the USA that I find it hard to know where to begin.

Here are just a few thoughts that have jumped out at me…

Many white Americans I have seen on TV (and heard on the radio and read online) who have been attempting to make sense out of what recently transpired in our nation’s capital have said things like, “This is not who we are as a country.”

And many people of color have responded — respectfully and persistently — by saying, “Actually, this IS who we are as a country. This IS who we have been as a country for hundreds of years.”

I have found that when I listen to the news nowadays, all I want to hear is what people of color are saying, thinking, feeling and yes — for what must feel like the umpteenth time to them — explaining to the rest of us.

They have lived with violence and threats of violence and terrorist acts — such as public murders/lynchings — for generation after generation after generation.

And — as one woman’s extraordinarily articulate and passionate viral video this summer further explained — they are not (amazing to me…) seeking vengeance.

They are seeking justice.

In recent days I have heard several African-American college historians explain, and re-explain, and explain yet again how every advance made by people of color in this country has been met by a huge — and terrifying — backlash from unhappy (and extremely vengeful) white folks.

They have pointed to our recent election of the first African-American/South Asian-American woman as vice president as well as the election of the first African-American and Jewish-American US senators from the southern state of Georgia as being one of the precipitating factors in the white mob take-over of our Capital building last Wednesday.

Ashton Lattimore, in a recent Prism report explains:

“Any flex of political power by Black and brown people in the United States (is) followed by a reactionary white supremacist show of force. The pattern of racist white backlash to the barest hint of racial progress has persisted since the earliest days of the republic up until now, from antebellum white mobs attacking free Black people essentially just for existing, to the Civil War itself and post-Reconstruction violence punishing Black self-determination in Tulsa, to the violent resistance to the civil rights movement, and then the enraged, panicked genesis of the Tea Party and the Trump era immediately after the election of the first Black president. Against that historical backdrop, the white insurrectionist takeover of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was as predictable as a pendulum’s swing.”

You can read her entire article by clicking here.

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

My brain now turns to is something I read earlier today.

A Republican congressman was explaining why many of his colleagues in the House of Representatives continue to support the charade of voter fraud even after an angry mob had burst into the Capitol building and sent them all into hiding.

According to him, they are scared about the safety of their family members.

That’s what terrorism does.

It makes people scared.

I empathize with these scared congressmen and congresswomen AND I want to say to them, “Do you get it now?! This is what people of color have been living with for hundreds of years! Do you get it now?!”

I wonder if any of them do or will.

I have certainly been slow to get it — or at least to begin to get it…

Another deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

I chose photographs of sunrises for this blog post from the Pixabay website because I am guessing that most of us have already seen more than enough disturbing images from our nation’s capital.

I hope you are finding ways — going for a well-masked walk, stretching, visiting with loved ones via Zoom, singing, praying, writing, cooking, etc. — to keep well during this seemingly-ever-more-challenging time in our lives.

I offer my (perhaps now familiar) thanks for food, for shelter, for employment, for electricity, for internet access, for running water, for soap, for friends and family, for Doug Hammer, and for my fellow bloggers.

Let the day unfold… this life is wide open.

Every plan we make… can be broken.

We’ve got to find the strength to lose some of our cherished point of views…

We’ve got to have hope… it’s not over!

ps: I am aware that the correct grammar for the chorus of “Let The Day Unfold” is “cherished pointS of view,” but that didn’t rhyme as well.

pps: If you are wanting to hear even more music which might comfort and/or inspire your spirit, you are welcome to visit the mini-website which songwriter Barbara Baig and I have started to honor her (similarly titled) song “Let Me Be Strong.”

We’d love to hear from you there!

ppps: You are also welcome to visit my website, and you can find me on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music and other digital music platforms.

The Parting Glass

Well, 2020 has come to a close…

How are you feeling?

How about a beloved Scottish/Irish song which — I have read — is often sung at the end of a gathering of friends (in the player at the beginning of this blog post)?

That’s what the WordPress blogging community has felt like to me this year — a much-needed and much-appreciated gathering of friends.

I toast you one and all!

Looking back on the past year, I see that my response to Covid-19 entering our lives has been two-fold.

Both involved connecting with other human beings via music and stories.

My first response was to lead nightly half-hour sing-alongs via Facebook Live (which I had reluctantly learned how to use for my Music Together classes).

These sing-alongs lasted for several months and consisted of one Broadway song, one Beatles song, one original song, and a few favorites from the pop/rock/folk canon per night.

I also looked up the history of each song and shared a brief story about how they each came to be written.

A small community of singers/listeners — for whom I am very grateful — developed around these nightly sing-alongs.

I was also very grateful to have a daily musical goal — selecting, researching and practicing a short set of songs to share each evening.

Since all of my public gigs at libraries, retirement communities, synagogues, coffee houses, etc. were cancelled, these nightly sing-alongs gave my life some structure and meaning — and an uplifting sense of connection with other human beings.

Thank you to all of my Facebook sing-along friends and relations!

Then it was time for my summer camping sojourn on Cape Cod — which is also when I focus on writing new songs.

The sing-alongs stopped, and when I returned from the Cape, I shifted my focus to learning how to release music via digital music platforms… and to blogging.

I hadn’t written a blog post since March — but began again in September.

Like the sing-alongs, blogging is a way to connect with other music-loving human beings while sharing some of my thoughts and feelings about what is happening here on planet earth.

Thank you to anyone and everyone who devoted a precious few minutes of their lives to reading one of my blog posts this year.

And thank you to those who composed their thoughts and wrote a comment, too!

I have been honored to see the total numbers of visitors and page views continue to rise each month.

Pianist Doug Hammer and I recorded “The Parting Glass” a couple of years ago when I was learning a bunch of Irish-related songs for an hour-long musical program in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

It uses the same tune as another song called “Sweet Coothill Town,” which is about emigrating from Ireland to America.

Doug and I have been excavating the past 20+ years of our musical collaboration — almost all of which was recorded so that I could have piano tracks with which to practice/learn new songs — in order to find music gems we can polish and share.

I am very grateful for Doug’s gifts at the piano keyboard as well as his gifts as an engineer and audio archivist.

Let us hum along in honor of the end of 2020 and all that we have lost — which may include friends, family, and other beloved members of our community as well as many ways of being in the world (going to the movies, eating in a restaurant, attending a sports event, etc. etc. etc.) which we might have previously taken for granted…

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

I look at our human response to the challenge of Covid-19 as a preview of our human response to the even more enormous, profound, and far-reaching challenge of climate change.

Who will listen to our scientific community?

Who will remain in denial?

Who will be willing to change DEEPLY ingrained assumptions and habits and hopes and dreams — about how often we travel, about how large our houses can be, about how many cars we own, about how fast and far we can drive, about what we eat, about how we use water, about how much electricity we use to write and read blog posts, and on and on and on — in the days and weeks and months and years ahead?

As the father of one of my friends used to say, “The jury is still out…”

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

Thank you to Doug Hammer for his ongoing presence in my musical life here on planet earth.

Thank you to the wonderful photographers at Pixabay for their beautiful images.

And thank YOU for reading and listening to my last blog post of 2020.

May continued hand-washing, continued mask-wearing, continued social distancing, and much-needed vaccines allow us to return to some sort of new, post-pandemic way of life in 2021.

If you are curious to hear more music, I’ve released a couple of songs in the past week.

You can click here to listen to the Frank Loesser classic — “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”

And you can click here to listen to Irving Berlin’s beloved “Count Your Blessings.”

Now I will end with a lovely dog-themed image that I found on Pixabay.

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

A happy and healthy new year to you and yours!!!

ps: You are always welcome to visit my website, and you can find me on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music and other digital music platforms.

Just Stay With Me…

It’s a gray day here in the Boston area.

Rain is forecast for Christmas Day, which will probably melt the snow that fell last week.

Lot of folks are curtailing their holiday plans and modifying — or outright cancelling — long-standing family traditions in response to the fact that hospitals around the USA are again overloaded with Covid-19 cases.

And the infection numbers just keep rising…partly due to all the traveling that folks did a few weeks ago during Thanksgiving.

And the refrigerated trailer trucks parked outside of hospitals continue to fill up with the bodies of folks who have died — with no friends or family members at their side — as a result of this public health tragedy.

This is sad on so many levels.

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

Even in the best of years, winter holidays can be a very difficult time for some of us.

I read a couple of blog posts by my fellow bloggers this morning while I was avoiding other tasks on my “to do” list.

Clare from North Suffolk in England shared a bit about the challenges her family is facing this year, especially those who already experience high levels of anxiety about life here on planet earth.

She writes: “The damage all this isolation and lock-down is doing to so many people, physically, mentally and financially is unimaginably great…”

Another deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

Clare’s blog post reminded me of this song, written by John Meyer (in the audio player above).

I do not remember when I first heard “After The Holidays.”

Judy Garland performed it on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1968 — and many copies of that performance can be found on YouTube.

I am guessing that it was included on some sort of Judy Garland compilation CD — released long after her death in 1969 — which I ended up listening to…

Here is Judy in 1963, photographed by Richard Avedon.

The man who wrote the song, John Meyer, had an intense, three-month-long relationship with Judy when he was starting his career as a writer.

He chronicles it in a very vivid book he wrote called Heartbreaker.

I think his relationship with Judy ended when she got serious about another man, Mickey Deans.

Here she is with Mickey in London during their wedding on March 15, 1969.

Judy was living with Mickey in London when she died on June 22, 1969.

It is my understanding, after reading many books about Judy Garland, that she often did not like to be left alone.

Mel Torme — a wonderful singer who also co-wrote “The Christmas Song” — wrote a book about his time working on Judy’s TV series.

In it he talks about becoming a member of “The Dawn Patrol” — a select group of staff members who would take turns spending the night with Judy and reassuring her that her show was going well.

Loneliness is certainly something that most of us have experienced at one time or another.

And loneliness during the holidays can be particularly excruciating.

By a sweet coincidence, while I was avoiding things on my “to do” list, I also found a video on YouTube about two dogs, Taco (a chihuahua) and Merrill (a pit bull mix), who were dropped off at a shelter together and did NOT want to be seperated.

In hopes of finding someone who would be willing to adopt both of them, the people who worked at their shelter started sharing posts via social media about their special bond.

They ended up being adopted by a family who started a Facebook page about them, because so many other people wanted to know what had happened to them.

Hurrah for this one, small, canine happy ending!

I also would like for this blog post to have a happy musical ending.

So I am including links to several songs which pianist Doug Hammer and I have released this month to various musical platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music.

You can click here to listen to our version of “We Need A Little Christmas.”

You can click here to listen to our version of “Winter Wonderland.” 

You can click here to listen to our version of “The Christmas Song.”

You can click here to listen to our version of “Silver Bells” (which was featured in a recent blog post).

And you can click here to listen to our version of “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day.”

Thank you to Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons for the images in this blog post.

Thank you to Doug Hammer for his gifts as a pianist as well as a recording engineer.

Thank you to John Meyer for his beautiful song and to Judy Garland for being the first person to breath life into it.

And thank you to YOU for reading and listening to another one of my blog posts!

May your holiday season be filled with comforting music and light.

ps: You are always welcome to visit my website, and you can find me on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music and other digital music platforms.

Let My Heart Be Open…

These are challenging times.

I’ve been reading a lot of posts — as well as the comments they elicit — by my fellow bloggers.

One theme that often emerges is Covid-fatigue.

This is not the fatigue that one experiences when one contracts the Covid-19 virus (although I have been told that fatigue is often a symptom of Covid-19 infection and can last much longer than one would like…)

This is being tired of wearing a mask outside and sometimes even inside if one is quarantining at home with others.

This is being tired of not seeing people’s faces — and smiles — while going to work or buying groceries or walking one’s dog.

This is being tired of feeling scared that one might contract the virus.

This is being tired of feeling upset by the folks who have been listening to a different stream of news — one in which mask-wearing is not necessary and the virus is nothing to fear.

This is — in some very sad cases — being heart-broken that one is unable to visit and comfort a loved one who is fighting for her or his life in a hospital.

This is being tired of not seeing one’s extended web of family and friends at Thanksgiving — and probably not seeing them for the winter holidays either…

This is being tired of not being able to do many of the things that some of us formerly took for granted — like BBQ-ing with friends, or seeing a movie in a theater, or going on a date, or eating in a restaurant, or attending a concert or…. you fill in the blank.

The list goes on and on.

The news of surprisingly robust results from many different vaccine trials gives me a shred of hope — a possible light at the end of a long tunnel.

