The Heart List

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring recorded music, stories, and narrative from my forthcoming book:

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

Red Boots (a gift from artist, Julie Andrews of California).
“What Wondrous Love Is This,” American Folk Hymn from the early 1800s, played by Laura Dean.

Indigenous people, explorers, pioneers on the Oregon Trail, missionaries, miners, cowboys, preachers, teachers, and frontier settlers all left behind a rich musical history. Each group that traveled west brought heart to the experience as they wove their unique threads into the musical tapestry that was as diverse as the people and experiences of the nineteenth century American West. Below you will find the “Heart List” which highlights the many roles that music played as people established a new sense of place.

Indeed, the “Heart List” applies to our modern world. For a contemporary story that illustrates the healing power of music in the face of Alzheimer’s disease, I encourage you to watch the 60 Minutes episode that aired last week,”The Final Act,” which features musical legends Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga.

The Heart List: In the 19th Century American West, music provided…
• Celebration
• Comfort for people (and restless cattle)
• Community connection
• Creative outlet
• Diplomacy
• Diversion
• Entertainment
• Expression of cultural identity
• Expression of friendship
• Expression of joy
• Expression of love
• Expression of sorrow
• Historical records of events
• Memories of home
• Sense of place
• Solace
• Worship

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How Can I Keep from Singing, Yellow House Salon #17

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The last few weeks, in addition to teaching my private students,  I’ve been working as a teaching artist for the Seattle Opera in their Opera in Schools Program. The opera work includes composing  mini operas with 3rd graders.  I’ve also been teaching general music at Wedgwood Montessori Preschool.  I am inspired, energized and humbled by the fearlessness and creativity of children in the schools and in my private studio.

How Can I Keep From Singing is an American song dating as far back as the mid 1800’s, possibly written by Robert Lawry. The melody is sweet and simple while  the text is  beautiful and timeless.

My life goes on in endless song  above earth’s lamentations,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
While to that rock I’m clinging.
It sounds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing?