AT LAST WRITING, I was working on a new song that was inspired by a phrase I overheard at Lark Camp:
Which of these should I forget? The day you left, the night we met? Which of these should I forget - My broken heart or you?
I thought you might be curious about the process and progress of this song. To me, this fragment sounds like a refrain, and I like to let the refrain guide the tune and inform the as-yet unwritten verses - like a thesis statement in an essay. For the tune, I start by reading the words to find their pulse and natural rhythm. Having the tune flow naturally helps to make the song more singable. Next, I'm thinking about melody, what does my voice do when I speak the words? What melody works for my voice? Should it be major sounding or blue? This requires just trying stuff out, which I do while recording, so I don't lose something as I experiment. (Sometimes you'll stumble on THE THING, but THE THING can vanish from your brain in an instant - so I record!) It's a humbling experience, allowing yourself to just try some things - and you have to be willing to switch off the very loud "THAT'S STUPID" voice. I can't embed an audio file in this email, but you can listen to the result (so far) by scrolling down to the bottom of my website BIO/VIDEOS page.
JOINING A SONG CIRCLE
AS A CHAMPION OF SINGING, it occurs to me that you might wish to know about places to sing! There are many local song circles, but let me begin by telling you about three. They all welcome newcomers with open arms.
FIRST, WHAT HAPPENS AT A SONG CIRCLE? You typically bring a couple of songs to share, and depending on the rules established by the host, go round the circle to give each person a turn. If the group isn't huge, you usually get more than one chance. When it's your turn, you can sing, pass your turn till you're feeling brave, or make a request that someone else help you lead a song that you feel unsteady with. Song circle members love sharing songs with a refrain they can join in on, but that's usually not mandatory. One note to the wise: it's not respectful to solo-sing a twenty-four verse Child Ballad; remember that others are waiting for their turn. If your song has no refrain, you'll be more popular if you share something relatively short in length!
HERE ARE THREE SONG CIRCLES/SINGING SESSIONS TO TRY: Berkeley, CA: In Harmony's Way hosts a first-Wednesday song circle at the BFFU, 1606 Bonita Avenue, from 8:00 to 11:00pm. Contact Marlene McCall for more info or to get on the mailing list. (This list describes many other opportunities for singing!) Their website explains how the group came to be (such a great name!) Redwood City, CA: Jeremy Friedenthal hosts a second-Friday song session in his home at 8:00pm. Email Jeremy for more information and to ask to be on his mailing list. His sessions are very similar to the In Harmony's Way sessions. Auburn, CA: Sharon Carl hosts an In Harmony's Way song session at her home on third- and fifth-Sundays. I'm not sure of the time, but email Sharon to get on her list and find out more.
REGISTRATION OPEN FOR HARMONY WORKSHOPS
REGISTER NOW FOR FALL WORKSHOPS with Libby McLaren and me! On Saturday, October 28 from 10:00am to noon, we'll offer our intermediate level class called One Song Learned Well. Then on Saturday, November 11 from 2:00 to 4:00 we will offer Intro to Harmony Singing. Both workshops will be limited 12 students. In spring 2018, we'll have organized an advanced workshop for you to try out, too! You can send me an email if you have questions!
FORTUNATE STRANGERS - UP AND COMING
Fortunate Strangers has been in the studio to record an EP - a little album we can bring with us to our performances. And we're getting ready to do several of those! We'll be at the Reno Celtic Festival on Sunday, October 8 at 11:00am; check the website for details. Then on Saturday, October 14, we will be at the Reno Contra Dance. I'll be calling, and Kathy and Joe will be playing the tunes with the help of their Cíana bandmate and award winning fiddler, Holly Sternberg. If you're from that side of the Sierras, we hope we'll see you at either dance or festival - or both!