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Every March in Northampton, Massachusetts is the Western Massachusetts Sacred Harp Convention (this link is always available over in the right column of my blog, under “Music”).

You are warmly invited to the 2013 Western Massachusetts Sacred Harp Singing Convention. We look forward to welcoming singers from near and far, reuniting with old friends, and making new ones.
March 9th and 10th
9:30 am – 3:30 pm
(Daylight Savings Time begins on Sunday)
Dinner on the grounds at noon
Saturday evening social nearby

I missed last year’s Convention. I don’t usually make it for the whole weekend anyway, but this year I will be present for a couple of hours on Saturday morning. Come see me at the Welcome Table. I’ll draw a design on your name sticker if you want (and if I have time in all the hustle and bustle)!

After that, I’ll come home and probably schlep my kids around. Then, I will go to an Alexander Technique refresher course at my school. Saturday night, I will be seeing some funny at The Arts Block in Greenfield. Hubby has written some sketch comedy (though he and I are not in the performances that night) and the fabulous Ha-Ha’s will be performing as well.

Sunday afternoon at The Academy of Music, I will be attending Screen Test 2—a fundraiser for The Amherst Cinema.

You can go to youtube and look for videos of our Convention and yes, I could simply share one of those with you now. Instead, here I am again, singing my heart out. Because I love you.

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There was a time when I did not know what the word apocalypse meant. Then, in my late teens, I suppose I felt embarrassed or ashamed. I am older now and I realize that I will always be learning new words if I am lucky. The older I get, the less well I seem able to retain them. But guess what, my turtle doves? My memory is improving of late.

I thought that all of my friends who grew up with church or religion, who went to Sunday School and who had Confirmations, the Catholics, almost the whole lot of them (this was Ohio, after all, chock full of Catholics), all knew all of the stories and words from the Bible, New and Old Testament. I realized at some point that I knew more than they. It was all a sham. They did not know how to spell apocalypse, nor its etymology. They didn’t know what Jesus said, what the Jews said. They did not know any of it. I still wonder what people do in Sunday School if not learn these stories. I do not know what real testament is for anyone and I think most people don’t know this for themselves.

Each time I become anemic, the wear and tear on my face is more dramatic. This time I look older. Though I approach 50, I have some mistaken notion that my youthful body will last. The flesh of my face will stay. The frown lines, which aren’t so much from frowning as exhaustion, grow more pronounced. I used to push up on the apples of my cheeks with the thumb and middle fingers of one of my hands when I was driving in the car (safer than texting!), but now I’ve forgotten to try.

I wrote a bit of something just now, some words gathered around from tonight and before. There are problems, so many problems. I usually refrain from saying what they are, but now, I will tell.

There is the title which is pretentious, but which I like anyway. I like the Dutch vanitas paintings and I like the Latin.

There is always the overdoing, the more than I need. But that is what blogging poems is for. To pare down later.

There is the mixing of metaphors or images. There is the land and earth and there is the sea. But I love them both and I am not confused, only enthusiastic.

There is this which harkens to another poem, one which remains incomplete in my computer. The barn and the harvest, the emptiness and me.

There are the too many and the mixing images, again, of the body and death. This is what yoga is for and this is how the poem takes shape.

And there is stealing. Or snatching. Sneaking the words that came before, sometimes knowing whose, sometimes only vaguely.

Here you go. Here are the words.

Memento Mori

After I am vaporized
the imprint of my body will remain
flattened on the wooden slats
the barn
barley-filled

swing  open  the  gate
swing  open  the  gate

After the apocalypse, the burning off
I am drained of blood
my skin deflated
my bones a fine powder

My skin sinks
but finally

I  remember
I  remember

It boils down
to this

Goldenrod, my ovaries
the shining
harvest
in the hollow
of my groin

I  remember

the coiled snake
the quaking stalk
the base of my spine

Plough  the  ocean  blue
Plough  the  ocean  blue

*

Tonight, I got to hear Tim Eriksen play in a small coffee/deli/bakery in downtown Amherst, The Black Sheep. (The Black Sheep, btw, was one of the first things that caught my eye and attracted me to Amherst. OH! the bakeries. OH! the bookstores. OH! the bakeries. OH! the bookstores).

I have been in Amherst since August of 2000. I have put down a few roots. I can feel them.

I have been singing shape note since August of 2004. I am rooted in tradition.

