Evensong

Evensong ~ 1. a daily service in the Anglican church, also called evening prayer; 2. a song sung in the evening

Iris reticulata 'Harmony'

Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’

This Easter Saturday, I spent most of the day in the garden. Early that morning, the bird chorus was joyous and noisy. The first day of true spring weather arrived with warmer temperatures and cloudless blue skies and the birds were celebrating.  It was the time for garden cleanup, pruning shrubs, raking leaves from the garden beds, and a general assessment of the state of the garden and its possibilities for the coming season. I grabbed the camera to record the few flowers in bloom – hellebores, crocus, Iris reticulata, and intense blue of a lonely Scilla siberica. The sun shifted through the sky throughout the day, guilding the garden with luminous golden light. I constantly refilled my water bottle and labored throughout the day interspersed with plenty of rest sessions, usually on a stone step facing south, absorbing the full face of the early spring sun.

Hellebore

As I finished my work for the day and strolled through a garden now ready for the season, I became aware of how different the garden sounded in the early evening. The raucous morning chorus had mellowed into the last songs of the fat robins sorting through the garden beds for an evening worm snack and the chirps of a chickadee who was exploring the beauty bush for a possible nest site. Their songs were separated by moments of quiet; a golden glow had descended and the song of evening matched it, relaxed and reflective.

snowdropsEvery culture and religion has a set of songs that matches the time of day.  Matins, vespers, compline, all music for a time of day. Indian musical culture has scales and songs, ragas, that are only to be used for specific times of days. I found myself wondering, as I wandered through the evening garden, if this tradition arose from gardeners, or at the least, those paying attention to nature, to the  rhythm and song of the natural world.  How different is morning song from evening song! One greets the day with joy and then later celebrates the work of the day and its attendant rest with song punctuated by moments of silence. Here is a lovely video of evening bird song in Vancouver that I discovered online that most closely resembles the sound of my garden last evening. 

Rose hellebore

Although I can capture a few blooms, I cannot possibly capture the feel of this day with my camera.  The slanting gold of evening skies, the winter sun shining on a few bold blooms, an ephemeral butterfly moving so quickly that I cannot capture it, all are etched in my mind’s eye. The camera might capture nothing more than the brown and gray landscape of an early spring garden but there was so much more, a garden of possibilities. The light shifting through the bare woods. Nascent buds swelling on shrubs and trees. The fresh smell of soil awakened from the frozen grip of winter. This day now only resides in my memory of a perfect span of time spent in the company of birds, sunlight, and the spirit of the garden. Spring has arrived quietly and nestled in my gardener’s heart. It may snow tomorrow or the next day, but for me, spring has come on an evening song and I treasure the moment.

Music From the Heart

Christina Aguilera’s voice captured my attention last night. I turned on the Telethon for Hurricane Sandy Relief broadcast from NBC across the nation and heard her sing as only Christina can sing, a powerful heart-felt voice singing “Beautiful” accompanied by a piano.  No dancing, no costumes, no stage extravaganza, just that voice.  I settled in, knowing suddenly that I was in for a rare musical treat.

Musicians, actors, comedians, newscasters – all gathered on an NBC New York soundstage in a simple and direct plea to help their fellow citizens so profoundly affected by the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Jon Bon Jovi toured his childhood neighborhood of Sayreville, New Jersey, speaking with old friends and neighbors, then sang “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” with his guitar in hand, a second guitarist and violinist adding poignancy to the song.  And so the night went, from an acoustic trio of Aerosmith performing “Dream On” to Sting soloing on “Message in a Bottle.” A moving video of both destruction and hope was set to the Coldplay song “Fix You” – a combination that moved me to tears.  Many other musicians, actors, and entertainment luminaries from Jon Stewart to Billy Joel added their voices to an hour that was commercial free, just a plea for helping others.

The stars of the entertainment world often, to their credit, come together to raise money for important causes.  Why was I so profoundly moved by this particular broadcast? Yes, everyone on the stage had a personal connection to this tragedy, an intensity often missing from other efforts. But this is what I think that struck me and moved me.  The staging was minimal, no histrionics or big gestures, and a very small audience.  Just talented people standing or sitting simply, making music from their hearts and souls, the way they perhaps always intended to do before getting caught up in the world of big music business. These are the people I know as musicians, truly in love with what they do, and reaching deep inside themselves, not for effect, but for authenticity. I don’t know when I’ve witnessed a concert quite like this. This morning, I still get a bit weepy as I think of the power of music offered to help those in need.

If you missed the concert, NBC has made it available in its entirety here. Please consider giving money to the Red Cross for this effort – it is easy to text a $10 donation from your cell phone or make a donation online at iTunes or directly to the Red Cross. Here’s a full summary of the concert from Yahoo News.

