Music That Moves ME Memories

Below are musical memories that Maine Public’s members, listeners, and viewers have submitted. They are archived here to be read (and some to be heard) and enjoyed.

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My journey into classical music was rich and eclectic. I grew up in a family with seven siblings. From an early age, I was exposed to music in my singing family. My grandparents, mom and dad sang at family gatherings and events. I am not talking about performing. We just sang for fun. We were taught to sing in parts at a young age as well. My parents taught us songs from the 20, s and 30’s, show tunes, drinking songs, and barbershop music. It was a house filled with music. My love of Rachmaninoff and Gershwin was my only real exposure to classical music.

About twenty years ago, I was living in Vermont, doing odd jobs for my grandfather, waiting tables near a ski resort and getting ready to go to graduate school when I heard this album, Dream Café, by Greg Brown. That year was one of the biggest “in-betweens” in my life: I was a few years out of college; I’d been in love and then lost it; I’d lived in Mexico and worked a desk job in Boston; I thought I’d lived a little by then but there was so much unknown in front of me.

I was brought up on a potato farm in Hodgdon, Maine. I went to school in Hodgdon and, later, for high school in Houlton. As a child I was immersed in so many of the activities of late 1950’s early 1960’s small town life. I sang in church and the Community Chorus, played in the band, worked with my father and the hired men on the farm, rode my bike to school, loved the parades and all the activities of the Potato Feast, etc., etc. After college I returned to Houlton for a nearly 6 year stint as owner/operator of a small convenience store on Route 1, heading south out of Houlton.

A couple Julys ago, I was invited to a concert at the Drummore Bay Concert Hall, a meticulously restored grange hall in Phippsburg. We parked between spray painted fluorescent lines on green grass in the side yard of the now 118 year old hall that sits proudly on the main road.

Over thirty years ago, in November 1987, the Surry Opera Company, a group of non-professional singers from Surry, Maine, traveled to the then USSR to sing opera with Soviet choruses in both Leningrad and parts of the Georgian Republic. I was a member of that opera company and want to tell about a special concert our group attended near the city of Telavi, Georgia, which has remained with me as a musical highlight in my life.

About twelve kilometers outside the city of Telavi our tour buses parked near the eleventh century

I have been a music lover my entire life. The songs that have withstood the test of time to me are songs that could be beautiful poems on their own. When put to music with a silky melody and sung by a superb voice, that is the perfect song. There are many examples of that kind of song, but one shining example is “Suzanne” written by Leonard Cohen sung by Nina Simone.

The music that moves me is Swing Jazz, specifically Benny Goodman's version of Sing, Sing, Sing played at his 1938 concert at Carnegie Hall. My Dad had that record, among others, and he and I listened to it often when I was growing up. When I was in 5th grade, I took a music aptitude test and it was recommended that I should learn an instrument. I was hoping for drums, but Dad brought home a clarinet. I played in the elementary school band and then the high school band and spent those years trying to duplicate Benny's solo on Sing, Sing, Sing.

In 2001, I sang Vivaldi’s “Gloria” with the Woodfords Church choir. I brought my 90-year-old mother. I found it hard to put into words the feeling that happened in that sanctuary that Sunday afternoon in November. I had sung the “Gloria” before, and heard it many many times. But this was different, somehow.

My mother and I sat in silence as I drove her home. Then she nailed it. “You know,” she said, “after music like that, the whole world looks different.” And it did.

When I was driving home last evening from caring for my three little Maine grandchildren, which I do two days a week, I had NPR on in the car which I often do, and Music That Moves Me came on. It made me reflect on how powerful the hold of music is on our emotions and memories, and in particular about an experience with my grandkids that day. Piper, age five, was excited to show me a children’s book of folk songs he’d found at the library that had in it the lyrics to a song I’d sung to them since they were babies so he associated it with me: “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.”

These days I mostly enjoy listening to classical music on the radio. I love Robin Rilette’s morning show. She may spin classical disks, but I think that she’s a rock star. Recently, I was delighted and surprised when Robin played music performed by the great Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso, Jake Shimabukuro. Ten years ago, I became interested in the ukulele, and I started playing the uke after playing the guitar for many years. They say that you can’t be unhappy when you are playing a ukulele. I believe this to be true.

Lavender, Hummingbirds, and AC/DC

Before she died, my friend Beth assured us all that she’d appear from the Afterlife in the form of lavender and hummingbirds. I suspected she was joking, given that those tropes seemed too ethereal for our shared sense of naughty humor. “Couldn’t she” I wondered, “appear in the form of, say, Justin Trudeau or a young Leonard Cohen?”

Hello, I discovered the French born pianist Helene Grimaud from listening to a program that featured her not only as a musician but as a conservationist as well. After reading her book, Wild Harmonies, I began to purchase CDs, find where she was performing in the US, and to read about her Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY.

A few years ago I was traveling in California and became stranded on New Year’s Eve by flooding in the Napa Valley. We had hoped to fly home that night and back to Albany New York but the roads to the airport were closed.

Friends that we were traveling with and who were on their way to a New Year’s eve house party, included us in their plans to spend the evening ringing in the new year with world renowned guitarist Peppino Dagostino. I knew Peppino played the guitar but not much more.

The last several years I have had the opportunity to perform with Kevin Siegfried’s Portsmouth Singers as part of the Maine Festival of American Music at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village. We have sung programs of tunes that Kevin has transcribed from the original Shaker notation, along with some of his choral arrangements of Shaker songs.

A lot of music moves me, but in some of my best moments I am an activist and music that moves me the most is activist. The folksinger Jim Page hails from Seattle and has spent most of his life writing activist music and performing in the Northwest. Jim Page was inspired by Woodie Guthrie and, yes, a young Bob Dylan. One of his songs updates Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”

[Play] “Come gather round me, hear my sad story. I know you think you’ve heard some one sing it before me, but it’s an old song, I had to change it, times ain’t what they used to be.”