Tag Archives: music

Songbird Sing

25 Aug

by Crystal L. Howe

Soaring high above the clouds

Of chaos in my mind,

I know there is a song to sing

With words I cannot find.


I hunt and peck and try in vain

To force the music out

And feel the pangs of harsh regret

That feed the fire of doubt.


The time has come to let it go

And set the songbird free!

For only when the spirit soars

Can any songbird sing!


I learn to find the hidden nest

Of peace within my mind,

Where love consoles and lifts me over

All the thoughts that bind.


There are no words to look for here,

No melody to sing;

The music of this sacred place

The Spirit plays within.


So, take the time to let it go

And set the songbird free!

For only when the spirit soars

Can you, the songbird, sing!

Crystal has been legally blind since birth and lost all light perception at age 12, after a difficult struggle with Glaucoma. She is an ordained minister with a Doctorate Degree in Metaphysical Science. Crystal especially enjoys songwriting, poetry, weaving, and trying new coffee flavors. (You can listen to or download this song at the following link: https://mysticalstrings.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/songbird_sing.mp3)

The Mothers of Invention

30 Mar

by Andrea Kelton

“Suzy…Suzy Creamcheese.    Oh, mama, now what’s got into ya?”

With those lyrics, I was introduced to Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.  In the late 1960’s, bands competed to create music that would “blow your mind.”  Although not commercial superstars, the Mothers were super progressive and innovative.

When I was 18, I flew to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Upon boarding Northwest Airline’s “Blue Goose”, the stewardess directed me to a seat between two bearded, long haired hippies.  As I settled in, these friendly freaks admired my intricate hand “slave” bracelet.  Taking my hand, the guy on my right examined the large jewel ring on my middle finger.  His fingers trailed the three jewel- studded fine-link chains which were attached to the ring.    These chains attached to a chain encircling my wrist.  We talked jewelry and travel destinations.  They were musicians headed for a college concert somewhere in Wisconsin, members of a band called The Mothers of Invention.

Wowie-zowie!  I’d heard of them from my super cool friends.  I could at least act like I was hip, knowing who they were.  But they didn’t care all that much.  They just liked to talk.  I listened.  Then, in comfortable silence, we sat for the remainder of the short flight.

Later that year, the Mothers came to Detroit’s Ford Auditorium. I dragged the guy I was dating to the concert.  The lights dimmed.  We saw no band on the stage as the music started.  Then slowly, the orchestra pit rose to stage level.  Far out!  The crowd went wild as the musicians came into view.  Psychedelic rock mixed with blues rock and fusion jazz filled the night.  Looking back, I was probably too young to fully appreciate such complex compositions.  My date, a huge Beach Boys fan, hated it.

I bought a few albums.  Listening as I ironed my dad’s shirts in the basement laundry room.  I’m not sure I could ever be called a “fan.”  But I have to admit that every time Montana’s mentioned, I hear Frank Zappa say, “I might be movin’ to Montana soon… just to raise me up a crop of Dental Floss.”

Andrea Kelton was diagnosed with uveitis in 1974.  Today she lives in Chicago and teaches Adult Basic Education at Literacy Chicago.  She attends a weekly memoir writing class, “Me, Myself and I” taught by author Beth Finke.

The Cat Who Loved Carols

20 Dec

by Nancy Scott

When Lana moved in two years ago she didn’t know she would become part of our apartment-life legend.  My first real conversation with her concerned our lobby’s lack of Halloween reminders.  “I love decorating,” Lana explained.  “Of course my favorite holiday is Christmas.”

Black Friday jingled and glistened.  I was outside to meet a sale-loving friend.  I suddenly heard, very clearly, Perry Como and Nat King Cole singing carols from above.  I knew Lana lived somewhere up there.

“Lana must be decorating,” I thought.  “She really must love carols, but she’s going to annoy lots of people.”  I didn’t know her apartment number.  I couldn’t warn her about non-Christmas celebrators or afternoon nappers or people who work nights.

By the time I returned home, the building was silent.  I wondered what I’d missed, envisioning not-heavenly door-banging and yelling.

The next night Lana sheepishly told several of us what actually happened.  “I left the TV Christmas channel on and ran out to get that tape that doesn’t hurt walls.  I came back and wondered who was playing music so loud.  And it was in my apartment!  My cat Princess was lying on the TV remote.  She must have stepped on the volume button.  I swear.”

Two other neighbors said they’d heard the carols and wondered about them.  We all laughed and teased Lana about blaming the poor cat.  And the story was told and retold.

Each Black Friday now, Lana assures us, “I’ve turned on the carols, but I collected all the remotes first.”  It makes some of us smile.  And for the rest, the story is still told and retold.

Nancy Scott, Easton, PA, is a blind essayist and poet.  Her over 600 bylines have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies and newspapers, and as audio commentaries. An essayist and poet, she has published three chapbooks. She won First Prize in the 2009 International Onkyo Braille Essay Contest. Recent work appears in Breath and Shadow, Contemporary Haibun Online, and Stone Voices.

Music Is My Sanctuary

4 Sep

by Maribel Steel

One Saturday morning, my dad sat at the kitchen table, flicking through the newspaper.

“Want to know what career you might like to do?” he asked, skimming through the employment section as I sat down. At fifteen, my family had received the diagnosis that I had Retinitis Pigmentosa and my career prospects seemed very limited.

My mum was stirring porridge on the stove and took a step closer to peer over dad’s shoulder. He ironed out the crease obscuring the print with a flattened palm and scanned the long columns. Taking a swig of hot tea, he read his summarised version.

“Teacher? No. Air-hostess? No. Secretary? No. Nurse? No. Hmm…”

My mum scooted back to the stove. Our enthusiasm dwindled rapidly as each job prospect was dismissed. Career options had been an uncomfortable subject to talk about, and as we searched for a solution, none of them seemed possible. I had to fight deep feelings of potential failure. I couldn’t let the new diagnosis of going blind smother my dreams.

My parents tried their best to compensate for my vision loss with material things, making my bedroom very comfortable. Mum cheered up the space by using blazing yellow wallpaper and new furniture. They installed a lavish stereo system, a portable black and white TV and even gave me a green phone to chat with my girlfriends after school.

Having my own oasis to escape to was really a wonderful gift of love. In the privacy of my room there were no roving eyes to catch me out when I bumped into the modular furniture or fumbled around looking for misplaced objects. The parental security camera didn’t operate here in my secluded haven.

I was free to seek comfort through my passion for music. I adored my collection of vinyl records and spent happy hours singing and imagining I was a famous pop singer. In my safe existential satellite, this imaginary world was my normal world. I didn’t have to compete with anyone, and I didn’t need eyes to sing.

Dreams of my up and coming stardom as Australia’s next Olivia Newton-John soared high on wings of hope as I sang harmonies to all her pop songs. So impressed by her double-barreled surname, that I felt compelled to dream up a stage name of my own.

‘Ladies and Gentlemen…introducing…the wonderful next queen of pop – Miss Adelyn Lindsey-Hayes.’

It seems comical to me now but I did use my fictitious name once when I auditioned for a small part in the musical, The King and I for a local production. The reply printed inside the envelope, offering me the role began with, “Dear Miss Hayes…”

I was tickled pink.

I didn’t become that famous pop-star but a song is never far from my heart.

“Use what talents you possess. The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” Anon

Maribel Steel is an author, writer, blogger, mother and vocalist. She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her partner and teenage son. She was diagnosed at fifteen with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). Maribel writes about places to feel, sounds and textures to explore as well as sharing insights on crafting The Art of Being Blind. She has self-published a book of short stories (memoir) and has several articles featured in various journals and blogs.

Read more about her at: www.maribelsteel.com and being a teaching artist at: http://www.gatewaytoblindness.blogspot.com


10 Feb

by Nancy Scott

(Based on music by David Ariellano)

Stretch slowly.
Up, out, under.
Gather gravity.
Tip.  Tempt.  Touch toes.
Hiss.  Purr.
Choose languid plus lust plus loss.
Come back.  Come here.

Nancy Scott, Easton, PA, is a blind essayist and poet.  Her over 600 bylines have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies and newspapers, and as audio commentaries. An essayist and poet, she has published three chapbooks. She won First Prize in the 2009 International Onkyo Braille Essay Contest. Recent work appears in Breath and Shadow, Contemporary Haibun Online, and Stone Voices.

There’s a Song in the Air

22 Dec

by Marilyn Brandt-Smith

Music has always been my strongest means for expressing and celebrating the spiritual beauty of Christmas. As a good harmony singer on a school campus where music played a leading role, I rose early on our day for going home. In the older girls’ cottage we donned warm clothing and took to the roads on campus to sing beneath windows and on patios at other dormitories. This rite of passage had been our dream ever since we were those little girls, cold from crisp air through open windows, but captured by the magic of Christmas harmony. Anticipating hot cocoa and breakfast served early, we serenaded the superintendent and the men in the boiler room providing our steam heat. The night before, in our annual Christmas pageant, we tried our wings onstage or sang from the balcony, open to the back of the auditorium from the second floor. We got goosebumps as three high school boys with grown-up, handsome voices walked up the center aisle singing “We Three Kings,” and joined the manger scene onstage.

Each line in this collection of haiku is taken from a song celebrating the nativity. Some songs and verses may be obscure, but most are familiar. Some mystery writers in the 1930’s used footnotes to prove they’d dropped clues here and there. I offer a list, ordered by line, of the songs from which I borrowed lyrics.

 No crying he makes,
The babe, the son of Mary,
Born in Bethlehem.
Angels bending near,
What your gladsome tidings be?
So, to honor him.
Sing, choirs of angels;
Rise up, shepherd, and follow
The stars in the sky.
Peace to men on Earth!
Go tell it on the mountain;
Come little children.
Come and behold him;
Lo, how a rose e’er blooming,
Born on Christmas day.
He shall feed his flock;
The weary world rejoices;
Sheep may safely graze.
Yay, Lord, we greet Thee,
Born to raise the sons of Earth,
His gospel is peace.
Star of Bethlehem,
Guide us to thy perfect light;
Christ was born for this.

There’s a Song in the Air, Away in a Manger, What Child is This?, Children, Go Where I Send Thee, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, Angels We have Heard on High, Little Drummer Boy, Oh, Come, All Yee Faithful, Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, Go Tell it on the Mountain, Oh Come, Little Children, Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming, Mary’s Boy Child, He Shall Feed His Flock, from Handel’s Messiah, Oh Holy Night, Sheep May Safely Graze, from a cantata by Bach, Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, Beautiful Star of Bethlehem, We Three Kings of Orient Are,  and Good Christian Men, Rejoice

Marilyn Brandt Smith’s writings reflect memories of her childhood at the Texas School for the Blind (1955) and at home on a ranch in south Texas.  She taught children in summer programs and adults in year-round rehabilitation centers and in their homes. Marilyn also worked as a counselor and a director of rehabilitation for several agencies across the country. She is now totally blind and lives with my family in a hundred-year-old home in Louisville, Kentucky.

Creative Person of the Week

22 Jun

Roy Kelton Orbison (April 23, 1936 – December 6, 1988) was an American singer-songwriter, best known for his distinctive, powerful voice, complex compositions, and dark emotional ballads. Orbison grew up in Texas and began singing in a rockabilly/country and western band in high school until he was signed by Sun Records in Memphis. His greatest success came with Monument Records between 1960 and 1964, when 22 of his songs placed on the Billboard Top Forty, including “Only the Lonely”, “Crying”, and “Oh, Pretty Woman”. His career stagnated through the 1970s, but several covers of his songs and the use of “In Dreams” in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet revived his career in the 1980s. In 1988, he joined the supergroup Traveling Wilburys with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne and also released a new solo album. He died of a heart attack in December that year, at the zenith of his resurgence. His life was marred by tragedy, including the death of his first wife and his two eldest sons in separate accidents.

Orbison was a natural baritone, but music scholars have suggested that he had a three- or four-octave range. The combination of Orbison’s powerful, impassioned voice and complex musical arrangements led many critics to refer to his music as operatic, giving him the sobriquet “the Caruso of Rock”. Elvis Presley and Bono have stated his voice was, respectively, the greatest and most distinctive they had ever heard. While most men in rock and roll in the 1950s and 1960s portrayed a defiant masculinity, many of Orbison’s songs instead conveyed a quiet, desperate vulnerability.

Orbison was initiated into the second class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 by longtime admirer Bruce Springsteen. The same year he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame two years later. Rolling Stone placed Orbison at number 37 on their list of The Greatest Artists of All Time, and number 13 on their list of The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.[4] In 2002, Billboard magazine listed Orbison at number 74 in the Top 600 recording artists.[

Roy Orbison was born in Vernon, Texas, the middle son of Orbie Lee Orbison, an oil well driller and car mechanic, and Nadine Shultz, a nurse. Both of Orbison’s parents were unemployed during the Great Depression, so the family moved to Fort Worth for several years to find work, until a polio scare prompted them to return to Vernon. To find work, the family moved to Wink, Texas. Orbison would later describe the major components of life in Wink as “Football, oil fields, oil, grease and sand”] and in later years expressed relief that he was able to leave the desolate town. All the Orbison children were afflicted with poor eyesight; Roy used thick corrective lenses from an early age. A bout with jaundice as a child gave him a sallow complexion, and his ears protruded prominently. Orbison was not particularly confident in his appearance; he began dyeing his nearly white hair black when he was young. He was quiet and self-effacing, remarkably polite and obliging—a product, biographer Alan Clayson wrote, of his Southern upbringing.[8] However, Orbison was readily available to sing, and often became the focus of attention when he did. He considered his voice memorable if not great.  He was known for performing while standing still and solitary, wearing black clothes and dark sunglasses which lent an air of mystery to his persona.

On his sixth birthday, Orbison’s father gave him a guitar. Orbison later recalled that, by the age of seven, “I was finished, you know, for anything else”; music would be his life. Orbison’s major musical influences as a youth were in country music. He was particularly moved by the way Lefty Frizzell sang, slurring syllables. He also enjoyed Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers. One of the first musicians he heard in person was Ernest Tubb playing on the back of a flatbed truck in Fort Worth. In West Texas, however, he was exposed to many forms of music: “sepia”—a euphemism for what became known as rhythm and blues (R&B); Tex-Mex; orchestral Mantovani, and zydeco.

(Excerpt from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Orbison )