Janne Henshaw, myself, and Al Goll (on dobro) put on a show this Friday, February 25th, at the Country Music Hall of Fame for the Words and Music Program in the lovely Ford Theatre. We had a group of 3 classes of fourth grade students from Scales Elementary School in Brentwood Tennessee. We had a blast.
About two weeks ago, we received a set of lyrics from the three classes. We chose five sets of lyrics (that’s 15 songs) from each class and went to work. Oh my gosh! Talk about some great creative writing from 10 year olds. Here they are in the order of show. Many thanks to the great sound from Rod Hanson and for the opportunity to work with the creativity of these young writers. Congratulations to all these writers and their teachers.
As the year comes to a close, I have been sitting by the fire and finishing up some recording projects. A few weeks ago, Janne Henshaw, Al Goll and I performed a Words and Music Program at the Country Music Hall of Fame. It was a very energetic group of 4th graders and we had a great time.
When we get the lyric packets from the teachers, Janne and I get together and choose the lyrics we will write the songs from. We want to write as many songs as we have time for in the program. We also try to have equal number of songs from each class, and equal amount of songs from girls and boys. Our goal is to remain as true to the original intent of the lyrics as possible, and to come up with melodies that the kids will like. In this case, there were three 4th grade classes, and one song combined two of the lyric sheets (Stars and Butterflies… a lovely round), bringing the total to 15 songs.
So here are the songs from the Lockeland School of Design 4th grade classes.
At one point early in my songwriting career, I was approached at a concert by a woman with a mission. She had come to a one woman show I was doing, with the express purpose of asking me to tell the story of the last state to ratify the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which established voting rights for American women.
I thought I was a bit busy to take it on at that point, but she started sending me articles and books, and I became intrigued. Not long after I wrote a song, then produced a half hour radio special for public radio, then a play, and then produced an hour long documentary for public television. We have recently remastered the show with a new name, How Southern Women Won the Vote.
At one point in the evolution of this project,my good friend Wanda Sobieski started collecting suffrage memorabilia. This included a collection of sheet music from the suffrage movement. She asked me to put a small CD together for a museum exhibit, using her collection.
When Janne Henshaw and I started into the project, we soon realized that the songs were written in keys that only a true soprano could sing. After some transposing of the original manuscript to singable keys, we recorded the collection.
Today, in honor of the 90th anniversary of the birth of the League of Women Voters I am publishing this collection of Songs for the Cause. Below is a link to a PDF of the music manuscript as well as links to the recorded songs, featuring myself, Janne Henshaw and Carol Levack.
Some of the songs are amusing, some are inspiring, all are entertaining.
I hope that you enjoy them.
This week, my friend Janne Henshaw and I participated in the Country Music Hall of Fame’s year end program at the Ford Theatre in Nashville, Tennessee. It was exciting to see all the students and their songwriters performing, and very fun to get to be part of it.
We are very proud of our young writer, Aisya Nesmith, who decided to write about her feelings about segregation and the civil rights movement. Astounding what a 4th grader can come up with.
Back in February, we were asked to participate in Chadwell Elementary School‘s Unity Day program. We were so impressed with the program, we decided to make a video of the 4th grade class performance.
Gene Smith of Smith Films volunteered the videography, Al Goll helped us out with the dobro, and Rich Jegen edited the video. We were able to get permission to use some photos from the archives of the Highlander Education and Research Center, as well as some photos from the Library of Congress.
Don’t hesitate to comment on the site. I think it turned out great. The kids are charming, the performance touching. Many thanks to Chadwell’s music teacher, Marsha Brewer as well as the principal, Ms. Renita Perkins. They have a school full of beautiful children, and dedicated teachers. It was a joy to get to work with them on this creative project.
I hope you enjoy it.
I have an afternoon fire in the fireplace next to my desk, having come in from our promised afternoon snow. 3,000 miles away to the Northwest, young athletes are skating, skiing, luging in the snow. 1,000 miles away to the East, the people of Washington DC are attempting to dig out out from this week’s snowstorm. Where I grew up on a Michigan farm, snow often began in October and lasted until April. A lot of snow.
