winter morning

I love the orange sky and peach and lemon and tangerine, just as the sun rises! This has been a difficult week with the time change and with a concert or concert rehearsal four out of the last 5 evenings after a full day of clinic. Concert today and tomorrow, and I love the pieces we are doing. Here: Rainshadow Chorale.

all sounds become music

I am in RainShadow Chorale. My father was one of the people who started it in 1997.  I moved to Port Townsend in 2000, because my mother had cancer. She died in May of 2000. My father died in 2013. I had the joy of singing with him in this group for 13 years.

Our concert is weekend after next and I really love this one. We are doing a wild mix of pieces and moods with the theme from a Walt Whitman poem. In this time of so many people being afraid and angry and stirred up, going to chorus is healing. All of these people, unpaid, coming together to create these two concerts of beauty and unity and joy. A gift to each other and a gift to the community.

Ticket information on the website.

Stages of Grief: anger

I am thinking of the songs that comfort me in grief.

And thinking about the stages of grief. Five, right? Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Grief and Acceptance. My sister said, “They left out Revenge and Acting Out. ” She died of cancer in 2012 at age 49. Six days after her birthday and the day after mine.

Anger songs for grief. But denial is first, right? Not necessarily. These are not stages you move through in a certain order. This is more like a spiral, where you go from one to the next and back to the start, from day to day or even hour to hour.

I’ve already written about My Name is Samuel Hall. That is an angry song, unrepentant, that my sister wanted the last time that I visited her. I knew that she was furious about dying and leaving her husband and daughter. And me and her friends.

My mother sang:

“Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I think I’ll go eat worms. Big fat slimy ones, little tiny wiggly ones, see them wiggle and squirm. Bite their heads off, suck their guts out, throw the skins away. I don’t see how anyone can live on three meals of worms a day… without dessert….”

She also taught us this:

“I don’t want to play in your back yard
I don’t like you any more
You’ll be sorry when you see me
Sliding down my cellar door”

My parents had songs for every mood I can imagine. There were moods they would not speak about but they sang them.

My favorite angry groups are The Devil Makes Three, Hank Williams III, The Offspring, and Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Sweet Honey in the Rock? Yes. They sing about death a lot. This song is not about death: it’s about a “bad” woman, wanted dead or alive. But listen to the song: they are singing about a real event and a woman who fought back against a rape. On the thirty year album of Sweet Honey in the Rock, the group says that their first “hit” was this song, played by news stations. “It was a hint that we were not going to be top 40.” The song is Joanne Little.

So here are three songs by the others:

The Offspring: Why don’t you get a job?

The Devil Makes Three: All Hail

Hank Williams III: My Drinking Problem

And how do families show anger? They fight. They fight with each other. They fight about how someone should die, what should be done about mom, whether dad can live alone any more, about the right way to grieve. They fight about small things or big things and they even sue each other. Before you wade into the fray, step back. Remember, families grieving are always a little bit insane, very stressed and it’s all grief.

Hank Williams III: Country heroes

Blessings on the people I know in hospice right now and on their families and loved ones. Third one today. Sending love.




More Dawn

Here is one of the Voiceworks Classes with Dawn Pemberton. My biggest problem is I want to go to all five or six classes that are running simultaneously and then there are people playing music in the halls, on the porch, singing in the practice rooms!

And we’re on our feet practicing singing soul.


I shall leave you

My poems start with a problem, an idea, a worry. I never know where it will go when I start. This poem started with wanting to leave in a positive way and started with the title. So how could I leave but leave with kindness? And what would I leave?

So it is a song. And should include sign language, I think….

I shall leave you

I shall leave you with a song
I shall leave you with music
I shall leave you with a picture
I shall leave you with voice upraised

I leave you with a song
I leave you with music
I leave you with a picture
I leave you with voice upraised

I leave you a song
I leave you music
I leave you a picture
I leave you voice upraised

I leave a song
I leave music
I leave a picture
I leave voice upraised

leave a song
leave music
leave a picture
leave a voice upraised

a song
a picture
a voice upraised



Paper of pins

For the daily prompt: Treasure.