I didn’t go to this particular concert, The Newport Folk Festival, in late summer 2006. I wanted to but somehow didn’t manage it. Tim organized a big group of people from our local Sacred Harp sing. Here is one of the things they did on the big stage. He played it tonight at the end of the concert and we all sang again. This is NOT a song from the Sacred Harp, by the way. It’s something Tim likes to refer to as “Northern Roots Music.”

And just so you know, my turtle doves, I don’t believe in the apocalypse.

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I love our new cat

She doesn’t really have a name yet (even though we got her in December). Considerations have included Strider, Minerva, Felix, Ladybug, Jelly Bean, Little. I call her Ladybug or Little, so I think my official name for her is Ladybug Little Jelly Bean Glatter. She was in bad shape when we adopted her, very sickly and so thin. Now her belly is busting at the seams, so the Jelly Bean part and all those double letters suit her well.

I like the spring peepers’ mating chorus

I love that I found a new artist, Janet K.Miller, last week when I searched google images for “butter devil” and that Janet was completely open and welcoming about me using an image of her painting on my blog. I also really dig her work and I look forward to buying one of the pens she sells on her website.

I love that I can search google images for “butter devil”

I love using google images

heart potato (not from google images)

I love that I am finally back to singing Sacred Harp. I have now gone back 2 Tuesdays in-a-row after my long hiatus (7 or 8 weeks or something crazy like that).

I love our bookkeeper

I love that I am almost done with our taxes, almost enough to send them in to our accountant

And that’s all she wrote

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Before you think I don’t wish us all well for the new year,

★ ★ ★ Happy New Year!!! ★ ★ ★

Also, in case you think I’m in some sort of seasonal crappy state, like last year at this time, here is a dashing couple to put those fears to rest:

I have been uninspired of late. Should I stop blogging (for now)? Was this just an enjoyable one-year experiment? Do I really want to continue Music Monday on a regular basis? What about posting poetry? Will I continue to participate in Poetry Jam? Do I have anything that needs to be said or is it just more ether? Should I continue to link [some of] my blog posts to Facebook?

I am not one for resolutions per se. Two years ago I started taking regular yoga classes. This had been something I’d desired for YEARS. I have done a little bit of yoga my whole life and finally, in December of 2008, I knew I could commit to regular classes. Last year, I decided to start this blog. I didn’t make a resolution; I was simply ready. I do like the idea of a new start, but I don’t like to box myself in. As an alcoholic, rigidity tends to make me rebel; I try not to set myself up for failure (as if I can always see where I’m going–wouldn’t that be nice). Rather, I like to give myself the best chance of success. That can be tricky to discern, but I do okay.

I am already making some of the changes I want for 2012. Nothing difficult or life-altering, just small things that need attending to and to which I can attend because my children need it, our finances need it, I need it, my house needs it, &c. (HA! The first time I’ve used an ampersand with a c on the end on my blog, maybe even the first ampersand on my blog. I promise not to do it again for at least a day).

For today, a video of Tim Eriksen from a couple of years back. If you read the notes below the video on youtube, he gives a little background on the song. It is one of my favorite Sacred Harp songs, one which I can actually lead (not always so easy with more complex songs). I do love the sound of the bajo sexto, but could do without the spinning around of the camera. Still, I hope you enjoy this. It was either this or my kids and I were going to sing Sacred Harp #162 for you via the Mac. But the light is SO bad in my kitchen and my face so sunken. I wouldn’t have chatted, though, only the song. Maybe next year….

Obviously, it was a lot colder a year ago this time of year, though it’s predicted to go into the single digits overnight this week, lots of low 20s and wind in the day.

Today, I was driving down my little street and the wind was whipping the leaves around. It seemed to be snowing broken leaves, but then, I saw real snow. The snow lifted up from the ground, I swear it wasn’t falling. It lasted all of 2 minutes.

No matter what happens, I’ve been happy to blog. Now I wait for snow and the return of the light which is happening some days. Other times, it seems so strangely overcast and blustery that I can’t tell what season I’m in, where I live, when the days will change.

Look, I can tell that you are not convinced about my well-wishes. Time for another New Year’s photo to let you know I’m serious:

If they can do it, why can’t I? I could immerse myself in non-alcoholic bubbly, right?

Best to you and yours, with love and kisses,

♡ twinkly

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Here’s a song from the Harp of Ages (a 7-shape hymnal) and most of these folks sing regularly at the Tuesday night sing which yours truly frequents. And no, the altos don’t usually stand up, but they are having a bit of fun.

