Music in the Westward Expansion: Songs of Heart and Place on the American Frontier

After months (really years) of work on the manuscript, I’m delighted to announce the book cover and title of my forthcoming book to be published by McFarland Publishers later this year. The book is 7 x 10 inches and contains 10 chapters along with 60 images, bibliography, index, and a selection of lead sheets.

As the publisher is hard at work on the editing process, I turn my attention to offering a sneak peek of the book. Over the next several weeks, I’ll post snippets of the narrative along with my own recordings of songs mentioned in the text.

The cover image features the Fort Shaw Mandolin Club circa 1905. The young ladies hold a variety of string instruments including mandolins, violins, and guitars. The image was likely taken at the Fort Shaw Indian School near Great Falls, Montana. (Image courtesy of Montana Historical Society.) 

The story………………….

Many people have heard of The Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Oregon Trail, and the Westward Expansion, but few are aware that music played a significant role in the movement. The diverse cultural landscape of the Old West included Northern Cheyenne courtship flute makers, fiddle-playing explorers, dancing fur trappers, hymn-singing missionaries, frontier flutists, girls with guitars, wagon driving balladeers, poetic cowboys, singing farmers, musical miners, and preaching songsters.

During the Westward Expansion, some 400,000 people uprooted their families in pursuit of a better life in the West. Taking only the bare essentials that would fit into simple wagons, the pioneers made room for musical instruments alongside their guns, food, and tools. Music often provided the only spark of light and happiness for these weary travelers during what seemed like an endless dusty journey fraught with hardships. Heart and Place offers a new look at an old story, an opportunity to drill down deeply into the experiences of our forefathers and foremothers, discovering again and again how music sustained them, provided joy, and often eased tensions between disparate groups along the trail.

Heart and Place- The Book!

A quick post to let you know the news that yesterday I signed a publishing contract with McFarland & Company, Inc. for my book: Heart and Place: Music and the Westward Expansion (this is the working title). The project is near and dear to my heart. I guess you say the book has been 51 years in the making, as both music and living in the West have played such a huge part in my life. There is still a long road ahead, but yesterday marks a big milestone along the way.

The book explores a variety of music traditions of the 19th Century American West including Northern Cheyenne courtship flutes, fiddle playing explorers, women composers, medicine songs, French tunes, dancing fur trappers, hymn-singing missionaries, piano playing nuns, frontier flutists, girls with guitars, wagon driving balladeers, opulent theaters, musical instrument showrooms, Chinese American Suona players, singing farmers, opera enthusiasts, musical miners, and preaching songsters. Stay tuned for updates on the book launch date!

Signing the Contract with McFarland & Company, Inc. 6/15/20

 

Buffy Sainte-Marie, Love Lift Us Up!

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Last weekend, Scott Simon of NPR’s Weekend Edition featured an interview with award-winning Canadian singer, songwriter, artist, and social activist, Buffy Sainte-Marie. What a delightful and insightful interview!

This is the first time I’ve heard of Buffy Sainte-Marie. Where have I been? I instantly fell under her spell as she talked about her recently released biography, her life in music, and her personal journey. As the interview rolled on, her radiant spirit, humor, and message of hope came through loud and clear.  Thanks, Scott Simon!

She co-wrote the 1982 song, “Up Where We Belong”  from the film, An Officer and a Gentlemen. For this song, she  received a Golden Globe and an Academy Award, making her the first native person to ever win that award.

Check out Buffy’s interview with Scott Simon: 

https://www.npr.org/2018/09/29/652791230/buffy-sainte-maries-authorized-biography-serves-as-a-map-of-hope

Don’t miss this soulful video of  Buffy’s You Got to Run ( Spirit Of The Wind )

 

Up Where We Belong, I recorded this in my studio yesterday, inspired by Buffy’s interview! It’s such a beautiful song, an old favorite.

 

Who knows what tomorrow brings

In a world few hearts survive
All I know is the way I feel
When it’s real, I keep it alive

The road is long
There are mountains in our way
But we climb a step every day
Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry
On a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong
Far from the world below
Up where the clear winds blow…………………………………..