My dad once braved a wild snow storm to get me a package of valentines to give to my school mates. I can still see those curious little cards, with hearts and messages like “Won’t you be my valentine” and “You’re swell”, on them. And I also can imagine the little white envelopes, and addressing each name in my class in my practiced cursive, as well as the anticipation of getting a special Valentine from some 4th grade boy, who, I was certain, liked me best. Ahhh, the tumult of a young crush.
So, for this year’s holiday honoring love, here is a little song that I wrote this week, helped along by Doc West’s great guitar work. Thanks Doc.
We want to compliment all of the students and their teachers for a great batch of lyrics. When I have played some of the songs for musician friends of mine, they have remarked…”This was written by a 4th grader!?” As one said…” When I was in 4th grade I was playing with sticks in the mud, not concerned about the effects of segregation or the activities of Mother Theresa.”
I said ” I know… Kids these days”.
Here are the 15 songs . I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.
1. Burnin’ words by T. Coleman, songwriters, Janne Henshaw & Candace Corrigan
2. My Guitar words by J. Curry, songwriters, Janne Henshaw & Candace Corrigan
3. Me and My Friend words by C. Reyna, songwriters, Janne Henshaw & Candace Corrigan
4. Dance in the Dark words by T. Carne, songwriters, Janne Henshaw & Candace Corrigan
5. The Dog words by J. Colin, songwriters, Janne Henshaw & Candace Corrigan
6. The Grouch Man words by L. Howell, songwriters, Janne Henshaw & Candace Corrigan
7. The Unity Song words by A. Nesmith, songwriters, Janne Henshaw & Candace Corrigan
8. My Little Brother words by A. Cunningham, songwriters, Janne Henshaw & Candace Corrigan
About two years ago, one of my dearest friends, Kathleen Wolff, and I began getting together to play O’Carolan tunes… songs written by an Irish blind harper in the late 17th and early 18th century. Our goal was to be together, playing music we loved. At a recent rehearsal, Kathleen played me the English country dance tune “Childgrove”. It sounded like a Christmas carol to me.
I told her that by the next week’s rehearsal, I would put some words to the tune. I had a vague collection of medieval nativity poems, translated from early English by Brian Stone for the Penguin Classic series. I found one poem that I thought would work, though I had to change some of the lyric to fit the tune. I collected some musicians that I have been working with, we descended upon a very important member of the band, the engineer, Jordan Shirks, and we recorded the song.
Janne Henshaw, one of the collaborators on the O’Carolan project came in, and finished the song with a beautiful harmony vocal.
I hope that you enjoy it as much as Kathleen and I, and everyone, did, and do.
Merry Christmas, Happy holidays, and the happiest of Holidays for all that are close to you.
Harp Kathleen Wolff
Violin Sarah Wilfong
Guitar Donovan Dailey
Bass Rick Diamond
Engineer Jordan Shirks
It is Christmas Eve Day. I have just put up the Christmas card on my website, but I want to add to it. Last year, on the night I trimmed the Christmas tree, I starting writing a song. I didn’t finish it until this year, and two nights ago, Doc West and I recorded it with Jordan Shirks doing the engineering. To me, it is Doc at his finest. I hope you enjoy it. Merry Christmas.
My friend Janne Henshaw and I were talking late one night last week about Thanksgiving songs. We were going to present some to our friends at the St.Clair senior center, and we were going over some titles and possibilities, and chatting about the origins of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Later, I looked online for information on Thanksgiving, and found a remarkable editorial, urging the establishment of a national Thanksgiving holiday, written in 1850 by Sarah Josepha Hale. The daughter of a revolutionary war captain, she became a popular novelist and poet and then became the editor of Godeys Lady Book.
(1788-1879) Sarah Josepha Hale
painted by James Reid Lambdin in 1831
Godey’s Lady’s Book appeared under seven different titles during its sixty-eight year history (1830-1898). Sarah Hale was its editor for forty of those years (1837-1877) and is credited with having a great influence over the reading, learning, and even political consciousness of women across America. Godey’s was the highest circulating and most popular women’s magazine of the era. Between 1839 and 1860, circulation rose from 25,000 to 150,000. The editorials wielded considerable influence over a large readership; Hale used Godey’s to campaign for Thanksgiving as a national holiday until Lincoln made it official in 1863.
Looking over the editorial, which included a lovely poem/prayer, I picked up my guitar and the words fell into place. I called my friend Doc West, went over and recorded this song with a simple guitar track, and he added some guitar and drums. As usual I hope you enjoy it. Happy Thanksgiving.
I once took eight years of voice training from a professor who taught voice to opera students. Although I did not sing opera, he worked with me, improving my range, and control. I remember asking him about opera, as it seemed a distant art form to me at the time.
Surprised at my statement, he told me, that in his opinion, opera was anything but distant. Opera is being surrounded by sound, image, words, and emotion. If you are lucky enough to go to the opera in Europe, he said, where the halls are small with many balconies, you will experience opera as being in the middle of that sound. The soaring notes of a soprano are sung to your heart, and the tenor sings from your soul, and the baritone rocks the core of your being. It is a stunning display of art, and talent. It will take hold of you, bring you in, and never leave your memory.
My husband and I attended the Nashville Opera Company’s production of The Fall of the House of Usher based on the famous Edgar Allen Poe short stort, adapted by Phillip Glass with libretto by Arthur Yorinks.
If I had read Edgar Allen Poe’s short story The Fall of the House of Usher, it had long been misplaced from my memory. And yet, in searching YouTube, I looked through dozens of different videos of productions of The Fall of the House of Usher, some going back as far as a silent film made in Paris in 1929. I found it fascinating that this short story has such a timeless hold on the imagination of the theatrical world.
The idea of the maverick genius Philip Glass writing an opera was intriguing enough, and having seen some of his work, it seemed to make perfect sense to me. So, we dressed for the occasion and arrived in time for the pre-opera talk given by the artistic director, John Hoomes, who was clearly excited about this production. Mr. Hoomes explained that the production designer had taken video images of the rehearsal and was projecting them, both from a rear projection screen and from a front projection screen, with the cast in the middle. I am a playwright myself, and I have used both rear projection and front projection, but never both at the same time. Apparently the stage directions that accompanied the libretto were very minimal, except for one: all sound was to be amplified, at the request of the writer, Philip Glass. Interesting.
The opera’s orchestra was small and extremely talented. In fact the cast is small, by opera standards.
The opera begins with the reading of a strange letter, a letter beseeching a young man, William, to come to the aid of a boyhood friend from school, Roderick Usher. The letter tells of sadness and unbearable melancholy, of some inexplicable malady that has come over Roderick, and which begs William to visit. So sure is he that William will come, Roderick admonishes him not to bother to replying, as he knows William will leave immediately, which William does. To me, this letter was intimate, almost one that a lover would write. We learn soon enough that William never even really knew Rodrick that well.
And so begins a tale of mystery and madness, all set to the relentless beauty of recurring music, in the most inventive setting I have ever seen. The production designer, Barry Steel, was a most important player here, enveloping the cast with ghostly gothic images, ethereal and dread-inspiring, working seamlessly with the score. This led me at points to whisper to myself and my companion the word, “brilliant “. I had the feeling that if any of the first creators of classic opera productions had had these tools at their disposal, they would have used them in an instant.
That said, madness is not an easy place to visit.
The house itself is gloomy, foreboding. There are questions upon questions. Did the brother really assault his twin sister, driving her mad? Is the malady that both Usher descendants suffer from brought on by a sinister aspect in the house itself? Who is the resident doctor and what is his diagnosis of the the malady afflicting brother and sister? Is this unhappiness a judgement on the brother and sister who have no “earthly thing to do”? Was the sister really buried alive? Is there any way to figure out what really happened?
In my reading afterward, I found a short story of Edgar Allen Poe’s where he describes the horror of being buried alive. Apparently it was a common fear in the early 19th century that was finally dispelled after the American Civil War with the advent of embalming.
The House of Usher is out of balance. It is falling. Yet, I was struck by the balance of the fine performances.
The costumes were perfect. The direction was great, though I thought the use of a doll to imply that the twin sister is a little girl, when the possible crime of incest happened, was a bit heavy handed. A minor point.
It was a brave and stunning production. It all fit together.
In the end, as one of the opera enthusiasts next to me said, “It is really like all tragic operas. Everybody dies, or goes mad.”
The soaring notes of the soprano, the tenor, and the baritone, along with the brilliant display of visual art and dramatic talent, took hold of me, brought me in, and will never leave my memory.