I’ve been working hard, writing and editing, and now recording my ninth album. Much of my new music is an observation of today’s social and political issues. There will be some strong statements on this new CD. There will be some fun songs as well, some covers and traditional music, as always. I hope you will as ready to hear it as I am to share it with you. Its title, “If I Catch My Dream”!
After three days of preparation we had very little of the storm to hit Raleigh, thank goodness.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve written enough songs to create another album. It’s been less than a year! A harp solo, guitar solo, three banjo songs, guitar songs, yes with partial capos in weird tunings, and piano songs. I’m excited to be working out arrangements and recording again. Stay tuned!
Well, I really am now stretching myself! I attended the Folk Alliance International in Kansas City. I actually made plane reservations and flew there! First time solo trip like this. It was exciting to be there with 3,000 folk music artists, DJs, venue operators, record label reps from all over the world. It was wonderful having the opportunity to perform for these people in small showcases that often lasted until four o’clock in the morning!
The conference began on February 14th, Valentine’s Day. Bill called me to let me know about the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. It was there in Kansas City that I began my song, “Tell Us When”, asking legislators when and who is going to instigate changes in our present gun laws so that we “Never see this moment in any place or time again.”
I took the song to the Enloe High School Audio/Visual department who were anxious to record it and create a video. I’ve sent it to my representatives in the NC House and to my reps in DC. Sadly, I’ve only gotten one response and it was from Thom Tillis.
My brother Alex never played his piano anymore. He asked if I would purchase it from him. I didn’t need a piano. I had a synthesizer, an Alesis, that I used, but it was inconvenient to get to, kept covered with a blanket and had to be hooked up to a speaker. Alex’s was a nice digital Yamaha spinet Clavinova, a piece of furniture that I had to make space for in my already crowded music room. He brought it to me on Christmas Eve when the family gathered here for dinner. It has a beautiful tone, and lots of them. Any tone I desire, but I like the piano voicing. On Christmas Day I sat at it, so easily, and wrote a song. I’d forgotten how much I love the piano, an instrument I began learning at age five. I gave it up when I learned strings (guitar, banjo, mandolin and harp.) It’s like being in love all over again. There are now three songs written for piano. I can’t wait to share them with you.
“At the End of the Day” was released in October to more than 500 folk DJs around the world. Kari Estrin promoted it for two months and it made #16 and #15 on the Folk Music Charts in November and December. This is good! I attend the North East Regional Folk Alliance in Stamford, Connecticut in November and met many of the DJs who played my music and got to thank them personally.
New album is called “At the End of the Day”, the title cut. Here I dig deep and ask myself what I would do if I were to become homeless, and what is it that all people need, homeless or not. We all need someone to care about us. I was humbled that many people contributed to an Indiegogo Campaign I created to help promote the CD, but at the same time, donate much of the money collected to help hurricane victims in Puerto Rico as they had (and still have) truly need people who care.
I’ve been hard at work recording and editing a new CD, my eighth. It will be produced by Chris Rosser of Hollow Reed Studio in Asheville and Kari Estrin who has been coaching me for nearly a year in making my songs clearer to the listener. Chris has produced hundreds of albums for other artists and is a musician himself. I love his music and know that we will create a wonderful sound for my new music. Chris has performed many times as a solo artist and with his band, Free Planet Radio, at my house concert series. I’ve been promoting others for so long and now I’m learning how to promote my own music with Kari’s help. I’m excited about this new CD!
For many people at Christmastime, baking with one’s family is a highlighted tradition. The kitchen is where nourishing meals are prepared. There is always chatter while ingredients are measured, the sauces stirred, the oven checked. People gather around and the love and warmth of family fills the room. Long after the meal is consumed and the table is cleared, there is still something about the kitchen that is inviting. For some families, this will be missed this year as their children are in the hospital, some battling for their lives. Kitchens have been replaced by hospital wards. Friendly conversations among family members are superseded by conversations with doctors. Their lives have been totally disrupted. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have a child in the hospital at this time of year. On the 21st of December, just a few short days before one of the biggest holidays in the USA, ten of my friends gathered in the kitchen of the Ronald MacDonald House in Durham, home to 55 families while their children are treated for illnesses and diseases. Our ages ranging from 9-67, we measured ingredients, rolled dough, cut cookies from molds just like the ones I used when baking with my mother 60 years ago. We wore Santa hats and aprons. We painted and decorated the cookies (I’ve never seen such unusual decorated Christmas cookies—created by 10 different creative minds, 20 hands!) and cleaned the kitchen while chattering among ourselves, the RMH staff and some of the guests there. Often humming or singing carols, we busied ourselves. Each of us chipped in, worked and did what needed to be done, often not needing to ask, but merely observe. Some learned how to make cookies from scratch, or use molds for the first time. The TV and video production class from Enloe High School filmed the entire process, complete with laughter and stories. They interviewed members of the baking team, asking what this experience meant to them. I hope the younger members of our group realized that they were making more than cookies. We baked more than 100 cookies, we baked together. There was a tremendous sense of pride after our 3 hour marathon baking extravaganza. We brought our traditions of baking with our families to RMD to bake for their families, and I truly hope that this is the beginning of a new tradition.
