Friday, December 29, 2017

Poem: A Trio of Dates

A trio of dates
walk into a bar

Thanksgiving orders a Wild Turkey
straight up, no ice.
I confess, Thanksgiving says,
I’m weary of working so hard.
All I’m asking is, once a year,
a little gratitude.
Some people are faking it.

Tell me about it, says Christmas,
setting a glass of eggnog on the smooth wood.
I was all for the whole Santa thing,
but this is out of control.
Not what I meant by “giving.”

New Year’s sips a Shirley Temple.
A perfect opportunity for change, it mumbles,
handed to one and all, and what is the result?
Bogus resolutions.

The bartender comes by,
wiping up drips and rings. Another round?
The trio of dates rise from their barstools.
New Year’s says, Nah.
We need to go before Valentine’s shows up.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Liner Notes from Ann's new CD: Winter Springs, Summer Falls

Winter Springs, Summer Falls, my twenty-fourth recording. It doesn’t seem possible. But, then again, my guitar will be forty in December of 2017, and I had already been playing for a few years before Charlie Hoffman made that blessed instrument.

I’ve been around long enough to have had recordings that came out in vinyl, some in vinyl and/or CD plus cassette and, I’m proud to say, zero in eight-track. I know the way people listen to a CD has changed, but some of you, bless your hearts, will actually take this disc and listen to it from beginning to end. I appreciate it.

These songs are about seasons — real and metaphorical, physical and spiritual. They were written and recorded between 2013 and the spring of 2017. Two of them I did not write. Two of them appear on previously released recordings.

My heartfelt thanks to Jeff Sylvestre, my brother in music. What a joy it has been to work on this together.

The Day I Fell In Love With You. My wife and I have been together for thirty-two years, married for four. (We refer to this as OS 32.4. Updates each year.) Whatever I have done as an artist has been possible because of Jane’s love and support. She has seen me through the worst, the best, and all of the stuff in the middle. We mark our anniversary from the time when we stopped being vague. It was the best summer of my life.

First Bird. Spring arrives when I hear the robins sing their slurpy little song in the morning. It’s like they get up first, start singing, wake up the cardinals, who also start singing, waking up the chickadees and finally the sparrows. Thanks to Carolyn Boulay for her flexibility and amazing musicianship.

A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square. It has been one of the greatest gifts of my career to know and work with Joan Griffith. Versatile, talented and just plain fun, she introduced me to this song and it has become one of my favorites. It is one of three “bird songs” here.

Thanks For That. Can’t have too many songs about being grateful.

Waiting For The Sun. We have had a winter solstice gathering each year since 2010. Our friends fill our home with poems, laughter and songs about darkness and light, despair and hope, the power of love and community. My friend Fred always has a new song for the solstice. So far, I have two.

You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet. An exercise I enjoy doing with other songwriters is to take a dozen phrases pulled from magazines, newspapers and websites, put them on a large whiteboard at the front of the class, and challenge those assembled to write a song using one of the phrases. While working with a class at the Junior Composers summer “camp,” I promised that I would also make use of one of the phrases — namely, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” The kids finished theirs way before I finished mine. James Gross, thank you — you flew with it!

All The Pretty Faces. The Sunday New York Times is made up of many interesting sections. One of them is called Sunday Styles. I refer to it as The Alien Life Section. (Oh come on, you’ve seen me. Interest in fashion? I don’t think so …)

Carolyn’s Party (Solstice). I wrote this song eighteen years ago for my friend Carolyn, who lives in Anchorage, Alaska. I intended it to be a song about the winter solstice, but it ended up a song about friendship. The original version is on my album Through The Window. I have always wanted to try this with a choir. Jan Hunton is not only a friend but also a musician with soul and sensitivity. Her choral arrangements leave me in awe.

Mothers Day. The original Mother’s Day was a call to peace. Mother’s Day Work Clubs tended wounded soldiers from both sides of the U.S. Civil War. Post-war, Julia Ward Howe issued a Mother’s Day proclamation calling for women to take an active political role in promoting peace. It began: “Arise, all women who have hearts …” Thank you, Laura Caviani. Every song you play is lucky to have you play it.

Winter Springs, Summer Falls. Living in Minneapolis means experiencing the intensity of the seasons: -30º F to 100º F, ice, snow, rain, sun, fog, wind. And the perfection of each season as well. For me, it’s all about the light.

Leap of Faith. Originally written for the Women’s Cancer Resource Center, this song first appeared on Gift of Age. Again — thank you, Jan, for the choral arrangement.

Blackbird. A favorite Lennon/McCartney song. My friend Gail Hartman was the first to suggest that I sing it. I am one of the few guitar players who never learned to play Blackbird. Thank goodness Joan Griffith did.

Fine Cup Of Tea. Having a career that has lasted this long means that my audience has aged along with me. We have all been touched by death and surprised by life. There are some days when I’m OK with getting older, and I sit and think of how I want to spend whatever is left.

Stars Come Out At Night. I remember lying in a lounge chair on the deck of a ship floating around the Galápagos Islands and seeing so many stars, it took my breath away. When I look up at night in my backyard, the visible stars are not so many, but there’s the same feeling of being quite small. We are alone but, we hope, lucky enough to have some traveling companions. I have long wanted to have Constance Braden, my sister-in-law/friend, play on one of my songs. What a treat.

My heartfelt thanks to the generous and gifted Anita Ruth for her fiddle arrangement on First Bird and flute arrangement on Stars Come Out At Night.

My gratitude:
Stevie Beck, Tom Kruse, Lin Bick, Rose Gregoire, Gail Hartman, Cindy McArthur, Kate Tucker.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Post Election

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
~ John Adams

I started to write this blog on November 10, 2016. I ranted, I raged. I read what I wrote and then highlighted all of it and hit delete. I was depressed and angry.

More than two months have passed and the anger, outrage and hair-pulling disbelief are still there. But I think I’m ready to form a coherent thought or two.

A good chunk of my anger is not directed at the guy who actually did not win the popular vote.(1)  Sorry, still cannot call him “president,” and saying his name leaves a bad taste in my mouth.(2)

I am first and foremost holding those who did not vote accountable. Is this new, people not voting? Sadly, no.

In this country, this republic, where we have the right and responsibility to elect the people who will best serve us—local, state and federal—we, the people, suck at voting. (3)

I have heard many reasons why people who could have voted didn’t, and none of them are convincing. If you didn’t like either the Republican or Democrat running for the presidency, there were a bunch of other people on most ballots. Here in Minnesota, we had candidates from the Constitution, the Socialist Workers, the Green, Libertarian, Independence, American Delta and the Legalize Marijuana Now Parties. (4) (Believe me, I had a moment immediately following the election of wishing the Legalize Marijuana Now Party had won.)

In most elections, you are not only voting for the president. You are also electing officials like state representatives, school board, park board. There are usually amendments and ballot measures to be decided. And these affect you, your children, your neighbors, your community, city, county and state.
Here’s the other thing: you are a citizen of this country. And this country asks that you pay your taxes, that men register for Selective Service (women, you’re next), and that you obey the law. No one forces you to vote. It is your right and privilege. It’s Citizenship 101.

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.
~ Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Now we are faced with an administration that just makes stuff up.

But you know what? Facts exist. Instead of “Alt Facts,” let’s encourage Kellyanne Conway to use the term we oldsters used to have for that: “fiction.”

I am left with the question: how will I get through the coming onslaught of daily attacks on the rights of the citizenry?

I’m going to keep singing, writing and engaging in art. When despair takes over, I will gather and renew my soul with my friends.

I will show up.
I have 500 blank postcards.(5) Every week, I will sit and write to not only my representatives, but also to Senator McConnell and Representative Ryan. I will send postcards to Democrats who are not standing up to these bullies, as well as finding the Republicans who might just feel that their party has been taken over by a bunch of thugs.

I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.
~ Abraham Lincoln

I will continue to believe in the power of the people.
We do not have businesses large and small paying attention to sustainability and products that are better for the Earth because they were forced by Congress to do so. They do it because the people demand it. Some of my postcards will go to tell businesses I appreciate what they are doing in the cause of social justice. Other cards will go to tell the owners and board members why I will not be using their products or services.

Standing on the stage at the capitol building in St. Paul on January 21, 2017, and seeing a sea of people, dotted with pink, marching down the boulevard, my heart was lifted. The images of marchers from around the world brought tears to my eyes. We are powerful.

There is a midterm election in 2018. For the future of our fragile planet, and every person on it, let’s all show up.

2 It's the truth. My dentist can find no other problem.
5 I really do. Colored pencils too. This will require art.