This is another song to raise girls. My sister and I loved the double twist at the end. This is a courting song, to be sung by at least two voices. At music parties, my parents would sing it to each other. We would join in joyfully.

First voice:
I’ll give to you a paper of pins
and that’s the way our love begins
If you will marry me oh me,
if you will marry me

I’ll not accept your paper of pins
if that’s the way your love begins
and I won’t marry you oh you
and I won’t marry you

I’ll give to you a dress of red
all sewn round with golden thread
If you will marry me oh me,
if you will marry me

I’ll not accept your dress of red
all sewn round with golden thread
and I won’t marry you oh you
and I won’t marry you

I’ll give to you a coach and four
so you can ride from door to door
If you will marry me oh me,
if you will marry me

I’ll not accept your coach and four
so I can ride from door to door
and I won’t marry you oh you
and I won’t marry you

I’ll give to you the keys to my heart
so we can love and never part
If you will marry me oh me,
if you will marry me

I’ll not accept the keys to your heart
so we can love and never part
and I won’t marry you oh you
and I won’t marry you

I’ll give to you the keys to my chest
so you can have money at your request
If you will marry me oh me,
if you will marry me

I will accept the keys to your chest
so I can have money at my request
And I will marry you oh you
and I will marry you

I love coffee and you love tea
you love my money you don’t love me
And I won’t marry you oh you
And I won’t marry you

I’ll take my tea and sit in the shade
I think I’d rather be an old maid
And I won’t marry you oh you
And I won’t marry you

We were interested in the escalation of the offer and that in the end, the woman was quite clear: she did not love him and was not for sale.

There are multiple versions on YouTube with different words. I like the one by Rose Lee and Joe Maphis.

The photograph is of a sewing kit. It belonged to Margaret White, my maternal grandmother’s oldest sister. It says: J. A Henckel, Twinworks, Germany. The paper is a paper of needles, needles of different sizes. I liked small things, so my mother let me have this kit. I have used it since I was a child. Some of the pieces were missing from the start, but I suspect that those that remain are ivory. My grandmother was born in 1899, so this kit would be from the early 1900s. I carefully kept all of the needles in their paper packets.

Songs to raise girls: Long Black Veil


This and The Fox are what I think of as the two core family songs. We sang this from as early as I can remember and my father played the Band’s version on the record player all the time. I taped his records to take to college…

This is the song my parents chose to raise girls on? Oh, and I do have it memorized….

Ten years ago on a cool dark night
There was someone killed ‘neath the town hall light
There were few at the scene and they all did agree
That the man who ran looked a lot like me

Ok, it starts with a murder. Someone is killed, in the town, at night. Be careful, little girls, bad things can happen at night.

The judge said “Son, what is your alibi?
If you were somewhere else then you won’t have to die”
I spoke not a word although it meant my life
I had been in the arms of my best friend’s wife

It is about infidelity and not only infidelity, but infidelity with his best friend’s wife. This song is a morality play. He doesn’t speak. I see the magazines at the counters in the grocery store and think about how different this song is from our current culture. Divorce and splashed all over the papers, that’s what the celebrities do today.

She walks these hills in a long black veil
She visits my grave where the night winds wail
Nobody knows, no, and nobody sees
Nobody knows but me

So she doesn’t speak either. She remains faithful to him in visiting his grave, but the marriage must continue, because she only goes at night.

The scaffold was high and eternity neared
She stood in the crowd and shed not a tear
But sometimes at night when the cold wind moans
In a long black veil she cries over my bones

She watches him die for what they considered a sin. This song is about ethics, really. The two of them had broken their code of honor and paid the price, which was that he died for a different crime. And did the man who really killed the person in the first stanza then go free?

Why wouldn’t they speak up? Perhaps she had children and he couldn’t support them. Perhaps they truly considered it a sin, a dishonor, a horrible mistake. Perhaps honor and honoring his best friend was more important than love…. Our current culture seems to think that love conquers all, but it doesn’t in this song. Did they do the right thing? This is a song to discuss and to think about and yes, a song to raise girls.

