In honor of Mother’s Day, I want to share the music and work of Jennifer Berezan with you. Berezan is appearing in concert May 27th in Washington DC for the first time, and I am thrilled to get to hear her.
Jennifer is a unique blend of singer/songwriter and activist. She has recorded over ten albums, and in them you can hear the sacred energy arising from her Buddhism and earth-based spirituality. Jennifer lives her commitment to environmental, women’s, and other justice movements.
Singing Praises for the World
Jennifer’s music is woven with the sacred nature of the Divine, and her work calls of a healing of the world. Listen to a few minutes of “Song for All Beings” and you can hear the invocations, the blessing, the love.
Not only a performer, Jennifer Berezan teaches music and healing, as well as leads sacred pilgrimages throughout Europe. I dream of journeying with her on the Women’s Pilgramage to Malta that she co-leads with archeo-mythology scholar Joan Marler. They visit sacred ancient places like the Ġgantija, the megalithic temple to the Goddess, the world’s second-oldest manmade religious monument.
Farewell to the musician who provided the playlist for my young life, and the artist who gave sound and vision to the androgynous, artistic, alien of my soul.
In a world with no road map, as the traditional life of my parents and grandparents became quaint and irrelevant, Bowie blazed across the firmament, operatic troubadour of the next moment.
He released sings I thought I hated: they made me uncomfortable, then liberated me. There was music that described the poignancy of life’s moments, like A New Career in a New Town. There was a heart’s anthem, Heroes, which I was blessed to experience twice in concert. There is so much more.
David Bowie reinvented himself relentlessly as an artist and performer, helping me survive my many metamorphoses. And now I find he has released a new record on the eve of his death, that speaks to the challenge of dying itself.
How can we ever know what our art can mean to the world? And how can I parse the world without this artist?
Dreaming of spring, the mind turns to flowers, butterflies, fairies and… bugs? Well, yes, if you life in southern Maryland. Although it’s been frozen into silence lately, we have a buzzingly diverse ecosystem here in the coastal plains and wetlands, rich in the insect life that supports the abundant bird and fish populations we’re known for.
But fairies? for those, I still have to turn to the world of fantasy. And recently I saw a remarkable film, one that was clobbered at the box office, so you probably didn’t even notice it opening and closing at your local moviehouse.
Which is really too bad, because it is the product of at least a decade’s dreaming by George Lucas and many others in his talented sphere. The movie is Strange Magic, a love story for pre-teen girls that uses popular culture love songs (thus the title!)
Starting with Lucas’ vision, the creatives borrowed from the insect world for creature design, which includes not only the colorful and bright fairies and elves, but also the creepier denizens of the Dark Forest.
The story has delightfully modern twists: you’ll find no delicate princess here. Marianne, our heroine, doesn’t grieve lost love for long. And the ultimate hero is a surprise, upending the old ‘dark verses light’ clichés.
While it’s probably too late for the cineplex, check it out on DVD or streaming when you get a chance. It’s a gem.
When my father was in Hospice in has last three days of life, he relaxed, grateful that no one was forcing him to eat or go to appointments. He dozed, phasing in and out of awakening. He heard a wisp of something and asked me:
“What is that beautiful song?”
I listened, and heard the strains of The Godfather’s haunting theme, floating in from someone’s tv down the hall.
He began to sing “Dah, dada da, da dah,” very softly.
Inspired, I went to his home, got a portable music player and grabbed some cassettes from the car. They were the filled with the theater pipe organ music he adored, and I hurried back. When I tucked the light headset around his ears, his eyes flew open and he beamed at me, grinning with delight. For the next 2 days, he smiled and dreamed and hummed along to his favorite tunes.
Later that day I went to the meditation garden and heard a song come, not on the breeze but into my mind. It was Greensleeves, my mother’s favorite tune. I shivered, then welcomed her gladly. She had been gone nearly 9 years by that time. I felt as if she walked with me back to his bedside for those final hours.
Last night’s concert (see previous post)was a heart-overflowing event where the music community showed love and support for its own. But what about that which they offer us? What is the value of music?
Music & Memory is a non-profit that brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly and infirm, training nursing home staff and elder care professionals to create and provide personalized playlists to enable those with memory and cognitive disorders to reconnect with the world.
My dear friend Terry Nicholetti, a DC actor, has known about this power for years. She cares for her 94 year old mother, who long ago lost her capacity to remember or even speak, the result of Alzheimer’s disease. Terry takes her guitar to of the nursing home and plays old-timey songs for the Memory-Care patients, most of whom do not speak or even interact. They often will respond with enthusiasm, some even singing along. Their musical memory is intact when other pathways may be long gone.
“American culture is wrong: there is actually life beyond adulthood. The aging we experience holds very important learning and lessons. Theres the opportunity to live and grow and become elders. No pill does that.”
Next Sunday, July 20 there’s a tribute and benefit concert for my friend and neighbor Grace Griffith, the award-winning folk singer from Accokeek Maryland. It’s also an album release party for Passing Through, a new CD.
Due to the effects from Griffith’s 17-year battle with Parkinson’s Disease, the album took more than two years to painstakingly record; the record’s producer Chris Biondo, who also produced and performed with the late Eva Cassidy, opened his studio to Griffith and encouraged her to work at her own pace. The result is a haunting collection of folk and Celtic material revealing the artist’s soul. Griffith’s soaring vocals are made all the more poignant by her deteriorating physical condition. from Blix Street Records
Play a song from the CD:
Her producer Chris Biondi spoke to WAMU’s Metro Connection on Friday, talking about what it took for Grace to create this final album. “It took a lot of courage to do what she did,” Biondo said. PLAY THE INTERVIEW
I am watching the newly green trees sway in the breeze and grooving to this marvelous new record from my neighbor, singer, songwriter, mother, baker, physical therapist, gardener, and all-around amazing woman: Lynn Hollyfield. I wrote about her song Boats Gone By in 2012.
At first listen, you might think you were hearing something like this:
click to play audio
That’s a sound it’s good to hear in the woods these days. The mid-Atlantic winter has been hard on us, and the singing of frogs brings hope that today’s Spring Equinox has really arrived.
Those are ‘spring peepers,’ tiny chorus frogs that awaken and sing in vernal puddles each year in forest wetlands. They’re tiny: adults rarely more than an inch and a half in length. I am transported by the sound: these durable creatures rise from the frozen mud and sing for love in one of the first bright declarations of spring.
But even more miraculous that these singing amphibians is the first recording. Play it again. What you’re listening to is the dawn chorus of the planet Earth, sounds emitted by the energetic particles of the earth’s magnetosphere, stimulated by the solar wind.
These radio waves are at frequencies which are audible to the human ear, if sound traveled in a vacuum, and if you could expose your ear in space! Here they were recorded by two satellites studying the Van Allen belts and other phenomena of the near solar system.
I love the movie, and the song, White Christmas beyond all reason. The film stars Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kay and Vera Ellen,and I think I watched it with my grandfather every year, curled by the fire.We laughed and sang the songs together, and knew many of the lines.
The movie is ridiculous. (go watch it, NOW) Crosby and Kaye are terrible cross-dressers. Vera-Ellen needs to eat something. Who bursts into song on the train? And how on earth does that rustic little inn have the soundstage for those dance numbers?
None of this matters. Somehow, this confection, conceived in sunny Hollywood with a hit song written by a Jew manages to evoke the most perfect nostalgia and longing for the perfect Christmas that never was.
I’m home snuffling with a cold/flu thing, looking at my one string of lights and missing all my bygone family, who would be getting on my nerves if they were here, and feeling all these pangs of longing for home. Of course, it’s been a big year for me, moving beyond the householder’s life and embracing a new simplicity. With it comes freedom and a lightness. Out goes the tree and the three boxes of ornaments.
I heard composer Rob Kapilow describing what makes the song so great, on the Kojo Nnamdi show the other day. It was a hoot to hear Nnamdi say “I grew up in Guyana and never knew what snow was, and this song still gets to me. Thank you for explaining why.”
Rob Kapilow is known for his talks and performances of “What Makes it Great?” which is now also a book. He’s brilliantly enthusiastic about music, and believes that everybody loves music, given a chance to really listen and understand it. In this video he attempts to explain the genius in Irving Berlin’s song. “You can just feel the pang of memory!”
The love for this film, and song, lives on. The song is covered again and again but it will always belong to Crosby. The film gets trotted out every year, shared with new generations. It’s in the mash-up culture: here’s Vera Ellen dancing, brilliantly, to Run DMC: