My dear friend Eric L. Bronstein, a jazz bassist and Dr., recently shared some thoughts about an interview he had heard on NPR about what the late Ravi Shankar had once said about his music… ” that it was always about tranquility and sadness, as in reaching out in trying to find something, as if to a lover, or to God… “. This stirring passage mirrored exactly what I felt as I sat in a circle of women the other night. The circle was in support of my close friend, Samantha Knowles who was bravely facing a partial mastectomy. She is very open about this life changing process and I know won’t mind me sharing this. In our circle of women, we were asked to pass her wool ball between us. The wool was from Sam’s favorite childhood sweater she and her young son Oscar had carefully unraveled. We each in turn, wrapped the wool around our wrist, several times, as we offered Sam, whatever we needed to share with her, in our poetry, song and tears. Then, we passed it randomly along to another. This eventually created a wondrous web of wool that surrounded her in a symbolic, tangible tapestry of support. We each have this wool still on our wrists, until Sam requests we take it off. This wool reminds us of our connectivity, while representing so many unspoken things, like the powerful wisdom in grief’s vulnerability.
This juxtaposition was also present at the recent Jazz Benefit for Ross Taggart to support his challenging cancer recovery process. A huge outpouring from the Vancouver Jazz community came together in a rich evening of non stop performances and jams while Ross watched from his hospital bed via Skype. An intricate network of connections, near and far were represented that he has created all these years in each composition, gig, and friendship. Over the course of the evening we heard selections from his many bands, with his best friends performing, without him, on his own compositions. Each person wove personal vignettes or offered their exquisite musical expression. From his friends, Master of Ceremony’s Rick Cluff and Margaret Gallagher of CBC Radio to saxophonist and one of the organizers, Campbell Ryga. Each performance including the interplay of Ross’s students and colleagues before and after the concert, enraptured a grateful and emotional audience. The magic web that unfolded around Ross provided a container to express love, joy and saddness in a personal and collective way, in an extremely moving and rich circumstance. I was not alone in feeling the tangible power of love expressed through jazz to heal and lift that night with hundreds of Ross’s friends and fans. Brian Fraser of Jazzthink’s recent ezine ( who opened our evening with Ross with a moving introduction) describes our evening with Ross masterfully, in his recent December issue entitled ‘Real Community’. http://www.jazzthink.com/ezine/1212_ezine.html
Here’s a link to a recent Performance of Bill Coon and Ross Taggart performing~ Four http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_beAcSPNz8
All of us are directly or indirectly affected by cancer these days in one way or another. Many of us have lost family and friends already to it and pray for the safe recovery and remission of so many more. It has sadly, become a global epidemic, that we still do not have a full understanding of all the causes or cures. So we have to rely on our instincts and our ability to rise to the occasion to enfold ourselves, our friends and our families, with whatever naked strength we can muster, even when we feel we may have none. Somehow… we do and it matters, so very much. Through a word, a card, a touch, a song or a trumpet solo.
So much of the kind of music my friends and I are drawn to these days I find, has a certain tonal, chordal relationship that often contain a tension… between happiness or sadness, peace or disquieted angst. A chordal progression for instance may seem to float in a suspension of sonic opposites, that can feel at once, both comforting and yet also sad. It can go so deep inside your heart with a restlessness and urgency that you feel you might possibly explode from all the emotion, yet in the next moment, it brings a portal of deep release and stillness both light and dark. Like the coal of darkness that also has a glimmer of a star. In this space of connectivity between notes, lies the potential for new understanding with a tranquil, sad and utter beauty, that brings a joy, all its own.