Though I think the husband and any children would know that there was something…. a parent and partner can’t really hide that deep sorrow….

It was written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin in 1959 and originally recorded by Lefty Frizzell.

Lefty Frizzell: []

The Band, 1968

Johnny Cash, 1968

Lots of others…. and us.

The photo is me and my sister, probably in 1993 or 1994.


Songs to raise girls: Billy Barlow

I knew the song “Billy Barlow” as “Let’s go hunting”. It was one of the silly songs that we recorded. I adored this song when I was little for two reasons. One was that it was funny. The other was that I interpreted it as a song that could be changed and sung about more than one animal. I can remember when I realized that no, the adults sang it the same way each time and they would not change the animal. I was disappointed but I still loved the song. And I could change the animal on my own.

It’s a good song to raise girls: an illustration of a group of guys….

Let’s go hunting, says Risky Rob
Let’s go hunting, says Robin to Bob
Let’s go hunting, says Dan’l and Joe
Let’s go hunting, says Billy Barlow

When my son was a teen, another parent commented that the IQ dropped in half for each teen added to a group. Two boys cut the IQ in half, three had it to one quarter and four was trouble.

What’ll we hunt for, says Risky Rob
What’ll we hunt for,
What’ll we hunt for,
Let’s hunt rats, says Billy Barlow

How’ll we catch them,
How’ll we catch them,
How’ll we catch them,
Let’s borrow a shotgun, says Billy Barlow

How’ll we divide them,
How’ll we divide them,
How’ll we divide them,
How’ll we divide them, says Billy Barlow

I also loved this song because the last line changed. Sometimes Billy Barlow said the same thing and sometimes he said something different. When I was very small and still learning the song, that was part of the joy of it, to see what Billy Barlow would do. And clearly he was wicked, like Coyote or Pan or Loki and going to lead the group to trouble if he could….

I’ll take shoulders,
I’ll take sides,
I’ll take hams
Tailbone mine, says Billy Barlow

How’ll we cook them,
How’ll we cook them,
How’ll we cook them,
How’ll we cook them,

I’ll fry shoulders,
I’ll boil sides
I’ll bake hams,
Tailbone raw, says Billy Barlow

Oh, delicious ickiness, raw rat tailbone… It would give my sister and me shivers….

Let’s go hunting, says Risky Rob
Let’s go hunting, says Robin to Bob
Let’s go hunting, says Dan’l and Joe
Let’s stay home, says Billy Barlow

And relief. Billy was messing with them all the time and he doesn’t want to go and he never did, which is why he suggested a shotgun to hunt rats…. I like this Billy.

When I search on Billy Barlow, here is an entirely different song, a civil war marching song for Company B from New York City that marched into Maryland in 1863 and had a 63% loss. My sister had a civil war marching band play at her rehearsal dinner and we ended up marching in pea gravel for a couple hours. It turns out that my oldest cousin had ambitions to be a marching band drum leader. The band thought we were so funny that they offered to return. But the civil war fighters on both sides had marching bands with them.

And here is Pete Seeger with our song, in a slightly different style:

And here is another site that says the song is a version of “The Cutty Wren” or “The Hunting of the Wren”.

The picture is my daughter. She was playing alone and was having a wonderful time with her imagination. I am not sure who took this picture…..

Songs to raise girls: Dark as a Dungeon

We sang Dark as a Dungeon as a family song and at singing parties from when my sister and I were very little. We learned many of the songs before we knew what the words meant. At some age I considered this a cautionary song and was glad that my father was not mining coal. I also decided that I didn’t want to mine coal.

It was written by Merle Travis, whose father was a miner in an Appalachian shaft mine: Johnny Cash sang it: and Willie Nelson: and Willie Nelson It became a protest song, to fight for safer conditions. We learned this and Drill ye Terriers, Drill and Sixteen Tons, so we were raised on protest songs.

