Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Musical moments

As February draws to a close, I am struck by how lucky I am to share music with so many people in varied circumstances. Last week I had one of the most deeply moving experiences playing music for patients at the hospital.  When arriving on the ICU unit, I was asked to play for a woman who had been taken off life support. She had no family or anyone with her. I went to her room and played for her as she lay dying.  I wanted to fill the room with beauty and hope and chose some familiar pieces like, "The Water is Wide" and  "Simple Gifts."  I also played some of my own compositions and did some improvising. I worked to match her deep breathing patterns to support her journey to the next world. Sometimes her breath would slow to a point where I thought she left us but then she'd come back and I'd start a new song on my guitar. I thought of what it would be like to leave this world with me and others a stranger to her as her witness. I wondered what her life had been like, who she was and hoped for her peace.

After that, I was sent to a room of a patient who played the guitar. He was sitting up in a chair which meant I could play more uptempo pieces (to help circulation and energy).  He requested, "Amazing Grace," and "Wayfaring Stranger." After that, I started to play, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," and he sang along and asked his friend in the room to video tape us.   I could see the song meant a lot to him and we sat and talked about music and life in between our songs. I plan to look in on him again this week.

Other gigs were singing with groups at nursing homes. Above in the picture you see a poster they had in one facility.  Singing with others is a joy too. Everyone comes with different stories and backgrounds and we all have memories associated with a given song.

With March coming, I got out my Irish repertoire and have been practicing for St. Patrick's Day. Here's a jig I wrote myself but it's so recent that it doesn't have a name yet but I do hope you enjoy it!

Happy Spring (soon!!)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Party of one

The other day I was to play for a nursing home group but only one resident showed up. It turned out the activities director was out of town and failed to inform the community.   When I arrived Ms. Joanne (not her real name) was sitting at the front table. She was slightly slumped over and had her eyes closed as if she was in deep thought about something. She wore a headband laced with pink silk flowers in her white hair.

"Looks like it's going to be just you and me today. We can have our own party." I said and got out my guitar. I brought my songbook and set it on the table between us.  "Let's sing a happy song." I suggested and we sang, "This Little Light of Mine." After that I let her decide what we would sing next. I'd prompt her by giving choices of what kind of song. "Should we sing a funny song or a serious one?" (funny she smiled) and we sang, "Oh my darlin', oh my darlin', oh my darlin Clementine...."

When we sang, "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands," we mentioned all the names of her family members and her home town in West Virginia, Charlottesville, the state of Virginia and the whole world. We just kept expanding our circle of who we sang the song to.

It was actually quite a nice time we had. I enjoyed talking in between songs and learning things about her. She would drift off into  a story about living in the mountains in West Virginia back in the day. Or she'd tell me about her granddaughter who she hoped was coming to visit her later that day.

I was struck by how much music is a connecting force in our lives. Had my class been about another subject - it may not have worked out to have just one participant in the room.  It could have been awkward since we did not know each other at all. But through songs and sharing, it didn't matter no one else was around. In fact, I was glad to get to know her.

Oh, the picture above is one I post for Valentine's Day. It is of a stump from my yard when 5 acres of forest were destroyed in order to build a housing development. The stump is what is left of my favorite tree that stood right outside my window. I was stunned when I saw it made a heart shape- the picture was taken moments after it was cut down. To me it was saying, "You can cut us down but you can't get rid of the love and the heart of the forest. "