GNL Number 45

a report of doings at meeting #45, Sunday, February 13, 2011
including liturgical notes, major themes, and other odds and ends


I have my own particular sorrows, loves, delights;
and you have yours.
But sorrow, gladness, yearning, hope, love,
belong to all of us, in all times and in all places.
Music is the only means whereby we feel these emotions in their universality.
—psychologist H.A. Overstreet


We were delighted to welcome Anna’s friend from Albany, Anna C, who opened the conversation by noting that this topic—-Music of Heart–made her think right away of Paul Simon and his remarkable album Graceland, which woke her (and many of us) up to world music, especially African.  And she added that she still very much enjoyed the Rolling Stones, who don’t seem to grow stale, but are rediscovered by new generations like her nieces and nephews.  (And the Beatles too, piped up Gail’s granddaughter, Virginia.)

Sue, recalling how powerful music can be, described the way exercising to music turns it from effort to fun for her and Jay. She told a story of her instinctive response at a family gathering when her brother kept ranting, to express her wishes that he stop, but in an operatic voice, and this got his attention and he calmed down.  She also sang for us the beautiful traditional ballad, “the Riddle Song”, and from a Leonard Cohen CD, played his famous “Ring the Bells…”.   For the words to these and several quotes, please see AFTERWORDS.

Anna M told of a lovely time years ago in her life back in NYC, when she regularly played recorders of 4 different types with friends in ensembles of 3 or 4, or duos, and how pleasant it was.  We asked her to dig them out and try them again (and she agreed for starters to at least show Anna C when they went home).

Virginia had brought a Muppet CD, and after some practicing back in the bedroom, she played a favorite track from the CD and sang along with the Muppet character in a song about first wishing you could be somebody else, and then realizing you’re glad you’re you!

Jack, one of Virginia’s biggest fans, said he used to love to sing heartily, and to whistle too, but it’s hard now with Parkinson’s.  He does keep his WMHT radio music going all day and evening.  He had also given Cynthia some old  Friends of Silence newsletters full of wonderful quotes, many about the power of music, and she passed these around.

Cynthia spoke of cleaning out upstairs in the study, where she’d found the above newsletters, and she read some of the quotes.  She also brought some of her favorite music, a CD by Andrea Bocelli, and another by John Flynn. And we listened to some of these over lunch. For the quotes and a charming little winter ditty of her own, see AW.

Gail took a different tack, two actually—thinking of the different sounds we can experience as music, especially in nature: like birds singing and soft breezes, but also the sound of laughter and children singing, especially Virginia.  And she found a book on the amazing muscle we call the heart (The Sublime Engine: A Biography of the Human Heart, by Stephen and Thomas Amidon), and read some passages from this.  For more on all these, please see AW.

For Erynne, the topic recalled the time when her dad was dying, and she and her brother and mother were together trying to get through it all, when they heard Joni Mitchell’s song The Circle Game playing, and they looked at each other and knew how true and fitting it was.  She played it for us, and said she has felt that insight on hearing the song ever since.   See AW for the lyrics.

Ann remembered music enjoyed in her family, and her own natural attraction to certain kinds of music—eg, Broadway musicals, but not opera (and she quoted Twain, on opera sounding like an orphanage burning).  Ann generally preferred the voiceless music of orchestras over voiced, unless by choirs, and she mentioned a favorite, the South African group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo (which one of us just happened to have brought some of and played at lunch time).

Nancy said any music that speaks to her touches some tender place shared with the rest of humankind.  So, not just romantic love songs, but lullabies, which she brought many of on Putumayo CDs and played at lunch.  And to represent both love songs to Life and those without words, she played JS Bach’s Rise Up in the Morning, but by the Modern Jazz Quartet. She cited a boy-girl song sent by her son Mike that she dearly loves, Prizefighter, by the rock group Eels. And sang a love song to a place, which had come to her 18 years ago on rte.88: Muffintop Mountains.  (See AW.)

Adair stopped in on her way to see her dear friend in hospice, and stayed long enough to tell us Peggy was still conscious and recognizing her.  So though A was clearly very tired and concerned, she was also very determined to be there for her friend as much as she could while Peggy’s conscious.   We sent her with our wishes for Peggy’s peace and her own.

We decided it would be very fitting if we directed our offering this musical time to Mark Johnson’s Playing for Change project for changing the world through music.   (And we’ll have some extra PfC CDs to give next meeting.)


There is nothing in the world so much like prayer as music is.
—clergyman (and composer of hymns) William P. Merrill


Sunday, March 20, 2011 (1030)—notice that’s the 3rd Sunday rather than our usual 2nd Sunday, so we can enjoy the presence of Gail’s mom, Ginny.    (But still at Jack’s.)
The topic: again appropriate to the date, HOPE

And some future topic ideas that have been mentioned recently: “God”/the Ultimate/the Universe/the Force/the Divine Reality. (That’s One topic.) And some others—Children’s Books, Art, Creativiity, Frustrations, Adapting, Cultural Change.


from Sue:

Quotations—“Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back.”   Plato

“Those who wish to sing always find a song.” Proverbs

“Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.” Ludwig Von Beethoven

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.” Anonymous

“Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway.” Emory Austin

The Riddle Song—I Gave My Love a Cherry Traditional lullabye

I gave my love a cherry that had no stone
I gave my love a chicken that had no bone
I told my love a story that had no end
I gave my love a baby with no cryin’
How can there be a cherry that has no stone?
And how can there be a chicken that has no bone?
And how can there be a story that has no end?
And how can there be a baby with no cryin’?
A cherry when it’s bloomin’, it has no stone
A chiken when it’s pippin’, it has no bone.
The story of I love you, it has no end
A baby when it’s sleeping has no cryin’.

