I Will Always Remember Frances

At the wedding rehearsal dinner party, she was the 80-year-old grandmother who held tightly onto her cane as she slowly approached the piano where I was playing love songs.  Once she arrived, everything changed.  "Do you know some boogie woogie?" she asked, and then started singing a boogie woogie bass line while shaking her, uh, body, the bottom part.  "Sure, I do!"  And the Friday night entertainment really began.  That woman could dance!  And soon other people of all ages were dancing, too.  "Let's sing something," she suggested, her blue eyes holding mine and not letting go.  Big smile, standing very close.  She, my Ella Fitzgerald, and I, her Duke Ellington. "Sentimental Journey" segued into "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" and somehow we ended up in "My Blue Heaven" and on and on.  Then she starting getting warmed up.  "Can you play 'I Feel Good' by James Brown?"  By this time, on my third glass of chardonnay, not only could I play it but I could play it really, really loudly and growl as I sang and she and everyone sang and danced.  That had to be the climax, I thought.  Then she said, "Do you know any Marvin Gaye?  I really like 'Sexual Healing' but I don't know if we ought to do that one here."  Sadly, I did not know it well enough and we picked something more typical for such an event.

I will learn that song, and I pray that I will see Frances again one day, and we will sing Marvin Gaye songs and she will dance and she will smile and she will teach the younger ones how to really live it up.

Role Playing And Singing My Way Toward Emotional Acceptance

I want to say one more thing about my recent performance in the "Songs of Bob Dylan Concert." The lyric of one of the songs I chose, "It's a Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," alternates between a parent asking questions and the son, now a young adult, answering the questions in profound, poetic detail. (Google it, if you don't know the song. I recommend reflecting on every single sentence.)

Keep in mind that I knew I would be performing this song on the night that my son left for college. So I practiced this (with a lump in my throat) every day for weeks. At the beginning of the five verses I sang questions from the point of view of the parent:
~ Where have you been, my blue-eyed son? Where have you been, my darling young one?
~ What did you see, my blue-eyed son? What did you see, my darling young one?
~ What did you hear, my blue-eyed son? What did you hear, my darling young one?
~ Who did you meet, my blue-eyed son? Who did you meet, my darling young one?
~ What'll you do now, my blue-eyed son? What'll you do now, my darling young one?

Two phrases into each verse, I sang from the point of view of the son to answer the questions. For example:
~ I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways.
~ I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it.
~ I heard the sound of a thunder that roared out a warning.
~ I met a white man who walked a black dog.
~ I'm a goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin'.

The rehearsals turned into music therapy for me. Eventually I got around my sadness to feel what it might be like for my son right now, going out into the big world on his own for the first time. When I sang from his voice, I felt strong, infused with a young man's energy and intensity and curiosity. When I sang from the parent's voice, I still felt sad, missing him, but not abandoned. The young adult in the song answers the parent's questions at great length and with great awareness about his travels. The relationship has changed, but still goes on.

I've heard that in some therapeutic techniques a person is asked to role play from another person's perspective. I'd have to say that
singing that perspective may be even more powerful!

The Times, They Are A-Changin'

"Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don't criticize what you can't understand.
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command.
Your old road is rapidly aging.
Please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand,
For the times, they are a-changin'."
Bob Dylan

When as a young adult I first heard this song, I was the misunderstood daughter. I wanted no judgment or criticism from my parents, whose social code was old-fashioned, in my view. I felt solidarity with my peers and with a movement to transform society with justice and freedom for all. Most older people were part of the problem, not the solution.

Now I am middle-aged. Last night while I was singing this song in concert, my youngest child, now 18 years old, was moving out of our house and into his own apartment. Even though we have a positive, loving relationship, there have been moments when I tried to tell him what to do and he would (respectfully) have none of it! Oh, I get it; he was beyond my command. Maybe when I was trying to shape his behavior, I wasn't understanding him. I do respect his strong sense of self. He stood his ground, while remaining polite, and that will serve him well out in the big world.

So it's time-travelling. I'm singing this as the daughter
and as the mother. And if I want to be part of the "new" road, then I must examine my thinking, and keep my eyes wide, and then lend my hand.

"What Is"

What Is (Macrina Wiederkehr, Velma Frye)

"I stand before what is with an open heart and dwell in possibility."

Sometimes I have to take in this lyric in small bites. I sing the first word of the song, pause and ponder, then repeat. Then I sing the first two words, standing, inviting the whole body to participate, and repeat. And so on, to the end of the phrase:

I (the larger self, beyond just the ego)

I stand (with strength, not crawling away, grounded)

I stand before (safely at the edge of)

I stand before what is (awareness in the present moment, acceptance)

I stand before what is with an open heart (feel it)

I stand before what is with an open heart and dwell in possibility (listen to intuition).

This way of singing lets the song go deep inside. Sometimes when I most need to remember this wisdom, the tune starts playing in my head, and then I notice what the words are, and that reminds me to stand before what is with an open heart and dwell in possibility.

And that can make all the difference.

"Blog #1 And We Begin"

This week I watched a classic movie from 1933, "Dinner At Eight."  John Barrymore played an aging stage and silent screen actor, famous for his dashing profile and dramatic poses, but he refused to make the transition to the talkies. This was due in part to his advancing age, but even more importantly his reluctance to embrace new technology and evolve his skills.

I'm not saying his position was wrong.  In my own musical house I fiercely cling to the sound of acoustic instruments rather than electronic sounds.  Sometimes the right decision is not to take a certain path.

I have decided to take a few steps down the blogging path to share some of my musical experiences.

As Marvin Goldstein said to me this week, "Music is not the icing.  It's the cake."   

Want some cake?

Velma Frye