 

The original recording  by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes:

 

Indeed,

Love Lift Us Up! 

Piano Arts in Netarts

 

I recently returned from Netarts on the Oregon Coast for Piano Arts in Netarts, Where Music Meets the Sea,  a workshop orchestrated by Dr. Jill Timmons, of Arts Mentor.

I joined about forty other pianists from Oregon, Washington, and California for a weekend of continuing education, beautiful music, friendship, renewal, and stunning scenery.

All  events took place in the fire hall of Netarts, a lovely community style meeting space. We enjoyed  a concert size Bösendorfer and a concert size Yamaha for the concerts and classes, courtesy of Classic Pianos of Portland.

The weekend kicked off with a Friday evening viola/piano concert in the fire hall featuring Jill Timmons and Laura Klugherz .  This fabulous duo played works from the likes of Bréval, Grignon, Ponce, Schubert, Bernstein, and Gershwin, to name a few.  Community members and workshops participants filled the concert space.

The following day began gently with body work, specifically, Feldenkrais, led by Laura Klugherz.  We then jumped into a full schedule of master classes.  The classes highlighted  nine different performers including soloists, a four hand duo (at one piano)  and two duos playing two pianos.

For those  scratching their head about the meaning of a master class, here’s a short explanation. A master class includes a small group of performers,  in our case, all professional musicians and a master teacher.   Each performer plays a prepared  work, and then, the master teacher digs into work and the performance. She addresses  body position, articulations, tempo, pedaling,  dynamics, expression,  phrasing, music history, performance anxiety, and everything in between! It’s like a lesson, but the lesson unfolds in front of forty people.

As a master class performer, I can tell you, the experience is exhilarating, humbling, educational, scary, and a joyful, all at the same time. For our series of  master classes, the repertoire ranged from the  Baroque period  to a work from the late 20th Century.  Each performer and duo managed to add unique pieces and pianistic challenges to the mix.  The repertoire included works from Hilary Tann, Albénez, Chopin, Charles Wakefield Cadman (my contribution), Debussy, and Lutoslawaski.

The following day started  with body work, this time, a yoga class led again by Laura.  The morning workshop addressed practicing effectively,  the afternoon presentation taught us about the inner workings of the piano. We wrapped up the weekend with a community concert presented by  the master class performers.

Of course, in between sessions, we socialized, shared some fantastic meals, visited some local watering holes, and walked around the charming town of Netarts.

Upon reflecting on the weekend and my dedication to continuing education until my very last day on this beautiful earth, I think of the following  quote by Seymour Bernstein.  “Music speaks concordantly to a troubled world, dispelling loneliness and discontent, it’s voice discovering in it those deep recesses of thought and feeling where truth implants itself.  Music offers no quarter for compromise, no excuses, no subterfuge, no shoddy workmanship.”

 Dr. Jill Timmons, director of the festival,  my mentor and friend,  teaches us to practice with full availability of self and also teaches us to give up the idea of perfection in performing. Performing, after all,  is a temporal experience.  She reminds us,  “Perfection only exists in our imagination. We are perfectly imperfect!” 

 

 

 

Neah Bay and Cape Flattery

Neah Bay, Washington,  on the Makah Reservation,  is the gateway village to Cape Flattery, the northwest tip of the Lower 48.  I’ve been intrigued with Neah Bay and Cape Flattery for several years as Joe has traveled there several  times for birding trips.  As it turns out, Neah Bay and the surrounding  area is a hot spot for bird migration in the fall and the spring.  We stayed one night in a cozy little cabin at the Cape Resort.

After a four and a half hour drive from Seattle, including a ferry crossing from Edmonds to Kingston, we found ourselves in Neah Bay, welcomed by the towering painted wooden Makah figures of the Makah Museum.  Neah Bay is a fishing village  and the most prominent feature in town is the marina full of fishing boats, some modern, and some in desperate need of repair or retirement.

As we strolled around the marina, we saw several fisherman hauling in their catch for the day. We chatted with two fish biologists who keep tabs on the daily catch.

I spent an afternoon at the Makah Museum which houses a collection of 500 artifacts dating back 500 years. These artifacts are part of a 50,000 piece collection recovered  from the village of Ozette which was covered in a mud slide five centuries ago.  The mud covering  the precious artifacts for several centuries preserved them until they were discovered and recovered in 1970-1981.

The artifacts  include fishing tackle, tools, wooden baskets, bags,  games, cooking supplies, blankets, and more.  The  display of  artifacts and  printed narrative takes visitors on a journey  through the four seasons while telling  the story of  Makah tribal life,  which centered around whaling, hunting seals, and fishing.

Some of the artifacts are teeny tiny such as fish hooks and small tools the size of a sewing needle. I imagined  someone holding these tools close and going about their day as the deadly mud slide came down centuries ago.  I was  touched that many of the tools were decorative as well as functional such as delicate combs  showcasing  intricate carvings of  fish, and other symbols.  No photographs are allowed in the museum.

The museum has true-to-size replicas of whaling canoes and fishing boats carved from spruce and a full-size longhouse.  There’s also an impressive woven basket collection from the early 20th century made by Makah women who sold the baskets  in order to purchase food for their families.

I spoke to the person at the front desk, a Makah tribal member  who worked on  the excavation of Ozette. He told me the dig was closed up in the 1980’s due to lack of funding, even though he estimates the team only recovered a half of the artifacts.

A short drive out of Neah Bay leads to the  Cape Flattery hiking trail.  The 3/4 mile hiking  trail winds from the parking  lot  through ancient looking  ferns and trees and down a steep and curved  boardwalk which leads to several lookouts including the final lookout point with a stunning, sweeping  view of the Pacific Ocean including  Tatoosh Island,  the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and  Vancouver Island.  The water churns and crashes against the cliffs while Pelagic Cormorants swoop in and out of  crevices and caves.  Breathtaking!

We stayed one night in Neah Bay which really took us out of our normal city life and into another world.  Thank you, Joe, for taking me to  this dramatic corner of the Washington state. Thank you for the beautiful bird photos below!

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Western Sandpiper by Joe Sweeney

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Black Oystercatcher

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Pelagic Cormorants nesting on the cliff at Cape Flattery by Joe Sweeney

 

 

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Wilson’s Warbler by Joe Sweeney

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Semipalmated Plover by Joe Sweeney

 

 

Another Bride, Another June

It’s June, the garden looks fabulous, and exciting music projects are in the works.  Just a quick note to let you know I’ve revamped my wedding and special event offerings page.  I’m available, that is, musically speaking!  Check out my new page here! 

Laura playing Sunday Kind of Love by Louis Prima: 

I want a Sunday kind of love
A love to last past Saturday night
 I’d like to know it’s more than love at first sight
 I want a Sunday kind of love

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Rancho La Puerta 2018

IMG_4642I just returned from a week at the health and fitness spa, Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico.  This was my eighth visit to the Ranch as a  visiting musical artist. The motto of the Ranch is ¡Siempre Mejor! (always better).  My first visit was life changing, and each visit provides inspiration to lead my best and healthiest life possible!  Here are my top 10 experiences from the magical week, in no particular order.

  • Wandering around the brick paths that snake through the entire property while taking in the colorful gardens! 

  • Attending  two concerts from Grammy Award winning classical guitarist, Jason Vieaux! I will never forget his magical playing and commentary in the  intimate setting of the Oak Tree Pavilion.  Here’s a pic of Jason below.

Jason Vieaux

  •  Hanging  out with my handsome husband who worked at the Ranch for thirty-one years before retiring to live in Seattle. I literally took the Ranch home over six  years ago, when Joe came to live with me and my daughter, Ruby.  Now he visits the Ranch  as my guest and gets to relax and do whatever he wants!

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  •  Seeing old friends and making new ones! Below, the lovely Manuela, Concierge Extraordinaire!

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  •  A wonderful hands on cooking class with master vegan chef and cookbook author, Jill Nussinow, the Veggie Queen!  Joe, Ruby, and I  been following a plant based diet for over two years now, never felt better.

 

 

  •  Performing an evening solo piano  program, Across the Borders,  in the Oak Tree Pavilion! I also led two sing along classes in the same space, terrific fun.

