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.

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!!!

Walking In A Winter Wonderland

Walking In A Winter Wonderland

It’s the end of another year.

And the beginning of another winter.

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Although the days are getting longer, many months of cold and icy weather lie ahead…

Today I am visiting my sisters and nephews in upstate NY, where a flow of air from the Arctic has lowered the temperature to the single digits.

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At least once a day we bundle up and tromp with the dogs through fields and woods, observing nature in a somewhat frozen, dormant state.

Ponds are covered with ice and snow.

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Creeks are mostly a cascade of ice, with an occasional hint of water still flowing underneath.

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Crows fly overhead.

We see many animal tracks in the snow — rabbits and deer and something very large (a bear?) which is stepped on by one of the dogs before we can correctly identify it.

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Woodpeckers and blue jays and cardinals and chickadees and sparrows and finches visit the bird feeder.

How any animal manages to stay alive during the long winter months amazes me.

The nights are SO COLD with a breeze to make it feel even colder.

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I made this recording of “Winter Wonderland” with Doug Hammer at his studio in Lynn, MA, many summers ago.

It is another great winter holiday song written or co-written by a Jewish lyricist or composer.

In this case the composer, Felix Bernard, was Jewish.

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Born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1897, his father was a violinist from Germany while his mother was Russian. His family spoke Yiddish at home.

Felix worked as a pianist on the American vaudeville circuits, and also performed in Europe. Like many other composers (including Jerome Kern and George Gershwin) he worked at one point for a music publishing company, and eventually formed his own dance band.

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According to historian Nate Bloom, he also “wrote special musical programs for leading singers of his day, including Sophie Tucker, Eddie Cantor, Al Jolson, and Nora Bayes (all of whom were Jewish).”

Unfortunately he died when he was only 47 years old.

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

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Wikipedia tells us that Richard Smith — an Episcopalian — was inspired to write the lyrics for “Winter Wonderland” after seeing the Central Park in Honesdale, PA (his hometown) covered in snow.

He contracted tuberculosis in 1931 and died at Lenox Hill Hospital in NYC in 1935 — just a year after “Winter Wonderland” was published and recorded.

He was only 34 years old.

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Another deep breath in.

And out.

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I love the melody of “Winter Wonderland” and agree with the lyrics — winter IS a great time for hoping and dreaming about the future.

What will 2018 hold for the astounding and intricate web of life on our planet — of which we humans are only one thread?

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Sometimes it seems like we human beings are an enormously successful invasive species — ignorant of our place in the web of life and daily ignoring the balances which must remain in effect between plants, animals, decomposers, microbes, etc. for all to flourish.

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Why do we human beings devote hours and hours and hours of our lives to watching (or listening to) seemingly endless amounts of news, commentary and speculation — as well as entertainment in the form of sports contests, TV shows, movies, web-videos, etc?

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Why do so many of us choose to live so many hours of our precious lives transfixed by an electricity-powered, screen-delivered deluge of images and words and ideas and stories and opinions and advertisements?

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There are so many more important things we could be doing — or NOT doing — which would actually be helping re-balance some part of life on planet earth which is currently out of balance.

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We could be sitting still and breathing.

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We could be helping someone else learn a new language or a new skill.

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We could be singing or dancing or maybe even making music with friends and family.

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We could be walking outside in a winter wonderland, gazing at trees and sky and earth.

Perhaps in 2018 more of us can choose to put down our phones, ignore our Facebook feeds, turn off our devices, and simply be with ourselves — and with the natural world — on a regular basis.

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As 2017 fades away…

Here’s to a sense of flow!

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Here’s to singing!

Here’s to consuming fewer natural resources!

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Here’s to health!

Here’s to friends!

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Here’s to family — human, animal, plant, fungal, microbial!

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Here’s to hope and faith and patience and perseverance!

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Here’s to life!

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Here’s to love!

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And here’s to you for reading and listening to another blog post!

Thank you for your participation with my blog in 2017.

Thank you, too, to my sister Christianne for letting me use a few of her lovely photographs — taken during current and past winter walks.

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A healthy, happy, well-balanced, low-impact, music-filled, surprisingly-satisfied New Year to you!