Don’t they sound fabulous?

video.php?v=1444908075096

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With this being Thanksgiving week and me not being inspired by much of anything else, I turn to the default setting of the Sacred Harp…

You hear this sung periodically at the singing I go to, though more likely you hear it when someone has a specific thing to celebrate–the birth of a new baby, the announcement of an engagement, a wedding, gratitude that someone has recovered from an illness.

But, as with all songs that may be called at a Shape Note singing, someone might just want to lead it and hear it sung, without a particular occasion in mind.

I am thinking about Thanksgiving, Hubby returning from Singapore after a full seven days away, and about the fact that I’ve missed 3, maybe 4, weeks of my regular Tuesday night singing. I so look forward to going singing tomorrow night–you know the drill, right? 7-10 pm at Helen Hills Hills Chapel, Rte. 9, Northampton, Mass.

Here’s a video of the Wootten Family of Alabama, shot by none other than Alan Lomax himself (!!!). I’ve recently begun to learn about the Wootten Family, but can’t say much because, well, I am just learning.

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This coming weekend, March 12 and 13, is the annual Western Massachusetts Sacred Harp Convention (“wmshc”) to be held in Northampton, Mass.

Some of you may notice that periodically there are references to Sacred Harp and/or Shape Note music or lyrics in my posts.

I first heard of Shape Note singing many years ago from a friend back in Kent, Ohio. When I moved to Western Mass in 2000, I saw a sign about shape note singing. It made a vague impression, but I was too new to the area and too busy with other things to pay it much heed, so it went into the hopper for later retrieval.

After seeing the movie “Cold Mountain,” I was finally ready to find out more and to commit to learning how to sing the music whose sound struck something old and deep in me.

Fortunately, there is a weekly Sacred Harp sing just 15 minutes from my house. Had this been a monthly sing, I have no doubt that I would never have been able to learn it. (My training as a teacher of the Alexander Technique also helped me tremendously and ties for the reason I was able to stick with the music).

This is a video I return to on occasion when I want to hear a really fine example of Shape Note/Sacred Harp music. There is much to recommend it: the boy’s consistent leading (ie, the boy’s got rhythm and he knows how to use it), his ability to connect with the different harmonic sections by turning his body and gaze, his lack of self-consciousness.

On a more personal note, this is one of the first songs I ever led and it continues to speak to me and to resonate within me. Its lyrics are an example of one of the many ways that Sacred Harp music beckons and pulls at my being in spite of its solidly Christian roots. The words speak of a passion for something in the afterlife which I experience on a regular basis as a craving in the here and now.

Another note: you will rarely, if ever, hear applause after a Sacred Harp song (more on that below), but I think this unusually large group of singers could not contain their pleasure and appreciation for so young and excellent a song leader.

I know that there might be questions: What is Shape Note music? What is Sacred Harp music? Are they the same? Why do you sometimes capitalize Shape Note, sometimes not? Why is this boy in the middle of the singers? Is this a choir? Why is everyone raising and lowering their hands? What are the sounds they are all making before they sing the words?

For me, the most important things I’ve learned are the following (keep in mind that I know far less than many of the people who sing shape note music):

“Shape Note” can refer to both a type of musical notation as well as a style of singing. The Sacred Harp, on the other hand, is a hymnal and it uses 4 (fa-sol-la-mi) of 7 possible shapes. There are other hymnals with 7 shapes (do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti) and you may find the shapes in secular music as well.

Although I don’t usually see this word used to describe it, Sacred Harp is a perfect example of congregational music. Congregational music is sung by the congregation, not by the choir. It is for the people to sing, regardless of ability, vocal quality, sense of rhythm. I have heard it referred to as “communal” music, and this is just another way of saying that it is not sung by the choir. It also tells you something of its history.

Its congregational nature is also why Sacred Harp music is not sung as performance. That is not to say that you won’t hear it performed, but that is not its purpose. Again, by the people, for the people.

Calling Sacred Harp music “congregational” might lead to the impression that it is only sung in church and by church folk. While this was traditionally the case, it is not so nowadays for many people, yours truly included.

If this piques your interest and the sound leaves you craving more, check out the Convention in Noho this weekend. Better yet, find a regular sing close to where you live and keep coming back.

I’m fettered and chained up in clay,

I struggle and pant to be free

I long to be soaring away,

My God and my Savior to see.

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