Tag Archives: Music

Sparks will fly #21 #music

The poet sings like a lark surrounded by virtuosos who know how to get the best out of each and every inch of their instruments, in a space designed for the singular purpose for sound to reach our ears and soak into our bodies – this was a musical nourishment to savour. One indeed to take to the grave, as I instructed my youngest to include You’ve underestimated me dude in the set to be played at my funeral. Energetically, the pulse of life, with all it highs and lows, swirled around us in raptures. I bow down to your talent and your willingness to share them with us all:

Kate Miller-Heidke | vocals / piano
Keir Nuttall | guitar
Iain Grandage | cello / piano
Jessica Hitchcock | backing vocal

You know sparks will fly when the shock of greying luxurious hair on the cellist arrives just before the first words of introduction are spoken. The ancestors were already in place and the next generation eagerly was taking up their invitation to join the appreciation society. David Whyte says: Poetry is language against which you have no defenses. The quartet raged a triumphant victory march and reached into the cracks and chasms of my heart and soul, my sword and my shield were rendered helpless, I was left defenceless.

I am being instructed through a set of exercises which is calling me to examine some of those cracks and chasms. It is not all comfortable. As this day dawns I am wondering how perhaps there is another way in to be opened, music and poetry has served me well in the practice to keep being broken open, they can creep into me with the open-heart surgery and exam of life seems to require!

In a recent speech I made, I shared a couple of snippets of time when I was literally under threat of death – a knife being pulled on me and a gun pointed at me. There have been a few other times death has come knocking. As a child suffering from asthma where breath in the body was scarce, in traffic there have been a few near misses, running behind a bus as a ten year old on the streets of London. And, I have had a death threat too during anti-racist campaigning. Coming close to death is an invitation to live more fully. It is also to unpack how these near-death experiences can continue to work their way into the future and not be relegated to the past, as if somehow they already processed, packed up and neatly put away. Music calls these experiences out into the open for review.

The emotional labour is never really over and comes repackaged and repurposed … and often for me this is through music or poetry. When a song moves you it has tapped into memory, or maybe into possibility or fantasy. There were many such moments last night. The cello becomes your spiritual director, the shaker becomes the metronome of your heart beat and the highest notes crescendo to match your higher self as the heavy darker tones of chords thumping on strings and keys takes you down as far as the notes will go … and then some. Rumi says: If all the harps in the world were burned down, still inside the heart there will be hidden music playing. It is this hidden music which is being examined but I can’t get to it without the live music on the outside. And it is in between sets that the reflection takes place, in the quiet, when instruments are lying in state, when the cup of tea is getting cold, when the chairs are empty, when the leads are relaxed. I am in between sets when I reflect, everything is still on stage, there is gratitude and expectation of more.

Remaining open is the way sparks will fly and the door is always ajar when I can hear the music.

Ukaria

Between sets, Ukaria 25 May 2019

#1 Promises to Tomorrow: Making a Promise

This year’s blog is all about making promises to the future. This first post is a scene-setter.

What is a promise if not a commitment to pay it forward? It is a declaration of following through on a pledge, making good an intention. A promise is an act of hope, often an act of defiance and a forecast. A promise sits in today with recognition of fulfilment coming in a tomorrow.

When we show signs of promise, the potential is what we celebrate and we look forward to the harvest. Embedded in the promise is the seed and the bloom. The journey for a promise to be realised is often fragile, vulnerable and under threat. There are real dangers, snags and fears lying under the surface of a promise.

Each week I am going to explore a promise to the future – sometimes it will be personal, sometimes planetary and sometimes completely ‘off the wall’. I don’t know what they are yet … but I do promise they will unfold.

Every morning I wake to the twitter and chatter of birdsong – some in captivity and some in the wild. They promise the dawn is coming and a new day is rising from the dark. They sing of successfully making it through the night and chorus a welcome to a new beginning. They are steadfast in their expectation of all that they need will be provided and sourced from their surrounds. They promise the future will be there. The screech of the sulphur crested cockatoo surely started in the Jurassic era in the shape of a pterodactyl – from those earliest of times making a promise to survive and evolve. Birds were all dinosaurs once and birdsong is the foundation of all music that in turn is the foundation of song and words. The promise to tomorrow in the chatter of the morning continues to unfold. The music of their calls finds its way from their bodies to join with the other noises making a soundscape for the day to begin. Without effort they tell go of their song.

To Make a Promise.

Make a place of prayer, no fuss,
just lean into the white brilliance
and say what you needed to say
all along, nothing too much, words
as simple and as yours and as heard
as the bird song above your head
or the river running gently beside you,
let your words join to the world
the way stone nestles on stone
the way the water simply leaves
and goes to the sea,
the way your promise
breathes and belongs
with every other promise
the world has ever made.

Now, leave them to go on,
let your words alone
to carry their own life,
without you, let the promise
go with the river.
Have faith. Walk away.
To make a Promise
From ‘Prayer after Prayer’
© David Whyte & Many Rivers Press

Post Script: Our beloved sulphur crested cockatoo, Joe 50+ years in the family died in May 2017

 

Rehearsing for Heaven

Dear Sor Juana,

Spent the weekend singing sessions entitled Rehearsing for Heaven with a horde of other aspirants in four-part harmony with rain providing percussion and the urn bubbling in the corner offering occasional counterpoint.

I had visited a friend in a hospice earlier in the day so thinking about what rehearsing for heaven might look and sound like was in real-time. When my father was dying I was keen to point out to others and myself that this was not a rehearsal and there was no point waiting for the curtains to open (or close) for the next act, but to get up onto that stage and say the words to be said, sing the songs to be sung.   Practising can be a luxury we don’t always have, yet we are constantly being apprenticed to our own disappearance (as David Whyte has so eloquently put it).

Singing in harmony so we hold each other’s voices in the mesh of notes that forms a safety net should one of our singular sounds stray. Maybe heaven is the place where we can all find our voice and where the inclusion of our note makes the song complete? Simple melodies set to the rhythms of heart beat, walking pace and sometimes with an ache, blend magically under the careful and precise instruction of a master craftsman. I am prompted to think about the harmonics I might offer in other parts of life. A surround sound cloud forms and has all the potential to find its way to the sky and when I close my eyes it is possible I have indeed been rehearsing for heaven.

Seems to me everything we do is preparation for the next steps we take – it’s just we don’t always know that at the time. If this weekend’s music is anything to go by, then I hope I am going to be surrounded by more angels, and look to an instructor who can give me a note to follow and help me keep me the tune offered to my part in the great chorus of humanity. The oos and the ahhs and oomphs syncopate and lighten the load giving me a skip and lift in familiar and surprising ways. More singing is definitely on the agenda while I rehearse for heaven.