Once upon a time I co-starred in a movie called Goldenrodwhich was filmed in and around Calgary, Alberta.
It had a theatrical release in Canada (I think), and was shown in the USA on CBS-TV.
I was 14 years old.
Because of Canadian rules about airing a certain percentage of shows which have been produced in Canada, it still can be seen from time to time on Canadian TV.
One of the producers had a daughter whom I met on the set when she visited from Toronto.
Although it seemed unlikely at the time — since I lived in New York and Connecticut while she lived in Canada — Sarah James and I have remained friends ever since.
She still lives in Toronto, and like her father (and mother) she works in film and TV production.
For the past few years she’s been helping to create Canada’s version of the TV show The Amazing Race.
She and her husband — who among other things is a wonderful musician who has taught himself how to build ukuleles! — and daughter live in a sweet house with a small garden out back which ends at a garage.
Above the garage is an office/guest bedroom where I love to sleep and read and write songs when I visit them.
I started writing “Another Good Morning” a couple of springs ago.
The sun was shining.
Birds were singing.
And Sarah was making breakfast for all of us.
It is what I call a “gets-me-out-of-bed-in-the-morning” song.
I have probably mentioned this type of song before in this blog, because — in the spirit of “teach what you most want to learn” — I end up writing a lot of songs with upbeat messages.
Because I need them….to muster a little bit of optimism before I head out into the day.
As you have probably already guessed, I continue to love the photo site Pixabay.
I send a huge thank you to all the folks who have shared their lovely images there!
I do not own a cell phone or carry a camera…
But I appreciate those who do.
THANK YOU for reading and listening.
PS: The pianist on this song is the multi-gifted Doug Hammer, and we recorded it at his studio in Lynn, MA earlier this year. It is one of many we will be performing on April 30, 2016 at Third Life Studio in Somerville, MA.
As 2015 comes to a close, I find myself singing John Bucchino’s wise song, “Grateful,” a lot.
I love the entire song from start to finish (and you are welcome to listen to a version I recorded during a rehearsal with Doug Hammer a few years ago by activating the player at the beginning of this post).
I think my favorite lyric may be, “It’s not that I don’t want a lot, or hope for more…or dream of more — but giving thanks for what I’ve got, makes me so much happier than keeping score.”
It is very easy to fall into the trap of “keeping score” and comparing one’s accomplishments to one’s peers, to people on TV, to celebrities, etc. etc. etc.
But that path tends to be a dead end — and a recipe for dissatisfaction, unhappiness, depression and discouragement.
So here is a list of things (in no particular order) for which I am grateful.
Health…and health insurance.
A devoted and supportive life partner.
Dr. Charles Cassidy and his surgical team at Tufts Medical Center, who successfully pieced together the shattered bits of bone in my left elbow using several titanium screws of various sizes at the beginning of March.
Opiate drugs — which were a daily blessing during my elbow recovery.
Jazz pianist and composer Steve Sweeting, who invited me to record a CD of his tremendous original songs with him and then did two performances to celebrate “Blame Those Gershwins” in Manhattan and Somerville.
All of the families who have chosen to make Music Together with me in Belmont and Arlington — as well as my MT bosses.
Jinny Sagorin for lending her voice and heart and diplomatic feedback to “The Beauty All Around” performance.
Jazz pianist Joe Reid, with whom I put together programs of music about Jule Styne, Hoagy Carmichael, and Jerome Kern — and with whom I also performed programs of music about Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, and the Gershwin brothers at retirement communities, libraries and synagogues around the greater Boston area.
Exceeding my (modest) financial goals for 2015 — thanks in part to two well-paid musical projects at the beginning of the year.
Kyra and Briony and Jill for a heartful musical adventure in honor of an old friend.
Bobbi Carrey, who is embracing new (although not very musical) challenges in Kuala Lumpur.
It’s a perfect example of the kind of song I aspire to write — heartful and loving and wise and melodic.
In less than five minutes she inspires and comforts and counsels and softens the heart of the listener (and the singer) in a way that leaves me gently astounded.
Mother and son by the lake…
I first heard “May I Suggest” when a musical friend dropped off a CD at my house with a note saying that she could imagine me singing it.
I am guessing that was in 2008, because this recording is from a rehearsal with pianist Doug Hammer in September of that year.
I’m pretty sure I sang it as a final song in a concert that year at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, where I used to work.
Mother and son and sky…
Recently another musical friend mentioned to me that she had fallen in love this song…and then the random function in my iTunes library popped this take into my headphones as I was updating my database and mailing list.
So I am adding it to my list of songs to sing to myself in order to buttress my resolve as I prepare for the first public performance of all songs I have written or co-written (coming up on December 4th…)
Boy and uncle on boathouse
After I listen to the news on public radio from Syria, from Iraq, from Turkey, from Libya — and from many, many other tragic situations near and far on planet earth — I often wonder why I am bothering to devote hours of my life to an undertaking as utterly self-oriented as a performance of songs I have, for better and for worse, written.
And yet music CAN touch people’s hearts.
Music CAN comfort and inspire.
And music IS an activity which tends to bring people together — sometimes harmoniously!
