The Power of Music Amidst Chaos

Music has always been a comfort to me in times of stress. Remember when the only way you could listen to your favorite song was on the radio? There was only one radio station I listened to, the one that had Casey Kasem’s Top 40 every Saturday morning.

This was the 70’s. Either you listened to your song on the radio or you bought the single, or if you were really lucky, the whole album. We weren’t wealthy, and to buy an entire album was a huge deal. In those days, I spent a lot of time deciding which album would be mine.

I loved Elton John from the very beginning. Around 1972, I saved my allowance to buy his Friends album. I listened to it constantly. “Madman Across the Water” on Tumbleweed Connection made me cry. My friend Diane and I saw him in concert during his big eyeglasses stage. More than anything, I wanted to be one of his backup dancers. I still do.

Back then, I used music to escape the tumultuous world around me. There was a lot of unrest going on in the world, and although I lived a sheltered life, I could feel the waves of rebellion around me. I hid with my music and my books. Music was a way for me to manage my emotions. Remember the scene from Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, when they’re in the bus, mad at each other? Then someone plays “Tiny Dancer,” and they start singing? It was like that.

Nowadays, music continues to be a comfort. But it also enables me to make connections between the many songs in my head and what’s going on in the world. If a song is running through my mind constantly, it’s usually because it can be applied to what’s happening around me.

This last week, the Elton John song, “Madman Across the Water” is ever-present. The mood and melody of the song reflect the fear, hate, and uncertainty in the world, and the manipulation of those emotions by opportunistic individuals and groups vying for power. It’s gut-wrenching.

Why listen to a song if it makes me cry? Because it’s beautiful. Because it offers a release, as music always does. And most of all, because it reminds me that despite the upheaval in the world, there is beauty in the creation of melody and lyrics and the power they possess to move and uplift. And that gives me hope. I hope it does the same for you.

Does music move and inspire you? What do you listen to when you need shelter?

 

 

Close to You: Music and My Mom

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Like most twelve-year-old girls in the seventies, I had my ears glued to Karen Carpenter’s smooth, evocative voice. I spent hours in front of the mirror in the privacy of my bedroom, hairbrush in hand, belting out her songs with the emotion they deserved. I wanted to be just like her. One big problem: I was shy. It seemed likely the mirror would be the only audience I’d ever have.

Mom had a different idea.

My mother, now eighty-something, is a talented lady. Back in the forties, she was a first class dancer who gave up a career in NYC to marry my father. She was a minister’s wife, a job which encompasses the roles of politician, ambassador, hotel manager, entertainer, and on and on. Most daunting of all, she raised five children. After we were all in school, she also worked outside the home. And she’s an artist:

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                                                         She likes to paint on old bottles

My Lady Mother is still one of the most modest, humble people I know, and has never lost her creative spark.  She tap-danced until the age of eighty-five, with a grace and elegance right up there with the great ones.

She can also sing, which brings me back to my awkward years. It turns out Mom volunteered the two of us for a duet at the church’s mother-daughter tea. My big-time balking was no match for her calm, matter-of-fact reassurance, so I agreed to sing the Carpenter’s “Close to You” with her.

I worried about it for weeks, imagining all kinds of heinous scenarios. I would open my mouth and screech. I would trip and fall, dragging Mom down with me. I would lose my skirt. (This last one actually did happen in front of a much larger audience years later, but that’s a story for another day.) No amount of practice tamped down the embers of anxiety in my stomach.

The moment arrived, and I walked with her to the piano, knees wobbling. The whole world watched. I looked down, chock-full of fight or flight, too scared to look at the audience. Her hand clasped mine, gave it a reassuring squeeze. I lifted my eyes to hers, took courage from her smile, and the music began. She began singing, and I followed along, her beautiful soprano voice like a gentle tug on my hand, guiding me out of my fear and into the world of music I loved so much.

Thanks to the gentle guidance of my mother, I discovered I could sing in front of an audience despite my shyness. It was the first of many performances.

Mom still provides a feeling of peace and reassurance. I am beyond grateful for the gift of her nurturing, knowing how precious it is.

 

 

 

 

 

Emotional Rescue

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A very exciting delivery came to the house on Saturday while I attended a meeting. Two boxes containing my very own copies of Mercy of the Moon from my publisher, Wild Rose Press, had been dumped at the end of our long driveway. It’s rainy season in my neck of the woods, and fortunately my husband was outside picking up sticks and saw my babies lying there all vulnerable and helpless. He must now be named Sir Emotional Rescue, for he lovingly carried them out of danger to the shelter of our castle. As soon as he got them inside, the sky opened up in a torrential downpour. He saved the day, like he has done in so many ways for thirty-five years.

You guessed it: the song for the day is the Rolling Stones’ “Emotional Rescue.” I especially dig the part at the end where Mick drawls:

“I will be your knight in shining armor,

Riding across the desert on a fine Arab cha-a-a-a-r—ger

Coming to your emotional rescue.”

My hero did something way more spectacular than that: he saved Ian, Maggie, and the rest of King’s Harbour from certain ruin.

This Musical Monday is for you, Honey.

Musical Mondays

Musical Mondays

MercyOfTheMoon_w8691_300 Music plays a huge part in Mercy of the Moon. In the opening scene, my hero Ian Pierce sings out his grief at the grave of his brother.  Heroine Maggie Wilson stands in the kirkyard over her sister’s grave, trying to contain her sorrow in order to care for the surviving family. But Ian’s anguish sinks into her like cold rain from the English Channel, and she succumbs to her pain. But not for long, for she must carry on. I listen to music while writing these emotional scenes. Composer Michael McGlynn and his Irish Choral group, Anuna, inspire and enable me to tell my story. They make up a large part of my playlist. For this scene, the beautiful “Maid in the Moor Lay,” and the sorrowful tune, “Goltrai´ by former Anuna artist and Celtic Woman, Meav brought tears to my eyes. I channel that in my writing. If you are a writer in need of inspiration or would like to hear some breathtaking music, give a listen to these brilliant artists. Back to the story: Later that evening, Ian comes to Maggie’s aid as a sinister circumstance throws them together again. Ian awakens emotions in Maggie that she’s never felt before, joy as well as sorrow.  I’ll talk about that on the next Musical Monday. Thanks for listening.