Harvest Time

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.

Harvest. ca. 1869., artist unknown. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

William Van Orsdel, “Brother Van,” known as the best loved man in Montana. (ca. late 1800s)

Brother Van with friends and bear cub in Great Falls, Montana. Photo courtesy of the Brother Van Museum Archives. (ca. late 1800s)

“Harvest Time,” known as “Brother Van’s Song.” played by Laura Dean
Harvest Time 
The seed I have scattered in spring-time with weeping 
and watered with tears and with dews from on high;
Another may shout when the harvesters reaping 
shall gather my grain in the sweet by and by.

Over and over, yes-deeper and deeper 
my heart is pierced through with life's sorrowing cry,
but the tears of the sower and the songs of the reaper 
shall angle together in joy by and by. 

By and by, by and by 
by and by, by and by
But the tears of the sower and the songs fo the reaper shall
mingle together in joy by and by.

Then palms of victory, crowns of glory, 
palms of victory I shall wear. 

William Van Orsdel (1848-1919), known as Brother Van, was often referred to as “the best loved man in Montana.” Brother Van, an enthusiastic singer, often broke into song during his sermons. He was a 19th century Methodist minister and circuit rider – a preacher who rode from town to town conducting church services. He tirelessly preached the gospel to congregations both large and small – on a steamboat, in saloons, in churches, and on rustic homesteads throughout the state of Montana. As a young man, a riverboat captain asked why he was going to Montana, Brother Van replied, “To sing, to preach and to encourage people to be good.”

For more about Brother Van and how he once saved his life with music, you’ll have to read my forthcoming book! I just learned that my manuscript has moved into the paging or pagination phase-which means another step closer to the publication date-early 2022.

Music in the Westward Expansion: Songs of Heart and Place on the American Frontier at McFarland Publishers, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or ask about the book at your favorite book seller.

Honoring Chief Earl Old Person (1929-2021)

“Legend of the Plains” by Charles Wakefield Cadman, an early 20th century composer whose compositions were often inspired by Native American melodies. Played by Laura Dean.

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Get up. Jump up. Try hard and don’t give up. – Chief Earl Old Person

Chief Earl Old Person died of cancer at the age of 92 on October 13th. Old Person was a national treasure who served as the chief of the Blackfeet Nation for more than 60 years. He was an expert of Blackfeet language and culture, an advocate for tribal land and water rights, an inspired political leader, and an international ambassador. In his lifetime he met every president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. He also met Queen Elizabeth, the prime minister of Canada-Pierre Trudeau, and the shaw of Iran. In his later years, he created home recordings of traditional stories and songs for the benefit of future generations.

I grew up in Choteau, Montana, on the Eastern Rocky Mountain front, about 70 miles south of Browning, Montana-the headquarters of the Blackfeet Reservation-the last stop before Glacier Park. The Choteau Bulldogs and Browning Indians were in the same athletic conference. Throughout my elementary to high school years, I regularly traveled to Browning for swim meets and to watch basketball and football games.

Earl Old Person rarely missed a high school basketball game-Browning is legendary for champion basketball teams and enduring fans. For his last visit to the Browning high school gymnasium, his casket was placed in the middle of the basketball court where thousands of mourners came to honor his memory and to say their final goodbyes. The mourning period lasted for four days and included processions, dancing, songs, and stories celebrating the life of the beloved chief.

Earl Old Person singing the Badger Two Medicine Song

New York Times: “Earl Old Person, Chief of the Blackfeet Nation, Dies at 92”

For an unforgettable story of high school basketball on Montana’s southeastern reservations, read: Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor on the Little Big Horn by Larry Colton

Heart and Place

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I’m delighted  to announce the launch of a new program, Heart and Place: Stories of the Westward Expansion told through music and narrative.  This project feels like coming home, as I grew up in rural Montana.  Choteau, Montana, to be precise, population 1800.
My early music experiences in that small town and have fueled my career as a music educator/ musician.  Some of those experiences include  singing in choirs, playing in band, studying piano, playing for church, acting in musicals, and to driving to the next small town for voice lessons. This program brings it all home.
I’ll be launching the program in Seattle on Oct. 14 and will be taking it to Montana to perform at the CM Russell Museum Oct. 26, 7:00, as well as several Great Falls area schools.
 The story of the West is epic, and while I cannot focus on everything,  I’ve chosen certain aspects to highlight including the music of the Overland Trail, the early frontier settlements, and the  Northern Cheyenne Courting Flute as taught to me by Jay Old Mouse of Busby, Montana. The performance includes solo piano music, singing, guitar, and demonstrations on the fiddle and the Northern Cheyenne Courting Flute.

“COURAGE IS BEING SCARED TO DEATH, BUT SADDLING UP ANYWAY.”   ― JOHN WAYNE

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Yves Saint Laurent The Perfection of Style

Yves Saint Laurent The Perfection of Style is on exhibit at  Seattle Art Museum,now through January 8!

Spent the morning in awe and giddy delight as I took in this amazing exhibit at SAM.  Left inspired by the colors, the designs, the textures, the history, the process, the sparkles, the variety, the creative output, the elegance,  the life, the style,  and the genius of Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008).

 

 

Today’s recording:  Cordoba from the Spanish Suite Andalucia by Ernesto Lecuona

 

The Swan, inspired by Florence Foster Jenkins

I recently saw the beautiful movie, Florence Foster Jenkins starring  Meryl Streep as Florence, Hugh Grant as her husband, and Simon Helberg as the brilliant pianist and gentle soul, Cosmé McMoon. This stylish movie, based on the real life FFJ,  celebrates music, complex relationships,  and the human spirit.  Despite  a sold out performance at Carnegie Hall, Florence is lacking in the musical ability.  However, her spirit,enthusiasm, courage, and love for music are contagious. I laughed and cried my way through the film.

There are many touching scenes with the pianist Cosmé and Florence including Cosmé performing an audition  for Florence with The Swan from Saint Saens.  The Swan, originally for cello and two pianos, is from Carnival of the Animals.  Here is an arrangement for piano I recorded this morning.

The Swan, Saint Saen played by Laura Dean Wav

The Swan, Saint Saen, played by Laura Dean   MP4

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Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944)

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Cosmé McMoon (1901-1980)

Mount st. Helens

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Boom!  Summer is here and the living is busy! My recording blog is on a temporary  hiatus  as I’ve been very busy with the Seattle Opera in Schools (teaching in summer school), my private students, and preparing for my Cuba concert in the fall.  I participated in an amazing piano master class in Portland over the weekend with the inspiring  Dr. Jill Timmons, my mentor. What a thrill and humbling experience to play a concert hall sized  Bosendorfer, valued at $300,000.00 (that’s a whole other story).  Joe and I made a weekend of it and spent the next day  at Mount st. Helens.

 After an overnight at a Super 8 along I5, we headed toward Mount St. Helens. In all, we spent about 4 hours at Johnston’s Ridge, the highest visitor’s center. We took  in the exhibits, lectures, and movies  and also took a short hike on a very pleasant trail with great views. There were two really interesting films about the eruption and the geology of the mountain which is still, by the way, active!   The rangers also do a great job with their talks. It wasn’t an entirely clear day, but it was still spectacular. What a bonus, that the area was alive with wild flowers at their peak bloom!  You can see  by the pictures, the side  of the mountain blown out with the landslide still looks quite barren.
The eruption was in May of 1980, 57 people died, you can see the memorial below. The explosion could be heard as far away as Missoula, Montana. I still remember waking up to an ash covered Choteau, Montana when I was about 10 years old, everything was covered with the grey dust including cars, steps, sidewalks, etc.
On our way down from the mountain, we stopped at an adorable road side cafe overlooking the Toutle River- picture of Joe drinking coffee.
Here’s an article looking back at the eruption  from the Helena’s KRTV: http://www.krtv.com/story/29095907/helena-remembers-mount-st-helens-eruption-35-years-later

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?

 

 

Romances Sans Paroles, Yellow House Salon #16

 

 

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Silly Laura and her mom, Gail Dean at Rancho la Puerta

Romances Sans Paroles translates to Songs Without Words.  Below I play #3 by Gabriel Fauré (played on my digital keyboard and mixed on my Macbook as a harp/guitar duo). What a perfect piece for Mother’s Day. No words can describe how grateful I am for my mother, Gail Dean. She’s a woman of steel  who raised two kids on her own with courage and grace after losing  my dad in a highway accident when we were all very young.

Thanks, Mom, for all of the hours of music lessons, for driving across the state of Montana for camps and concerts, for sewing all of those costumes and dresses, for giving me a great education, and for giving me the courage, independence, and grit to pursue a life in music. I owe it all to you!

To all of the Mamas our there!  You know who you are and I know how hard you work to make it all look easy! Here’s to our Moms and here’s to us, the Mamas!

 

Don’t Advertise Your Man, Yellow House Salon #15

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Don’t Advertise Your Man piano and singing by Laura

Here’s my awesome guy, Joe Sweeney! He does laundry and helps my daughter with her math, he also is an amazing bird photographer, very funny, extremely handsome, and the love of my life. I could go on and on, but before I do, I think I’ll take the advice of  Clara Smith who first wrote this old blues tune back in the 1920’s, Don’t Advertise Your Man. Sippie Wallace came our with her version in the 1960’s. Bonnie Raitt has also recorded a sassy version.

Be sure to check out these recordings, and remember, girls, Don’t Advertise your Man!

Clara Smith

Bonnie Raitt and Sippy Wallace

Raspberry Beret, Yellow House Salon #14

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Raspberry Beret music and lyrics by Prince, piano solo by Laura

Growing up in beautiful Choteau, Montana (population 1800), we had one movie theatre, the Roxy, open only on the weekends. To my delight, in 1984, the Roxy showed Purple Rain, starring Prince.  As a young high school desperate to explore places and faces outside of my hometown, I was mesmerized by the music, the story, and of course, the romantic vision of Prince cruising  down the open road  on his motor bike! Vroom!

Today, and homage to Prince, an amazing talent and unique artist!    Oh how I long to be as cool as the  elusive girl in Raspberry Beret.

That’s when I saw her,

Ow I saw her, she walked in through the out door. 

She wore a raspberry beret, 

of the kind you find in a second hand store.

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and if it was warm, she wouldn’t wear much more.  

by Prince