When I was growing up and learning the art of socializing, like most kids, I used to say whatever came to my active, exuberant mind. For instance at a formal family dinner party with people we wanted to impress, I suddenly blurted out, ” Dad?…is the intelligence of a baby determined by how big an orgasm is ?” This inquisitive statement haunted me from then on, repeated mercilessly with gales of laughter over my lifetime, that made me wish I could disappear into the center of the earth. Yet, I learned through many such episodes, that timing and delivery were indeed, critical. At first my family thought it was cute, then it became embarrassing, and as time wore on… annoying. Then when I became an adult, it became an issue. Thankfully I did not stifle myself, and instead have adopted a practice of what is now referred to by many spiritual teachers, as “mindfulness.” I have now come to a simple solution. That in any situation, I pause, I consider, I choose and then… I speak. What, how and why I say and think, is very important . This also applies to singing and performance. Expressing from an unruly mind with scattered thoughts is simply not creative and does not serve anyone , especially myself. Being mindful and choosing ones thought can make or break a heart.
“You may believe that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think. The truth is that you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think” ~ A Course in Miracles
Quote of the week:
“Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.” ~Henry van Dyke
WOW ! Yet another full week with our fifth exciting week with Ariel Hyatt’s Music Success in 9 weeks and the SAC gang ( Songwriters Association of Canada) as we took a look at specific ways to build our YouTube channel. Here is mine: http://www.youtube.com/ChristieGraceMusic . I began sharing home videos of a few performances a few years ago, and look forward to trying out more artistic video productions in the near future. Thanks to YouTube, anyone, anywhere can now launch home spun to high-tech quality videos with the potential of them going viral. This is a rare phenomenon of course, but hey people do win the lottery. It’s amazing really, because before the advent of YouTube it used to be that only the label supported artists had access to professionally produced videos, but now thanks to iMovie and ingenuity, it is possible for anyone, including we independent musicians, to create a signature video. For instance, check out this great video filmed from my hometown Thunder Bay: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAwmUBlqZmc&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL
The skies the limit now! I’m also really turned on by my online Berklee Music marketing class that I am enrolled in with our wonderful teacher Jeff Straw of INgrooves. In last weeks lesson, for instance, Mike Dreese co-founder of the massively successful Newbury Comics introduced the concept of “time poverty”. Mike elaborated on the idea that because we are all collectively “time compressed”, the ways that we communicate technologically need to be quick and to the point. Which supports the widespread burgeoning of YouTube ( Twitter, etc) becoming so popular as it is now the most rapid global means of communication available, not to mention downloading and streaming.
Another really inspiring experience was the opportunity to conference call with Dave Cool of Bandzoogle. Our talented group from all across Canada, discussed highlights and challenges to date. Then relative to topics for writing a blog, Dave encouraged us to speak from our passions . He acknowledged how our journey may be overwhelming at times (uh huh) and emphasized anticipating the inevitable ups and downs that come with the territory. He also pointed out how blogs are not necessarily meant to win the Pulitzer prize with some weeks being better than others, as we each find our own unique voice. I sure found his comments helpful.
Then to blow the cap off the week, I participated in a powerful vocal workshop coördinated by Vancouver jazz singer and former teacher, Kate Hammett- Vaughan. Along with 10 other jazz singers we were privileged to be mentored by the illustrious 84-year-old jazz master vocalist, Sheila Jordan from New York: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9ZpI4foexk&fb_source=message. It was such an honor to spend time with Sheila and her bass player Cameron Brown which culminated in their marvelous performance last night at The Jazz Cellar. What an experience!
During our workshop I was inspired by Lara Crema’s beautiful jazz lullaby for her daughter Serafina and so in honor of our YouTube theme this week, I decided to share a video of my folk song I wrote for my daughter “Ashley’s Lullaby” twelve years ago while driving up to a guitar workshop in Wells, BC. My music has swung more into the jazz arena, but this folk gem has a very special place in my heart, and is a family favorite that still makes me cry! It was filmed at my daughters 8th birthday especially for my Mother. Ashley is now a lovely young woman but still lets me sing this to her from time to time. So for you soft-ees, you may want to get out your Kleenex. It was filmed and edited by my friend Miles McNamara. I never thought of uploading it till now, as I felt it was too personal and homespun, but this week I have also thankfully addressed my self-sabatoge- ing habit of perfectionism. So, here’s me throwing all caution to the wind with a walk down memory lane. I hope you enjoy it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CvB8lL_tHA.
I feel very fortunate for my rich experiences this past week and look forward to sharing more with you next week.
Happy Valentines Day!