The idea for "Promises Kept" was conceived around the summer of 1994 . It comes from these thoughts that I wrote at that time. Normally for me, in the creative process, the words come later than the music. Or rather, a simple phrase or image gets my attention and a story begins to take shape. The music is somewhat effortless...it's the words that take time. It has been slightly edited, but otherwise remains the same...
A warm midsummer night’s eve…seventeen years ago. Quiet. I hear only the cicadas and the lonesome cries of a pair of mourning doves high up in a sycamore tree. The sky is crimson red. Is there a prettier color, anywhere? Megan is outside catching fireflies in a jar. I watch her from a screened porch but she doesn’t know. It’s dusk. Rachelle, just born, is in my arms.
How do children spell love?
Not so long ago, their dad was catching fireflies and keeping them in a jar. Cut the grass a few times, paint the fence once or twice, and before you know it, they’re catching bugs in a jar. Remember, air holes. The lights go out soon enough as it is.
A child’s scratched drawing…stick figures, a house, swing set. It’s a present for me. She wants to sign it. “Daddy, how do you spell, ‘Love, Rachelle?’”
I love the month of May more than any other month. Irises bloom in May. September is nice, yes... autumn, beautiful..…But May… April offers the promise of spring…May speaks of promises kept…Nights get shorter, days longer, breezes warmer. Butterflies and hummingbirds, cardinals and blue jays. The earth awakens and sends forth its shoots. Life returns. Mother’s Day is in May.
So, how do children spell love? Why is it that the world is seldom helped by those that walk along a flower strewn path their whole lives? What causes that tiny snowdrop shoot to force its way above the earth with no assurance of sunlight at the end? Does the road wind uphill all the way?
A beautiful end of summer day, many years ago… Megan, her long, wavy strawberry blonde hair catching the noon sun. I am behind her. We’re rollerblading. She looks behind to see me. “Isn’t this great Dad?” She and I get a glimpse of what most of creation seems to know naturally: That this, this time right here, right now, is what makes life worth living. I hear it in the bird calls at 4:00 am. Another day, another song. And yet, they have no bank accounts, no grocery stores, nowhere to go to keep dry in the rain. Strange, how that is. We can plan ahead, save our money, buy whatever on earth there is to buy, but I don’t sing at 4 o’clock in the morning. It makes one wonder if we have gained most or lost most by all our knowledge, possessions.
Yes child, it is great. A hill up ahead and she’s not sure which way to go. Does she push herself up the hill or go another, easier way? “Dad, I like to go up the hill because that means I can go down it later.” Does the road wind uphill all the way? Does the tiny snowdrop shoot ever just get weary and give up? Do the ancient redwoods ever get tired of living? I don’t think so. They live until it’s time to die.
I have my own musical voice. A signature sound, as it were. Over time, there have been a few composers that have withstood the test of time and stand head and shoulders above the rest of us. J. S. Bach was one of them. Here is a man who composed the entire Brandenberg Concerto for a job application, (The application was not successful) who, in his life wrote over 1100 compositions. He fathered no less than twenty children and lost half of them - half of them - to childhood diseases. Something tells me he understood intimately the struggle that living takes, the winding uphill road, the crippling fatigue and grief that comes with losing children to death. And yet, today we still sing his choruses of praise and thanksgiving, we easily recognize that sound - that Bach signature - that is filled with hope, love and joy. Funny thing, this thing called life. The glory goes not to the dwellers in ease, but to the overcomers.
So then, how is it that a child spells love? Does the road wind uphill all the way? Some would say, “Yes, to the very end.” Perhaps. But if you look close and don’t rush, you’ll see what it is that makes life worth living. Lightning bugs in a jar, the splash of color in your children’s eyes, the warm breezes of an early spring day, bird calls at 4 am, and of course, those impossibly beautiful crimson summertime sunsets – these are what make life worth living. So finally, how is it that children spell love? T-I-M-E. That’s how love is spelled. And yes, the road does wind uphill all the way…but along the journey, you’ll find sweet butterflies, sunlit glades, colorful wildflowers, tender lights and warm ocean breezes. And once up there, it’s fun going back down. Peace...
Track 1 - Promises Kept - This is the title track of Promises Kept. It is played on a five octave acoustic cherry harp in a dropped major tuning with a natural wind chime and synthesized bowed glass.
Track 2 - Bees in the Lavender - This track has nature sounds recorded locally. Sometimes, in the mixing process, I lose track of where the nature sounds originated. In any case, nature sounds for this CD came from a variety of places. Some from Goose Lake in northeastern Illinois, and some from Charlevoix County outside of Wolverine, Michigan. Both places are beautiful and exceptionally quiet. Bees in the Lavender was inspired by bees in the lavender.
Track 3 - Midnight at Kitty Hawk - I love this track. Midnight at Kitty Hawk originated as a guitar solo. Many years ago, I had an orthopaedic medical resident in my office and we were speaking about music. The title of this track was conceived at that time, but began as a guitar solo. I prefer an open string to a fretted one, so the natural tendency for me was to transfer this track to the harp. I like the outcome and can't imagine it as a guitar solo now that it is completed. Normally, I put in sound effects "on the fly" as it were. That is, the music gets recorded first, gets put on a computer and mixed along with nature sounds and sound effects with a digital audio workstation, generally in one or two passes. Also, a final note about this track... Recently, I took my family on a trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and stayed right down the road from Kitty Hawk on Hatteras Island, in a town called Buxton, NC. Strange how life imitates art! In this case, the art came first!
Track 4 - The Early Rain - This slow, deliberate harp solo was combined with thunderstorm sounds which were recorded in mid-day on Memorial Day 2010. I received some nice feedback regarding this CD with this track being mentioned often.
Track 5 - Afternoon Quiet - This track was conceived in Charlevoix County in upper Michigan. It is a beautiful, serene place with babbling brooks and a quiet countryside. When I got home, I simply closed my eyes and, 13 minutes later, this was the result. Brook sounds and synthesized bowed glass were added later.
Track 6 - Myrrh - One of my favorite tracks on this CD. Water and bird calls were recorded locally. There are 65 acres of wetland forest in the general area where I live, and 51 of the 65 acres are very near to my home. While the bird calls near the end of the track were recorded there, I believe the running water sounds were recorded near Goose Lake. Electronic pads were added later with a digital audio workstation.
The cover art for Promises Kept was used with the kind permission of Patricia Shaw. Tricia is a wonderfully talented artist from the U.K. I simply love her paintings. Every time I look through her gallery, I find something more beautiful than the last time I looked. This beautiful painting entitled "Chrysanthemum", is a favorite of mine and showcases Patricia's talent and her love of vibrant color. It almost looks alive, doesn't it?
Each song of Promises Kept was played once and simultaneously recorded. I prefer to do it this way. The music is more spontaneous and prettier, it seems to me.