The song words have morphed a little, since we sang from memory. Here is our version:

Come all ye young fellows so young and so fine
And seek not your fortune in the dark, dreary mines
It will form as a habit and seep in your soul
‘Til the stream of your blood runs as black as the coal

Where it’s dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew
Where the danger is double and the pleasures are few
Where the rain never falls and the sun never shines
It’s dark as a dungeon way down in the mines

I wrote an essay in college about a song that I learned from my mother. I researched versions of Green Grow the Rushes Oh. I had always wondered about some of the verses, because it’s a counting song, from one to 12. Twelve for the twelve apostles and eleven for the eleven that went up to heaven. In an atheist household it takes a while to figure out the meaning of apostle. But other verses are mysterious to this day: nine for the nine Bright Shiners and eight for the April Rainers. In oral traditions if you forget a verse you make up a new one.

There’s many a man that I have seen in my day
Who lived just to labor his whole life away
Like a fiend with his dope and a drunkard his wine
A man will have lust for the lure of the mine

The comparison of  mining to addiction impressed me: “it will creep in your soul, til the stream of your blood runs as dark as the coal”. “Like a fiend with his dope” — opiate addicts were called fiends. And people were called drunkards. So this song also made me cautious about both drugs and alcohol.

We didn’t learn the third verse:

The midnight, the morning, or the middle of the day
It’s the same to the miner who labors away
Where the demons of the death often come by surprise
One fall of the slate and you are buried alive

The last verse interested me. I liked the idea of bones turning to coal over time. My parents were atheists and did not go to church, but there were lots of songs that talked about God or heaven or the devil: including sacred music. We went to big chorus rehearsals when my parents couldn’t find a sitter and we were expected to behave politely during concerts: The Messiah. And we got to go to operettas. I saw Ruddigore in Ithaca at Cornell when I was 5 and the ancestral ghosts stepping out of their portraits and singing was terrible and wonderful.

I hope when I’m gone and the ages shall roll
My body will blacken and turn into coal
Then I’ll look out the door of my heavenly home
And I’ll pity the miners A-diggin’ my bones

The photo is my father’s family and he is in the back, first trumpet. This is the Bayers Family Orchestra. My great grandfather is conducting, my grandmother on violin and my grandfather on saxophone. They became a band when my grandparents moved away, because my grandmother was the only string player.

Songs to raise girls: Down by the Salley Gardens

In 2009 my sister came to visit for spring break and our birthdays. We were born in March, five days and three years apart. I said that her birthday present was arranged: a recording session with me, her and my father, to record some of the family songs that we had been singing since birth.

My family had music parties in the 1960s on the east coast and when they were in college at the University of Tennessee. My mother had quit Cornell and my father had quit Princeton and they got married and went to the U of TN and I was born 9 months later. They were very poor. My mother said that she wanted to buy me a three dollar teddy bear but that they just couldn’t afford it.

They did not have a television. They were beatniks and admired On the Road. My father’s family all played instruments and sang. My mother had a much less trained voice but she had a prodigious memory and knew the fourth, fifth, sixth and all the verses of the folk songs. My father also sang classical music and had already sung at Carnegie Hall in his prep school chorus, Williston Prep School. He hated prep school. He had a full scholarship there and to Princeton because he scored perfectly on the early SAT test.

My parents refused to get a television until I was nine and my sister was six. So we sang.

My sister’s response to the birthday present: “Best Birthday Gift Ever.”

She had cancer and my father had emphysema. My mother had died in 2000. I was trying to capture their voices.

We recorded for two two hour sessions in a local in home studio. We made a list of songs and lost it on the way there. So we just took turns naming songs. Both my sister and my father play guitar. I brought kazoos, which we used on a round. We recorded each song once and in two days we recorded 36 songs.

I bought two more recording sessions at silent auctions, but we did not get to record again. And now they are both gone.


My mother and father would sing “Down by the Salley Gardens” as a duet. He was a baritone and low bass. She was an alto. My sister and I sang her part in the recording.

Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.

In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears

by William Butler Yeats in 1889

Listening to it, I miss my mother, my father, my sister. I miss singing with them. It was a love duet for my parents, and full of longing.

The photo is my parents, in about 1960.