Please don’t forget the victims with no voice, the pets and animals deeply affected by this tragedy.  The sight of National Guard loading the family pet into a truck was heartwarming but more animals and their families need our help.  The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is actively trying to rescue pets left behind or lost and reunite them with their families.  You can help with their Disaster Relief efforts here.

So today, I count my blessings once again and feel enormous pride and tenderness for all who stood simply yet powerfully on a small studio stage last night and sang to help others.

Your Opinion, Please

Months of work are coming to a peak! I have finished the audio for the first song, Breath, and am tweaking the video for it now. I hope to premiere it in a post this coming weekend.

In the meantime, I have started a music store on CD Baby which will also appear on my Facebook music page.  Here’s my plan: record and release as a digital download one piece a month of what I am calling “songs from the garden.” In a year’s time, all the songs will then be gathered into a CD and released again as a CD download and/or a physical CD.

For all of my followers and visitors, I would love your feedback and opinions before I finalize the store and premiere the first piece. I have created a short poll of your preferences for online music which will help me decide the best way to proceed with presenting my work.  Every song will be featured here “in entirety” on the blog as a music video but I am still trying to determine the best way to handle the mp3 downloads.

There are no “right or wrong” answers – results (by percentage) will be listed in the next post.  I would love your opinion, please!

Waters of March (Águas de Março)

And the river bank talks of the waters of March
It’s the promise of life, it’s the joy in your heart – from “Waters of March” by Antonio Carlos Jobim

The Waters of March (Águas de Março ), written by Antonio Carlos Jobim,  reflects the end of summer, which is March in Brazil.  For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it suggests the beginning of spring, “the promise of life in your heart”.

March is here and is it full of the promise of life. As I bend again and again to weed and clear the detritus of winter and uncover the emerging blooms and greening leaves, I hear in my mind the lovely repetitive melody of this sensuous and philosophical song by Jobim, the composer and musician who made Brazilian music accessible to the rest of the planet.

The Waters of March was originally intended to list the passages and events of life that flow and ebb and culminate in the waters of March, a stormy and wet time at the end of summer in the southern hemisphere of Brazil.  In the northern hemisphere, March is also stormy and wet but also the beginning rather than the end of the growing season. As the rain and storms bring us green leaves, bird song, and early blooms, we can consider the beauty of the song and the reality of nature’s astonishing gifts of blossom and promise.  Here are a few images of new life in my garden this week, a stream of life in the waters of March.

“It’s the promise of life in your heart”

The original song sung by Brazilian singer Elis Regina and Jobim, with English subtitles, slow to load but worth watching.

A video of a recording session with Regina and Jobim in an Argentian production that is evidence of pure joy and utter musical communication.

Al Jarreau and Oleta Adams in a very lush and sexy version of Waters of March.

The written lyrics of Waters of March – Portugeuse and English

All images ©2012 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved

Kennywood’s Open!

Ah, words that have a magic ring!  Kennywood Park is our local historical (but very up to date) amusement park. School children in Western Pennsylvania love the phrase “Kennywood’s open!” – it signifies that it is spring, school is almost over, and a great day at the amusement park is in order! But there is a second less obvious meaning that every kid and former kid knows, a local colloquialism that means “your zipper’s open!”

I may be rushing the season a bit, as the park does’t open until May, but I wanted to feature a piece written by my husband and musical partner, BIll Purse. When he was commissioned to compose a symphonic band piece for the local North Hills High School, he chose Kennywood as his inspiration and the famous phrase as the title of the piece. Bill has a history of writing pieces inspired by favorite places; Kennywood’s Open featured six vignettes based on his favorite park rides. In the name of research, we made several trips to the park to record the sound of the rides as well as photograph and videotape footage for what eventually became a combination of music and actual sounds from the park and plenty of resources for multimedia presentations.

Since its premiere, Bill has rearranged it for orchestra for a performance by the Washington Symphony Orchestra on the very day that the park opened for the season. The concert hall featured an enormous screen and high resolution projector, so I was able to create moving graphics of the park rides while the orchestra performed the piece.

When creating his solo CD Sonic Art, Bill  adapted the “Merry Go Round” section as a jazz piece featuring Duquesne University’s Catch 22 and jazz trumpeter Sean Jones. This video features the CD recording of The Merry Go Round combined with the Kennywood footage and some stills of Sean taken by friend and photographer Doug Harper. The video features the Dentzel Carousel installed in the park in 1927 and the 1915 Wurlitzer Band Organ whose actual sound begins and ends the piece.

Enjoy the ride!