Someone once said, “Music is far too important to be left entirely in the hands of professionals.” I agree! Come into the kitchen, and I will explain.
This Month’s Music: To Put Anna to Sleep
Featured Non-Profit: Singing Our way Through
Big news from my daughter Mally Smith this month – she is going to Bali in February for a 500 hour Yoga teacher training program! This is a great opportunity. She asks others in her extended community of family, friends and students to get involved. I will let her explain (click the “play” button in the video frame below.)
To help Mally realize this great adventure, and to support her volunteer work with women who are victims of domestic abuse, please click Mally is going to Bali.
This Month’s Music
To Put Anna to Sleep
Click the image above to play the video.
To Put Anna to Sleep
© 2009 Tom Smith, Performed August 31, 2013
Lyrics in the comments section below.
I rarely sing this song in public. I wrote it four years ago when my granddaughter Anna was two years old, and I still sing it from time to time when I put the grandkids to bed. The first time I was in sole charge of Anna’s bed time she seemed rather agitated and would not go to sleep. While rocking her, I found myself humming this melody, which seemed to work quite well. It felt so good holding Anna to my chest that I didn’t want to place her into her crib even after she was completely asleep. I continued humming and singing “nonsense words”, which evolved into the first verse. Eventually, I put her down and then went downstairs to write the rest of this song.
Was it Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger who described lullabies as work songs and propaganda songs? I agree on both counts. I have also sung what Rosalie Sorrels calls hostile baby rocking songs – songs sung in desperation at 5:30 am when the baby has not stopped crying for hours. “This is the day we give babies away with a half a pound of tea”. Every culture has them. How about “Rock-a-bye Baby?” Happily, this month’s song is not one of those.
So why sing a simple lullaby this month? I have been thinking recently about the role that music has played in my life – as a child, a young man, an adult and now as a senior. Indulge me as I ramble a bit.
I am so fortunate to have spent August away from the busy-ness of civilization and my everyday work. Today marks the “official” end of four wonderful weeks in a rustic cabin in the woods of Jaffrey, NH. Margo and I spent two of those weeks by ourselves – reading books, waking up without an alarm clock, and renewing our relationship. It was wonderful. In the first three days I wrote two songs! Then relaxation kicked in as we dropped all agendas. The most important decision of the day was whether to grill hot dogs or salmon for dinner – and yes, the ever present guitar and banjo invited themselves onto my lap every day.
Then we had two wonderful weeks with our grandchildren (Anna 6 years, and Andrew 2 years old). To say that Margo and I were busy during this time is an understatement. I usually woke up with Andrew at 5:30 am, and the busy day continued without break until we put Anna to bed at 8:00 pm. After a glass of wine or cup of tea, Margo and I were in bed by 9:00 pm.
We sang for and with the kids frequently – sometimes simple one line made-up rhymes – sometimes entire songs. It was as natural as breathing. As some of you know, I am a student of songwriting and performance. I often think about why I write and perform music – why some songs speak so strongly to me and why others don’t. I study the formulas used by commercial songwriters. Yes, I would love to write a song that becomes a hit and brings in a big bag of money (are you reading this Kenny Chesny?). But for me, the most important music is the simple self-made music shared with my family and community of friends. This month’s song will never be a commercial “hit”, but it has become part of my life and part of the lives of two little children. I am certain they will share it (or songs like it of their own) with the next generation of children and friends.
A living example of this musical cultural thread happened last week. Margo and I gave Anna a ukulele for her sixth birthday, and I taught her how to play a “C” chord. Together we tried every song she knew, and yes – every song can be accompanied by a single “C” chord. Try it! Several days passed, and when Anna’s aunts and uncles arrived at the cabin she decided that she wanted to form a band and have a concert. So Anna (vocals and uke), cousin Julian (vocals and lead fish net), Auntie Mally (vocals) and Auntie Meryl (vocals and rhythm fish net) formed the band – the Jaffrey Jammers. In a matter of thirty minutes they had written a song in praise of bacon. “Bacon, Bacon is really delicious. Add some sausage and now its nutritious.” (It gets even better from there!) They built a little rope stage behind the club house at the lake, and gave a wonderful one-song concert. The crowd loved it and demanded an encore!
I love listening to professionals sing and perform music, but it is times and songs like these that form important threads in our family and cultural fabric – priceless.
May music flourish in your life. As someone once said, “Music is far too important to be left entirely in the hands of professionals.”
(If so inclined, I invite you to leave a comment by scrolling to the end of this page.)
Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, 2:00 pm: Concord, MA
With The Chanticleers at The Olde Manse. Mostly traditional music with Kate Chadbourne, Pat Kenneally, Robert Phillips, Linda Abrams and Oen Kennedy. Free.
Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, 8:00 pm: Framingham, MA
Opening for David Mallett at Amazing Things Arts Center. David is one of the great songwriters of our time. It is an honor to open for him at this wonderful venue.
Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, 7:30 pm: Rockport, MA
I am a great admirer of James Keelaghan’s music, so I jumped at the chance to open for him at this great Rockport venue. Noted music critic Dave Marsh calls James Keelaghan “Canada’s finest singer songwriter.” It doesn’t get any better than this.
Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, 8:00 pm: Rochester, NY
Returning to Songwriters in the Round at Tango Cafe, hosted by Brian Coughlin. Joining us are my good friends Steve Gretz and Leslie Lee. Great venue, great music, great company!
Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013, 7:00 pm: Rochester, NY
This is an old fashioned music gettogether, hosted by my good friends Steve Gretz and Leslie Lee. I will do the feature set this evening.
Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013: Concord, MA
I am featuring at this long-standing open mike, hosted by the remarkable Ellen Schmidt. I will be joined by my daughter Mally Smith, and Mally will be accompanied by very special guest, violist Laurence Scudder.
Click to view details for all upcoming shows.
Featured Non-Profit: Singing Our Way Through
I am making an exception this month, since this is not exactly a non-profit – but it is a project that is worthy of promoting. One year ago, fellow musician Alastair Moock and his wife Jane Roper learned that their daughter has leukemia. I have followed their story in social media, and via Jane’s blog. Partly as a means to get through the tough times, Alastair and his daughter sang and wrote songs while she was in the hospital. Alastair continued to write songs influenced by their experience. Happily, he has recently released some of these songs in an album entitled “Singing Our Way Through: Songs for the World’s Bravest Kids”. This is a stellar album – one which will help other families who are going through similar hard times. You can learn more about this project at Singing Our Way Through. Join me, and purchase an album – and help spread the word!