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  •  Swimming Workouts in the beautiful fitness pool. IMG_0833
  •  Yoga!

 

  •  Watching a barn owl swoop into a tree at sunset like a  winged white ghost from another world.  Joe and I experienced this together.  We also saw a family of 7 skunks the same night- luckily, they kept the family party moving!  click here for some magnificent bird photos

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  • Returning Home.  Good to go away and oh so happy to return home to the yellow house.  There’s no place like home.

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HEAR IT! SING IT! MOVE IT!

CD Cover

Hear IT! Sing IT! Move IT! is  available as a Pre-K or  K-5 Residency! Laura will visit your school and teach the songs and dances in a classroom setting! 

Hear It! Sing It! Move It! is my latest project, the online package includes a booklet and recordings featuring 15 North American folk songs drawn from English, French, Latin American, Caribbean, Canadian, and Sioux traditions.  The complete recordings and the PDF booklet,  bursting with lead sheets, a teacher’s guide and links for further exploration, are available gratis on this dedicated page!

The project, funded by a Teacher’s Enrichment grant from the Music Teachers National Association, was originally intended for preschoolers, ages 3-5.  However, I think anyone, young at heart, will enjoy the recordings and the booklet!

Go ahead, dig into the guide, sing or play your way through the songs on your own, or share them with a special person in your life. Feel free to pass on the link to children, grandchildren, teachers, friends, musicians, librarians, or your next door neighbor.   It’s up for all to enjoy! 

Below are a couple of the 15 songs you’ll find on the page:  Hear It! Sing It!  Move It! 

Up in a Balloon

Tía Monica 

Merry Christmas from snowy Seattle

Snow is starting to fall.  Looks like we’ll be having a white Christmas in Seattle! Here’s to  peace, love, music, health, and joy today, and every day. Here’s my daughter, Ruby, and I  playing Christmas Cookies (Dec. 17, 2017 at Music Center of the Northwest), originally  recorded by George Strait, written by Aaron Barker. Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

Strait To Vegas

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Rodeo queens, show girls, casinos, hustlers, Texas hold ’em, slots, swanky shops, and mile after mile of neon lights, oh my! Last weekend, Joe and I took a trip to Las Vegas, my first time. Why Vegas? Two words: George Strait.

I’ve been listening to and singing George Strait songs for over thirty years. I love his soothing voice, the beautiful songs, his personality, and his old- school country sound. What’s better than George singing more than thirty of his greatest hits, accompanied  by the Ace in the Hole Band?  Amarillo By Mornin’, Check Yes or No, The Chair, Easy Come Easy Go, are some of my favorites. I also enjoyed the two songs tribute to Merle Haggard, including, Are the Good Times Really Over, now that’s some old-time country!

I can’t stop thinking about the show,  what a delight to experience a stage full of  seasoned musicians who effortlessly and elegantly tossed off hit after hit. I think musicians of all genres would find inspiration in watching these professionals at work. Some of those guys were in their late 70’s if not 80’s.  Definitely not their first rodeo.

While in the big AT&T  Stadium, the concert had excellent sound with amazing views  of George and the band no matter where he was standing on the square-shaped stage, thanks to the Jumbotron.  For the encore, the George and the band played a perennial favorite… All My Ex’s Live in Texas, the Milk Cow Blues, and an old-time swing number, Take Me Back to Tulsa. Here’s George Strait singing Old Troubadour.

We also took in Cirque du Soleil’s One, featuring the music of Michael Jackson.  A stunning show with death-defying acrobatics, creative staging, brilliant costumes, amazing performers,  and dazzling lighting.  Standouts of the show  include, Billy Jean danced in the dark, the dancers (and flying acrobats),  outlined by a tiny lights,  the sexy, Dirty Diana, danced by an athletic, and incredibly flexible woman, the fierce female bass player playing all those memorable riffs such as  Beat it and Smooth Criminal,  and a hologram of the King of Pop himself, dancing the grand finale of the show.  Absolutely mesmerizing. Here’s the trailer for the show.

Below are some shots of the strip and check out George Strait singing Old Troubadour.

My version of Amarillo By Mornin’: