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Friday, November 23, 2018

House Concert in Toronto

(Here is one from the photo archives!)  

Back in March of 2017, Lynn Westerhout hosted a house concert and a day of workshops at BEDLAM (her home in NW Toronto.)

This was our first time to meet in person but what fun connection we had.

Tam Kearney Dulcimer that was loaned to me.
With host, Lynn Westerhout

Her partner, now deceased, was Tam Kearney, maker of mountain dulcimers, and I was able to play two of them in the concert!  Tam was also co-founder of Toronto's Fiddler's Green (folk music group that was inspirational for the local folk scene in the 1970s and 1980s.

I also borrowed Kathy Reid Naiman's hammered dulcimer and my son, Zach's, guitar.

House Concert Set up
Kathy and I have connected through the Children's Music Network(CMN) and she had attended one of my Music Together Classes after we both participated in the annual CMN gathering in Los Gatos, CA in October of 2016.

Lynn and I connected through our mutual friend, Ken Whiteley, who produced my a piece of it all recording in 2007 and with whom I did a studio concert at his Roxton Road Studio on this tour.

Happy Crowd!
The crowd came from Toronto, from Guelph and other parts of Ontario.  I love the personal interactions that result in such close-up-and-personal settings.

I also love how these kinds of musical sharings expose young people to different genres and historical eras of folk music and inspire them to play what and how they play.

(My conversation with the youth in the audience on this school night revealed this result again.)

And, of course, the fellowship of this one-time gathering of this community is cemented by food!  Tasty, healthy warming the heart, body and soul!
The other benefit:  Great eats and drinks to facilitate community!

In Ken's rear studio on Sunday afternoon, we had a standing room only crowd and Ken and I traded songs back and forth, and we played on each other's tunes, including a rocking piano and Hammond B4 duet with the audience singing in full-throated harmony!

The roof may not have lifted but the spirits of all in attendance were soaring!

Ken Whiteley

Monday, October 8, 2018

My Review of a Great Book!

"Creating transforms the lens through which I see the world"

Lisa Sniderman's new book shines a light in the darkness of deep disruption:  a body that is afflicted with a puzzling condition that tries to coax the mind and soul into the pit of despair and isolation.  

An award-winning singer-songwriter who built a following with her art and her persona Aoede (the muse), Lisa found this character inspired her to recreate her life and career after surviving a debilitating illness.  "Creating transforms the lens through which I see the world," she writes.  

Lisa quotes the African proverb: "When the music changes, so does the dance."  And then she describes quite honestly and clearly the new moves and steps that she has taken in the new dance which have helped her not only to heal, but to thrive and inspire others to heal and thrive.  While this dance is intensely personal, it is not a solo, and Lisa celebrates the web of relationships that all the dancers and music makers have contributed and shared to carry her through and forward.

As a fellow musician, and a cancer survivor myself, I find many connections from her story to my own transformation and survival.  Creating has been the light to my path as I go forward with eagerness and hope.  

It is tempting, in the post-critical status after an illness or medical episode, to slide into rhythms that cause us to become distant from our own experience.  Reading this book sent me digging through my own journals and poring over 5 years of Caring Bridge posts to recall all the hands of hope that lifted me up and set me back on my feet, with some new rhythms in my step.  

I am grateful for these reminders and am excited about what is coming next, thanks to the light that this book shines in my own darkness.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

One in Eight

One way to support and grow one's creativity is to support the creativity of others!

I have been blessed to play the role of support and cheerleader for my good friend, fellow dulcimer-player and teacher, one-time student and also a member of the cancer-survivor club, Deborah Hamouris.

In response to her cancer diagnosis, she turned to creativity and wrote a musical stage show with her friend and collaborator, Mimi Fox

The show is called 1 in 8 which represents the number of women in the USA currently diagnosed with breast cancer.

I was so tickled to see the debut performance of this show at the Monkey House in Berkeley last April with Mimi and the other supporting musicians. 

The show is the weaving together of these musical reflections on themes such as: Worthy, Strong Medicine, No Time to Waste, Glad and Grateful together with poetry and vibrant spoken reflections. 

While not shying away from the grit and fear of a cancer diagnosis, Deborah also gives full-throated laughter to the joy and surprise that comes as gift in the midst of recovery.

A video archive of that performance was captured and I helped by editing it for scenes and selections that were a part of her successful Kickstarter Campaign this fall to fund the recording of the CD of the music.

Deborah reports on Facebook that the recording is finished being mixed and it is GOOD!  It will be released to the public in December!

It is her (and my) hope that as a result of completing this recording, she'll be able to take the program around to wherever people are facing a new diagnosis, or are going through treatment, or are giving thanks for their years of survival, where caregivers are tired, in order show how a creative response brings about its own healing.

If you would like to bring 1 in 8 to your community, contact Deborah through her facebook page above!

Turkish Impressions, hammered dulcimer debut of a new chamber work.

I picked up the telephone in 2015 and Nancie Kester, a composer and teacher from Berkeley, California, was on the other end of the line asking if I, a hammered dulcimer player, would consider playing a piece she was composing (Turkish Impressions) that was inspired by a pilgrimage journey she and her husband took to Turkey recently. 

There, she was inspired by the Whirling Dervish dances, the grand geologic formations towering throughout Cappadocia and the accidental antiphonal effect of several Muezzins' "Calls to Prayer" from one mosque to the next throughout the day.
Cover Photo for Turkish Impressions by Nancie Kester

We had several discussions as I looked at her score to see what adaptations might be necessary to my tuning of my instrument, or what suggestions I could make for being certain that other players would be able to also play the part on their instruments in the future.