Leonard Cohen, Anthem, from Live in London
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”

from Cynthia:

from Jack’s Friends of Silence newsletter:

“It is my heart that makes songs, not I.”—Sara Teasdale

“Song is not a luxury, but a necessary way of being in the world. If you are cut off, in pain, estranged, numb—Sing, give voice to anything.  It needn’t sound pretty. Simply, bravely, open despite the difficulty and let what is in out, and what is out in. Sing and your life will continue.”—from The Book of Awakening, by Mark Nepo

“While I was writing about silence and explosions and the moment of creation, I made an interesting typing error.  I wrote “big band” instead of “big bang”.  I’d like to think that it was not an error but the voice of creation typing for me. From  now on that’s my theory on the origin of everything.  Creation began with a big band, and ever since there has been rhythm, style and beauty throughout the universe.  Our job is to look and listen for the big Song, and then to join in, following the beat established by the Conductor leading the big band.”—from Prescriptions For Living, by Bernie Siegel, MD

A song without tune:

Winter walking would be much more fun

if my eyes didn’t water

and my nose didn’t run…

Winter walking is just so much fun

when it is over and DONE!!

—  {ta-da}

and from a recent letter:

”Thank you so much for thinking of Playing for Change as your February recipient! We truly appreciate your dedication, and are very proud to use that $55 for our programs. Again, we thank you for your interest and support! If you have any other questions please do not hesitate to contact us!”
Anna Glander
Playing for Change Foundation

from Gail:

(Some other kinds of music—)

  • The sound of quiet on a winter’s day
  • The sound of a light breeze in palm trees
  • The call of the whippoorwill

And from The Sublime Engine—

  • The heart is a mystery and a miracle. It beats roughly every second of our lives—two and a half billion times during an average lifespan.  It does not rest, pumping around 74 gallons of blood every hour once we become adults.  Although it weighs only about 15 ounces, it is immensely strong—the amount of energy it generates in a single day could drive a car 20 miles.—Stephen and Thomas Amidon
  • from Erynne:

    The Circle Game

    Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star
Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like, when you’re older, must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels thru the town
And they tell him,
Take your time, it won’t be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
    —Joni Mitchell

    from Nancy:

    Putumayo CDs with lullabies for all ages (copies available)—

    • Dreamland
    • African Dreamland
    • Asian Dreamland

    Prizefighter, by the Eels

    Well, if you need me, I’m right here,
    No matter what, I’m always near.
    Yeah, I’ve been through a lot
    And you can’t scare me,
    Now go on, baby, if you just dare me,
    I’ll break though any wall,
    Just give me a call,
    I’m a dynamiter,
    I’m a prizefighter.

    Well, if you get sad, I’m your friend,
    I got an ear I’ll always lend.
    You know that you can always talk to me,
    Now come on, baby, take a walk with me,
    Tell me all,
    Tell daddy all,
    Just give me a call,
    I’m a go all nighter,
    I’m a prizefighter.

    Well, when you’re down and all alone,
    There’s always somewhere you can go,
    Here I am,
    A true friend,
    There”s nothing gonna change over here on my end;
    Don’t be scared,
    It’s better shared,
    You know I always cared,
    I’m a everything’s all righter,
    I’m a prizefighter.

    Well, if you need me, I’m right here,
    No matter what, I’m always near,
    Yeah, I’ve been through a lot,
    And you can’t scare me,
    Now go on baby, if you just dare me,
    I’ll win your heart
    Now let it start,
    Let it start,
    I”m a don’t do it wrong do it righter,
    I’m a prizefighter,
    I’m a prizefighter.
    I’m a prizefighter.


    Muffintop Mountains

    Hello, You Muffintop Mountains,
    Feast for the eye
    And a feast for the soul,
    Hey you, Muffintop Mountains,
    Come along with me
    Down the road.

    Golden Muffintop Mountains,
    Sweeter than a cupcake or candybar,
    Sweet old Muffintops Mountains,
    Sweet enough to wake my,
    Wake my heart.

    Re-freshing Muffintop Mountains,
    Shining like a fresh baked golden sun,
    Nice, warm Muffintop Mountains,
    Singing to me, Take them,
    Take them along.

    Now isn’t it funny
    How a mountain can go,
    Mountain can go down the ro-whoa-woad,
    Isn’t it funny how a mountain can go,
    Mountain can go along home.

    Sweet, sweet, sweet sweet sweet sweet,
    Sweet, sweet, sweet sweet sweet. (2x)
    Rolling home, rolling home,
    Rolling, rolling, rolling home.

    Home, Home, Home Home Home.
    Sweedle, eedle,eedle,eedle,
    Sweedle, eedle,eedle,eedle,eet,
    Ho-oh, whoa-o, ho-oh, whoa, ho-oh, whoa-o, Home
    Home, Sweet, Home.


    And some quotes:

    There is no truer truth obtainable by man than comes of music.—Robert Browning

    All deep things are song.  It seems somehow the very central essence of us, song; as if the rest were but wrappages and hulls.
    —Alphonse De Lamartine

    Music is the voice that tells us that the human race is greater than it knows.
    —Napoleon Bonaparte

    Jazz came to America 300 years ago in chains.—Paul Whiteman

    You can’t possibly hear the last movement of Beethoven’s 7th and go slow.
    —Oscar Levant, explaining his way out of a speeding ticket.


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