But this will take time — more time than most of us want to acknowledge.

And we will probably need to wear our masks even AFTER we have been vaccinated because there is very little data — yet — about how infectious those who have been vaccinated may be to others who have not yet been vaccinated.

And not everyone — for a spectrum of reasons both historical and personal and political — may agree to be vaccinated…

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

Then there is the fatigue — physical, emotional, spiritual — that our nurses and EMTs and doctors and others who help to take care of Covid-19 patients are experiencing.

In many cases it is beyond fatigue.

It is trauma.

We are going to emerge from this health crisis with a significant number of our caregivers having been traumatized and in need of all sorts of healing for THEIR bodies, minds and spirits.

Some of them may decide that they can no longer risk their lives taking care of others — especially others who minimize and/or deny the threat of Covid-19 (and thus help to worsen everyone’s collective health and the horrific burden being placed on our health care workers).

I learned recently that one of my friends — a former housemate with whom I lived after college (along with three other people) in a run-down but functional duplex apartment outside Central Square in Cambridge, MA — just spent five days in a hospital fighting to breathe with a Covid infection.

He posted on Facebook:

“I didn’t get the mild version. It was a grueling, terrifying experience. I would like to make a plea for any of you who doubt the danger of this bug to rethink that. If you are thinking, ‘I probably won’t get it’ or ‘it probably won’t kill me’ you’re in danger — and the people around you are as well. Please don’t let your guard down. You’ll never know what you’re missing.”

In another post he shared more details:

“When my COVID was at its worst I had a temperature of 103, and each breath only gave me a few teaspoons of air. I would get panicked, and I would cough and gasp, but there was no more room in my lungs. A nurse at the ER told me to try not to cough; so I started counting my breaths, trying to make it to 100 without coughing. I’d get to about 37 and involuntarily cough/gasp. And then came one of those moments when you realize you had something and never appreciated it and maybe it’s gone. I wanted a regular breath, nothing fancy, and if I could have it I wouldn’t take it for granted anymore. So today I am deeply thankful for my lungs. I’m sharing this hoping that, if you don’t already appreciate your lungs, you’ll take a nice deep breath and appreciate them right now…”

Deep breath in.

And out.

So how did my friend end up in the hospital?

“I got a flu shot the Wednesday of the week before Thanksgiving. Felt achy the next day. Not sure if it was the shot or COVID. By Saturday my chest was getting tight. On Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday. I was going to the ER every evening (it gets bad in the evening — no one can tell me how the virus knows what time it is), struggling to breath, doing this sort of gasping/cough thing that just excited my lungs and made them more desperate. Fever kept getting worse — 103 degrees by Wednesday, (when) I went to a new hospital.”

They admitted my friend and started him on a 5 day course of Remdesivir.

At this point I didn’t know where this was going. The thing about the coughing/gasping is that they really didn’t have anything to stop it. I asked a doctor how concerned he was that I might die, and he said, “Not at all.” That was reassuring. Up until then I was worried about A) being on a ventilator and B) dying. They tell me that they don’t put people on ventilators as much now that they know more about treatment. Gradually, my symptoms receded. Very grateful.”

He was treated in the hospital with Remdesivir, oxygen, cough syrup, nebulizer treatments, and tylenol to control his fever.

He’s pretty sure he got Covid from his 18-year-old daughter, who had a fever for a couple of days and then was fine.

His final comment on Facebook was:

“(Covid infection) varies greatly and it can turn on a dime.”

Another deep breath in.

And out.

Paul is the second person I know who has been hospitalized due to Covid.

The other — as regular readers of this blog may remember — is a fellow singer who ended up on a ventilator for many weeks and then spent time in rehab for weeks after that.

Both friends are now at home and gradually recovering their strength.

There but for the grace of g-d — along with a few face masks, a lot of physical/social distancing, and regular handwashing — go I…

And ANOTHER deep breath in.

And out.

Yesterday morning I picked up a bunch of postcards for me and two friends to personalize and then mail to potential voters in Georgia.

I loved riding my bike — and not burning any fossil fuels — while picking up and then delivering postcards to my friends.

Climate change is a WHOLE OTHER CRISIS which many of us — similar to the Covid-downplayers and non-mask-wearers during our current Covid crisis — are in denial about.

But that’s a topic for another blog post…

I definitely experienced — and was grateful for — my lungs as I pedaled up a bridge and over the commuter railroad tracks that separate Cambridge from Somerville.

I was also grateful that yesterday’s rain waited until I was home from my postcard pickup and deliveries to begin its gentle precipitation.

And I am grateful to share that a song I recorded many years ago — “Let Me Be Strong” by Barbara Baig — now has its own mini-website.

You can click here to check it out (and you may recognize the names of a few fellow bloggers on the feedback page, bless them…)

I met Barbara when I was organizing open mics at the Cambridge Center For Adult Education in Harvard Square, where I worked for 16 years,

As you may also remember from a recent blog post about how modestly streaming platforms currently pay recording artists and songwriters, it is unlikely that we will make much money from distributing “Let Me Be Strong.”

But we have gotten such positive feedback that we decided — as a kind of mitzvah — to create this mini-website and devote some energy to sharing her song with the rest of the world (or at least those people who have access to digital music platforms…)

The chorus of her song says:

“Let me be strong and moving through fear.

When the truth is blinding, let me see it clear.

And when love comes, let me not hide.

Let my heart be open, let love inside.”

Easier said (or sung) than done, I know — but potentially helpful words for the days and weeks and months ahead…

We have begun reaching out to radio DJs, nurses, doctors, yoga instructors, hospital chaplains, ministers, rabbis, and anyone else whom we think might appreciate hearing the song — and possibly sharing it with others.

We would be honored if YOU, too, are moved to share “Let Me Be Strong” with anyone in your web of family and friends.

You can use the share option by clicking on the upper right corner of this page of our mini-website if the spirit moves you.

We also welcome any ideas about other people, DJs, yoga instructors, nurses, doctors, rabbis, ministers, chaplains, etc. to whom we might reach out — one heart to another.

Clearly a lot of our hearts in the USA are quite frozen with fear (and rage) these days.

And music is one way that we can thaw out and begin to feel/heal…

Deep breath in.

And out.

Let’s all keep singing and dancing and listening to music whenever we can muster the time and energy and heart in the weeks ahead!

In addition to my lungs, I am grateful for pianist/producer Doug Hammer, with whom I recorded “Let Me Be Strong” along with Gene Roma (drums) and Chris Rathbun (bass).

I am grateful that my two friends are recovering from Covid-19.

I am grateful for Barbara Baig, who wrote this song.

I am grateful to Pixabay for their wonderful images.

And I am grateful to YOU for reading and listening to another one of my blog posts.

Thank you!

I hope you remain well — and well-masked AND well-rested — as viral and political turmoil continue to swirl through our lives.

May our Covid fatigue diminish…

Let us continue to hope for brighter, wiser, happier days ahead

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

And maybe a refreshing shake!

ps: You are always welcome to visit my website, and you can find me on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music and other digital music platforms.


Silver Bells


This year December arrived in Boston with rain and wind.

I had to lead my final Music Together class of the fall term via Zoom rather than outside in a local park — which is where, wearing masks and sitting in a circle on blankets set 10 feet apart from each other, we have been meeting weekly for the past two and a half months.

We have a two-week session featuring winter holiday songs starting next week, and then a few weeks of downtime.

I never imagined I’d be leading music classes out of doors in December, but if the sun is shining — and we wear enough layers of clothing — most families have been quite enthusiastic about making music outside.

2020 is a year full of surprises, and we are doing our best to remain flexible — and safe!

As regular readers of my blog posts know, during this pandemic I’ve begun distributing songs to digital music services such as Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music.

During the month of December I hope to release one winter holiday song per week.

You can click here to listen to “We Need A Little Christmas” and click here to listen to “Winter Wonderland” if you are curious.

I’ll also be sharing a few holiday songs in blog posts.

Jay Livingston and Ray Evans

Today’s song — “Silver Bells” — was written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans for a 1950 movie, The Lemon Drop Kid, where it was sung by Marilyn Maxwell and Bob Hope.

Jay (who wrote the music) and Ray (who wrote the lyrics) were a famous songwriting team with many hits to their credit including “Mona Lisa” and “Que Sera Sera.”

They were also both Jewish.

Jay was born Jacob Harold Levison in 1915 in a small industrial suburb of Pittsburgh, PA, and Ray was born Raymond Bernard Evans the same year in Salamanca (not far from Buffalo) N.Y.

They met at the University of Pennsylvania when they both joined the university dance band, and their songwriting partnership endured until Livingston’s death in 2001.

As I have noted in previous blog posts, many of my most favorite winter holiday songs were written by Jewish songwriters.

This fact is an example (to me, at least) of the pluralism that the USA has occasionally been able to embrace — and model for others — during our ever-evolving history.

I love that “White Christmas,” “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “The Christmas Song” (among many others!) were written by Jewish songwriters — many of them immigrants or the children of immigrants.

I always associate “Silver Bells” with my mother’s mother — a hard-working private nurse who lived in the borough of Queens for most of her life and no doubt did a lot of her holiday shopping on “city sidewalks, busy sidewalks — decked in holiday style.”

In the movie The Lemon Drop Kid, Bob Hope’s character is involved with gambling and ends up owing $10,000 to a mobster.

His solution is to disguise himself as Santa Claus and raise money from holiday donations.

In some interviews Jay Livingston explained that the inspiration for the song came from the bells rung by Salvation Army volunteers during the holiday season.

However, in an interview on NPR after Livingston had died, Ray Evans said that they were inspired by an actual bell which one of them kept on his desk at Paramount Pictures, where they were under contract at the time.

Probably the song was inspired by both of these things…

Not every song has a great verse — which is often why they are not included in popular recordings.

But “Silver Bells” has a lovely verse:

“Christmas makes you feel emotional…

It may bring parties or thoughts devotional…

Whatever happens and what may be, here is what Christmas-time means to me.”

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

I hope we are able to consume fewer things this holiday season.

One of the reasons why I am excited about releasing songs via digital music platforms is that I no longer need to create a CD to share my music.

I found these rather stunning statistics on the web site of a waste disposal company in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

  • To manufacture a pound of plastic (30 CDs per pound), it requires 300 cubic feet of natural gas, 2 cups of crude oil and 24 gallons of water.
  • It is estimated that it will take over 1 million years for a CD to completely decompose in a landfill.
  • People throw away millions of music CDs each year!
  • Every month approximately 100,000 pounds of CDs become obsolete (outdated, useless, or unwanted).

Yikes!

A New Jersey company called Back Thru The Future says, however, that “CDs can be recycled for use in new products. Specialized electronic recycling companies clean, grind, blend, and compound the discs into a high-quality plastic for a variety of uses, including: automotive industry parts, raw materials to make plastics, office equipment, alarm boxes and panels, street lights, and electrical cable insulation, and even jewel cases.”

And they offer a free recycling service if one pays to send one’s old CDs, DVDs and hard drives to them:

“CDs and hard drives are made of high value recyclable material – polycarbonate plastic and aluminum respectively. The recycling of CDs and hard drives saves substantial amounts of energy and prevents significant amounts of both air and water pollution attributed to the manufacturing of these items from virgin material.”

Maybe THAT will be one of my holiday projects this year… recycling CDs and DVDs that I will never listen to again.

Another deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

The news here in the USA seems to become simultaneously more hopeful (with the Biden-Harris team starting to build their administrative teams) and terrifying (with supporters of our current president calling for violence and even martial law) each day that we move closer to a graceless and belligerent transition of power.

So I will end this blog post with a bunch of lovely images from Pixabay which the song “Silver Bells” reminded me of.

Thank you to Jay and Ray for writing this song.

Thank you to the executives at Paramount who kept renewing Jay and Ray’s songwriting contracts.

Thank you to Doug Hammer for being such a terrific collaborator.

Thank you for the sun continuing to shine on our blue-green planet.

Thank you for the new, more energy efficient windows in our basement — with blown insulation in our walls on the horizon…

Thank you for the natural gas (energy collected by plants long ago from the sun) now fueling our furnace and kitchen stove.

Thank you for vegetables — which capture energy from the sun and convert it into delicious things for us to eat, such as bell peppers.

Thank you for all the families who have chosen to make music together with me during the past few years. I am grateful for our musical sessions, which serve — for me at least — as a much-needed respite from the unsettling news swirling through our lives these days.

And thank YOU for reading and listening to this blog post!

ps: You are always welcome to visit my website, and you can find me on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music and other digital music platforms.