During the past two weeks, I finished recording four classical guitar pieces. I posted excerpts from each of them on the “audio” page of my website. Included in my recordings is the timeless Schubert version of “Ave Maria.” In addition, I recorded one of Bach’s most famous works, Prelude in C, Spanish composer Tárrega’s “Lágrima,” and the stately Pavane III by Renaissance composer Luis Milán. Enjoy!
My grandmother developed dementia toward the end of her life. She had difficulty remembering who I was–at times not recalling that I was her granddaughter. Yet, she could recall songs in their entirety. Although the recollections of her present and more recent life were slipping away, her musical memories were intact!
I came across a fascinating article in the New York Times that describes the powerful role music can play in the lives of those afflicted with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Click here to read it.
Photo of my grandmother, Hildegard Meyer-Wendt, playing the lute (ca. 1928)
What a summer it has been so far! I have performed in a range of settings that have included a cocktails and canvas art show, a happy hour, a Sunday luncheon, and church services. In addition, I have continued to perform afternoon and evening sets at retirement communities and memory care facilities. Whether performing background music or performing before an attentive audience, I enjoy the unique challenges of adapting to different situations and meeting new people along the way.
Today, I sang Paul Winter’s Missa Gaia: A Mass in Celebration of Mother Earth as an alto singer with the Jefferson Unitarian Church choir at the 8, 9:15 and 11 services of Choir Sunday. Recordings of a tundra wolf, a humpback whale and seals intermingle with traditional Greek and Latin liturgical texts, the words of St. Francis, and writings from the Book of Job set to soaring twentieth-century melodies.
As the JUC choir activities conclude for the season, I am gearing up to perform classical/folk guitar sets at retirement communities during the summer months.
Upon my return to Spring Ridge Park Assisted Living Facility, I had the opportunity to play for residents I had performed for several times before as well as new residents who had recently moved into the home. I played several patriotic works: “Battle Hymn of the Republic, “The Caisson Song,” and Robert Schumann’s “Soldier’s March,” an energetic work originally written for piano. Also included in the nine-piece set was a classical guitar rendition of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” a piece that several of the residents hummed along with. Andrew York’s classical work “Snowflight” evokes the image of snowflakes falling from the sky, a piece which augered the May snowstorm that arrived in the Colorado mountains a few days later!
Tonight, I performed French singer Édith Piaf’s signature song “La vie en rose” as well as the traditional Spanish classical guitar piece “Romanza” at the First Friday JUC Open Mic. I drew the first performance slot and then enjoyed an eclectic musical evening of storytelling, blues, country, jazz, and other musical genres.
I had the wonderful opportunity to sing the choral work “Draw the Circle Wide” as part of a group of five soloists in the “Draw the Circle Wide” Unitarian Universalist Front Range Music Concert that took place in the Broomfield United Methodist Church. The Foothills Unitarian Church choir director put together a creative arrangement of solo singing and inspirational readings that were interwoven with the rich sounds of the large choir. It was a musical eye-opener to sing this and other choral works under various choir directors with members of the Front Range Unitarian Universalist choirs.
Easter is a very special holiday for me–always a reminder of renewal and reawakening that is perpetually regenerated throughout the unpredictable cycle of life. In anticipation of Easter, I decorated my house with vases of pussy willow branches, a tradition that stems from Eastern Europe during Palm and Easter Sundays. I sang Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “Easter” from Five Mystical Songs and “This Joyful Eastertide” with the JUC Choir on Easter Sunday followed by a foothills hike that took place in a warm glow of afternoon sunlight. The following day, I performed a set of pieces at the Spring Ridge Park Assisted Living facility, several of which were inspired by Easter and the advent of spring. Included in the ten-piece set were the sing-along songs “You Are My Sunshine” and “Edelweiss” as well as Andrew York’s compositions “Chant,” “Willow,” and “Heath.” York’s guitar works evoke the beauty of Easter choral music, longstanding Easter traditions, and the beauty of an open, uncultivated heathland, a fitting way to musically express the joys of spring to the residents of Spring Ridge.
This evening, I performed a set of pieces at Spring Ridge Park Assisted Living facility. This is my second time performing at Spring Ridge, a facility for adults experiencing Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia. I performed four classical works as well as a set of six songs. The activities director made song packets for the residents to sing along with me. Included in the song set were the traditional patriotic song “God Bless America” along with the uplifting song “The Happy Wanderer.” The latter, originally titled “Der fröhliche Wanderer,” was written by Friedrich-Wilhelm Möller shortly after World War II. The composer’s sister, Edith Möller, conducted a performance of the song with the Obernkirchen Children’s Choir, many of whose members were war orphans, at the 1953 Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod. A BBC radio broadcast catapulted the song to fame and the song was subsequently translated into several languages. The song has laughter written into its refrain and expresses the feeling of joy one feels while hiking in the mountains.
Tonight, along with twelve other performers and groups, I performed at the Jefferson Unitarian Church First Friday Open Mic. My contributions were Bach’s Air on a G String and a Stevie Wonder song. The evening featured an array of storytelling, blues, folk music, jazz, and bagpipe music. I enjoy very much playing classical music in this type of eclectic musical setting. It is my goal to play classical music in a variety of different locations. I observe with sadness that classical music’s development and continuation often takes place in an ivory tower and I aspire to connect classical repertoire with my community-at-large.