Continue the story here
I cannot thank the Merry Christmas Cutter Team enough: Aedan, Aida, Elizabeth, James, Jenna, Liam, Rebecca, Sarah and Sharron. We did it! We did it well! We did it together!
Matthew was an unwelcome visitor to Raleigh. I don’t think anyone expected the impact it would have to our state, bringing flooding inland with cresting rivers one week (and more) after the storm struck. Here in Raleigh we only had 6 or more inches of rain. Some areas east of us had 15 inches of rain. Fortunately, we didn’t have the high winds that were expected else there would have been much more damage. There was just enough to fell trees and take down power lines, interrupting internet connections for much of our city for days, and for some unfortunate families, for a week. If there was anything good about this storm it might be that it struck us on a Saturday when many people had the option to be at home.
Sometime mid-afternoon I looked outside my kitchen window towards the street. I noticed earlier in the day that the lamppost light was on even during the day as it was so dark. But this time I couldn’t see the light as something was obscuring the post…..how could a large bush suddenly plant itself in front of the lamppost? Oh, it wasn’t a bush; it was a huge limb from our maple tree. I went to investigate and was saddened to see that another huge limb from the crown had fallen to the ground. This was the 3rd time we’ve lost a limb, but this was the largest. It was about 1/3 of the huge red maple which has garnered great attention since it was first planted in 1932. Nancy Ferguson was an avid gardener. It was the first thing she and her husband John put in the ground when they first moved to Little Lake Hill, the name they gave to the house and grounds. She named the tree “Sport”. Read more about Sport
Now that Sport is 84 years old and losing her limbs, I fear that she might be losing her struggle to stay healthy and alive. We ponder what to do: take her on down, or enjoy the few years she might have left in her, leaving the remaining 2 large portions of her crown to keep her the queen of Raleigh for as long as we can let her reign.
There is a good possibility that the City of Raleigh will knock on our door one day and tell us they will take Sport (and all the other trees in front of our house) to build a sidewalk on our side of the street. We know it’s coming. We’ve seen it in the city’s plans. Of course, when that truck comes to take Sport down, you know where I’ll be.
Addendum, October 27
When returning from an errand I saw a HUGE truck blocking my driveway in front of the house. The city had sent a truck to retrieve the limbs and tree parts placed at the roadside. Sport’s remains were in our yard, but the driver of the truck scooped it up, complete with the bright orange strap and ropes. I was horrified! I asked the driver to put it back in the yard and he did. The following week our friend Leon McMahon came with his chainsaw to cut the huge limb into sections that he could use to turn wooden bowls and platters. He is creating some beautiful pieces that will always be here to remind us of this beautiful tree. Sport is saved once again!
I was given the first name of Elizabeth when I was born. My parents and everyone called me “Betsy” for short. My middle name was “Dalna” for my grandmother on my dad’s side. If they used that for my first name they would have nicknamed me “Dollie”. I can’t tell you how glad I am that they chose Elizabeth! When I was in college I felt “Betsy” sounded too childish for such a mature person as I was at the time. I dropped the “sy” off my name and became just “Bet”. I spelled it with two t’s for a number of years after getting married, then wavered back and forth from one to two t’s. Until…….
I met Isabella Cannon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isabella_Cannon) who became the first female mayor of a large city in the US. She was 72 years old at the time in 1977. She lived across the street from where I had a very large veggie garden. She would visit with me as I plucked the fruits of my labor. We discussed politics, world and neighborhood, and personal subjects such as family, nutrition and exercise. She was known as the ‘little old lady in tennis shoes’ during her campaign. I admired everything about Isabella.
One day she asked me how do I really spell my name. I told her I wasn’t sure as it had not been set in stone. She then told me that when she was born in Scotland in 1904 that her sole name was Isabella. Her mother asked her older sister to give the middle name, which was “Bett” with two t’s. So, from then on, I became “Bett” with two t’s.
Isabella died at the age of 97, writing a book of her memoirs and giving commencement speeches at colleges and universities in the area. She had slowed down a little, but was still going strong. If I have just a teaspoon of her energy when I’m 79 (and if I live to be 97), I know that I will get my strength by taking her middle name.