Time passed with intermittent connection, and then early in 2017, Nancie called to say that she had contracted with the San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra to perform the piece in the Fall concert. 

This is an orchestra, I have learned, that is "composed" of composers who are eager to play each other's music.

I received the final score in September and began work in earnest to be ready for the orchestra rehearsals and performance.

In addition to the score and my dulcimer part, she sent an .mp3 file of the Sibelius file for me to listen and play along with.

In the Phrygian mode and in several different mixed meters, but especially in the traditional feel of 9/8 or 5/4 and 4/4, the piece is definitely outside of the listening framework of most western dulcimer players.

Her piece is written for 3 strings (violin, cello and bass) and 4 winds (clarinet, oboe, flute and piccolo) in addition to hammered dulcimer.

It changes keys several times as it states its various themes and then develops them and brings them all together in a climactic capitulation which the wends down to a more peaceful breath of release.

Last night (Nov 4) was the performance at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, a marvelous performance space with a rich historical character and, under the direction of Mark Alburger, the Turkish Impressions made an impression on all of us!

Do You Believe in Magic?

My friend, Lisa Sniderman (aka Aoede) writes "quirky folk pop" for teens and tweens. 

She has composed award-winning musicals that use classical mythological characters to tell stories with current-day application for secondary school-aged readers.

First she created audio books by composing music and working with a production team to record the music and sound effects that accompany the stories. 

Then she began polishing the scripts so that youth theater groups could rehearse and perform staged readings of the show.

I was able to attend a staged reading of What Are Dreams Made Of?  by the San Carlos Children's Theater in the summer just after we moved to California.

Soon after I began collaborating with Lisa to write the musical score for her musicals so that theater groups have the possibility of rehearsing to live accompaniment and have the written music as another tool for learning the singing parts.

I have spent a good part of 2017 working on the score for her next book, Do You Believe in Magic? which was just completed!

Working with another songwriter is eye-opening, exciting and sometimes confusing as I seek to be true to her vision for her music.  Being neighbors in San Mateo makes this partnership an ongoing one as we establish lines of communication and trust with lots of good humor thrown in.  

One thing that amazes me is how Lisa, who doesn't read musical notation, has such clear pitch memory for the songs she composes, that even when we are listening to the published recording, she can say, "I know they recorded it that way, but here is what I intended!"

And again, when I finished working on this collaboration, I found my own creative juices had been stewing and were all set to stir up and serve and I am delighted with what I've been able to produce just in the past month!

So, I suggest, if you ever feel like your creativity has dried up...go collaborate and support someone else's project and see what happens for yours.

Monday, July 17, 2017

From the back of the file cabinet...

There I was, looking for a manila folder and in the back of my tan file cabinet drawer was a file that listed two of my song titles:  war is sweet, and i said nothing.

It was curious to see this title so I opened the (nearly empty) folder to find this thank-you card:

The sketched artwork is a Lancer from Lincoln Jr. High/IB World School, where both of my children attended for their Junior High School years and freshman year of High School.

While my son, Zach, was a freshman, I was hired to work in the music department of this school working with Band, Choirs and Orchestra.

This note, however, is from when Zach's older sister, Kaitlin, was a freshman, because when I opened the note I found her gratitude wishes amongst those of her classmates:

Even after reading their hand-written words, I was a bit puzzled and then I turned the note over and read the thank-you from their teacher, Colleen Conrad.  

I dimly started to recall this experience...I visited their classroom and shared these two songs in person, which were later recorded in 2007 for my a piece of it all CD.  The memory had completely receded into the dusty stacks of my library-like memory.

Ah, yes!  The amazing 9th grade English teacher whose focus was helping each student find the thing that lit them up with interest, engagement and then encouraged and challenged them to follow that light!

She wrote:


THANK YOU for sharing your message with us!
The songs were both beautiful & powerful, & I
appreciated being able to reinforce the words & ideas behind "I Didn't Speak Up" through music.

That's always a good way for students to understand an important message.

Colleen Conrad  :)"

These kinds of thank-you cards are probably like many that we all have "had to write" to some guest who visited our various school classrooms during our time as students.

I can recall being moved to write these several times, but never again thinking about them once I'd added my words and signature.

I don't remember if I ever thought about if the recipient would read our messages, or if they would really matter in the larger scheme of things.

Well, today, this was just the message I needed to hear!

A thank-you from the past, from students who are now all in their late 20s.  All thanking me for helping them ask questions about what they assume to be true.

I am especially touched by Lianna's words:

"The music was a definite change in the way I'll think"

Lest we think the little that we do matters,  we can (and do) small things, with great love!


(a little more hopeful and inspired as I go back to the little things I am doing today....)

Live Performance: His Home is On the Road

KC Turner Presents SHHHongWriter's Open Mic once a month at Doc's Lab in North Beach (San Francisco).

This is a basement club in the location of what used to be the Purple Onion, site of Phyllis Diller's debut performance and the recording of the Smothers Brothers' Live at the Purple Onion recording.

In a standby position I was able to perform my original song, His Home is on the Road this month.

You can hear the recording of that performance here.
(Click on "Open Mic Recordings" Choose 7/5/17 and scroll down to Steve Eulberg)