Salamander on boy’s hand
So I count my blessings (another great song…written by Irving Berlin), and send emails to my elected officials, and donate extremely modest amounts of money to hard-working non-profit organizations, and write songs, and snuggle with my sweetheart, and lead my Music Together classes, and ride my bike, and sing!
The photos in this blog post were taken my my sister, Christianne, who blessedly documents our lives together.
Gosling and boy
These are all from summer 2015 when we gathered at a cottage which is shared by 50+ cousins (although usually not at the same time…) on Cayuga Lake in upstate NYC.
Our great grandfather bought it and then gave it to his six children and their descendents.
I feel my sister’s images complement the lyrics and tone of Susan Werner’s great song.
Into the lake!
I almost never remember to take photographs of life as it is happening, but I am very grateful to those who DO take pictures and then share them with the rest of us.
Thank you for reading and listening to another blog post!!!
I just returned from thirteen days of heaven on earth a.k.a. camping at North of Highland Campground in North Truro, MA (near the tip of Cape Cod).
One of the things I most love about camping is the lack of interruptions and distractions.
Life is distilled down to basics — and things like TV and America’s Got Talent and Netflix and Orange Is the New Black simply disappear from one’s awareness.
I did not speak with anyone via the telephone.
There was no internet tempting me to visit Facebook or Linked In.
I had no emails reminding me each day about a deeply discouraging array of horrible things happening all over planet earth which I could possibly help by signing a petition and/or donating money.
I listened to no radio.
I read very few magazines (mostly back issues of The New Yorker).
I received no snail mail full of solicitations from environmental defense organizations and prograssive lobbying groups and hard-working political candidates.
Instead I savored the rain and the sun.
And wind in the pine trees overhead.
And random sounds of fellow campers in the distance — sometimes the beep of a car with keys left in the ignition, sometimes the cry of a small child having an emotional melt down.
This year we arrived at the peak of blueberry abundance.
Little scrubby bushes which in past summers might have offered a few berries were now covered with them.
Each morning before the sun became too hot, I picked a mug-full to eat — first with oatmeal and then as an anti-oxidant treat throughout the rest of the day.
Some bushes had small berries, and others were loaded with whoppers.
On the morning of our departure, I picked one final mug’s worth to bring home to Arlington, and I am eating the last of them as I type this entry.
Yum for summer!
At first I was concerned that I might be depriving the local wild life of much-needed sustenance.
One morning I watched a small red squirrel pick blueberries, climb up on a small tree stump to eat them, climb down to pick more, climb back up to eat more until she or he apparently had eaten their fill and frisked off into the trees.
But that was the only animal consumption I witnessed.
And I saw many wrinkled, older berries on the ground under the bushes — so plenty of them were ripening and falling to the ground untouched by anyone.
I decided it was OK to revel in this unexpected, beautiful, delicious gift from mother earth.
And there were many berries I did not manage to pick and eat when we left our camp site…
Maybe the two wild turkeys we saw as we were packing up camp would return to savor them?
This morning I was given a link to a slide show that a father had put together to play at the memorial service for his four-year-old son, who had died as a result of complications after an unsuccessful heart transplant operation.
This radiant little being was a student of a fellow Music Together (MT) teacher, and she had reached out via Facebook to a bunch of MT teachers when he was about to go into surgery so that we might pray for him and his family and his caregivers.
Despite the massive amounts of time Aiden had spent in hospitals during his short, sweet life, he was able to stomp in rain puddles and play at the beach and attend Music Together classes with his parents.
Apparently he loved singing and dancing — and his parents included several MT songs as part of his slide show and memorial service.
From the slide show I could see how loved he was by his extended family.
And as a result of watching it, I brought an aching awareness of love and loss with me to my Music Together class this morning — and did my best to welcome and celebrate each being who came though the door.
The song at the beginning of this post was written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty for a musical called A Man Of No Importance.
I recorded it with Doug Hammer playing piano and Mike Callahan playing horn several years ago as part of my “Will Loves Steve” show — which featured songs written or co-written by people named Steve or Stephen or Stevie.
For me it captures some of the poignance of being a loving human here on planet earth.
“So Many Stars” is a song I have heard performed by many different singers, and I have always thought to myself, “I need to learn that song.”
This past summer I visited a pianist/songwriter friend and his family while attending a Music Together training session in Manhattan.
One evening we were brainstorming about possible future collaborations, and I mentioned that I have long wanted to do an evening of songs about stars — both the amazing energetic phenomena that we see at night and the human-created idea of “star” — as in “movie star” or “Broadway star.”
To get us started, he gave me the sheet music for “So Many Stars,” which I promptly began learning.
Pianist Doug Hammer and I recorded the version I have included at the top of this post — and then I went camping for two weeks with family on Cape Cod.
One of the things I love about getting away from the city is gazing at the sky on a cloudless night.
A couple of times I walked down to the beach after dusk and sang “So Many Stars” over and over again while the universe beamed light across unimaginably vast distances to trigger the rhodopsin in my eyeballs — and awaken a sense of wonder in my mind, body, and spirit.
The deceptively simple lyrics of “So Many Stars” were written by the wife-and-husband team of Marilyn and Alan Bergman for a wonderful melody by Sérgio Mendes, a Brazilian pianist and songwriter.
There are so many ironies about the lives that we “modern” human beings have created here at the beginning of the 21st century on planet earth.
One of them is how — in the interest of sense of safety and security and advertising — we have erected vast numbers of exterior lights, which means that we are less and less able to experience the truly amazing sight of a starry, starry night — along with the humility and curiosity and mystery that it can evoke in us.
Deep breath in.
Deep breath out.
Hurrah for rhodopsin, and thank you for reading and listening!
I find camping to be a terrific reminder of many important things — how little water one needs to wash dishes, for example. Or wash one’s hands. Or take a shower.
The campground has cabins with sinks and toilets and showers, but the sinks have taps which automatically shut off after about three seconds — a simple and very effective reminder to use water more mindfully — and the showers are activated by quarters (25 cents for three minutes of hot water).
And in upstate New York I simply jumped — except for the times when my feisty nephew Ryder pushed me — into the lake each morning and then scrubbed with Dr. Bronner’s soap and a washcloth.
We had no radio, no TV, and no internet.
We awoke early — due to birds singing their morning songs — and went to bed early, too.
Sometimes we all sang together after dinner — songs written by the Beatles being the most popular selections.
I wrote new songs for most of each day — happily holed up with my ukulele and laptop computers and rhyming dictionary — and then joined other family members for a swim in the late afternoon.
One of the most powerful part of camping for me is being reminded of the ebb and flow of life.
We see it at the beach.
The waves flow in and out at the water’s edge.
The tide rises and falls, sweeping the ocean shore clean of footprints twice a day — while revealing (and then concealing) sand bars, rocks, shells, crabs, sea weed, drift wood, and tiny jumping sand fleas.
Back at camp, we see neighboring tent sites fill with new arrivals and then empty at the end of the week.
What was a colorful array of tents and coolers and towels and bikes becomes a community of pine trees, a picnic table, some squirrels, and lots of open air.
I find it a very poignant reminder of mortality — my own as well as the mortality of all the people and places and animals and plants I love here on planet earth.
This feeling of mortality seeped into the song I wrote, “Under My Umbrella,” which is embedded at the top of the page.
It seems to fit with the days getting shorter as we approach the autumnal equinox.
As some of you may know, I recently returned from a sweet trip to visit friends in Shanghai.
Lots of late night biking around the section of Shanghai formerly known as the French Concession, fresh fruits and vegetables on sale everywhere (as well as turtles, frogs, fish, and much, much more…) and music.
One of my friends is a wonderful composer, jazz pianist, and teacher. He and his family have been living in Shanghai for seven years, and a couple of years ago he started teaching music in the school his younger child attends.
I was able to visit some of his classes and was happy to see — and hear — how much his students love to sing.
We even taught them a song that my friend and I had written together (back when he lived with his grand piano above an ice cream shop in Allston, MA) called “Let’s Go To The River.”
They learned it immediately, and sang it with great gusto.
I was delighted.
A few days after I returned home to Boston, when it looked like my friend’s primary vocal ensemble might be participating in a VIP concert for the mayor of Shanghai, two of China’s top conductors came to hear his choir sing.
They listened to three pop/rock/show tunes, responded warmly, and asked, “what else do you have?”
My friend projected the lyrics for “Let’s Go to The River” up on a screen at the front of his classroom, and his choir performed a rousing version for them.
After class, the conductors stayed to talk about having his choir participate in the upcoming concert. One of the maestros tactfully talked about the importance of choosing songs with lyrics that would be totally apolitical. He suggested “What a Wonderful World,” my friend suggested “Singing in the Rain,” and they decided that a song in Chinese would be great, too.
The maestro again reinforced the necessity of choosing lyrics with an eye to political sensitivity.
My friend didn’t think too much about the maestro’s remarks until they left — and he went back into his classroom and saw my lyrics still up on the screen.
The two conductors had had a lot of time to study the message of “Let’s Go to the River,” and my friend realized that it may have made them nervous that he was teaching such ‘subversive’ messages to primary school students AND might try to go public with such a message.
I have typed the lyrics below.
Perhaps they are a bit subversive for our ever-more-wired-and-plugged-in-and-distracted culture in the United Stated of America, too!
Let’s Go To The River
What a day! Let’s go to the river — do something we never have the time to do.
We could say today’s a vacation — a small invitation to wander away.
Leave your phone, your fax, and your datebook…
Yeah, even that great book you never seem to read.
Spread your wings and slide out a window — wherever the wind blows, catch a ride.
Can we be without an agenda? Nothing to remember, deliver, or to do.
The pavement is humming, and there’s different drumming all along the way.
Right away our energy’s rising; no analyzing what we need to do.
We’re on our way to whatever may happen — a tisket, a tasket — and it doesn’t have to rhyme.
Pick up a papaya, instead of a sixpack.
Dance among the plants.
Just decide; today’s an adventure — zip zap bodilee doh doo day.