While I Stayed Home, My Songs Went Traveling
One of my most satisfying musical activities is singing at the bedsides of the dying, through the Threshold Choir, an international service organization whose motto is “kindness made audible.” We sing softly, a cappella, usually in trios. Of course, the pandemic eliminated bedside singing, as well as the opportunity to experience the pleasure of blending with other voices in 3-part harmony in rehearsals. We all experienced this as a deep loss. However, upon reflection, I also greatly appreciate what the lockdown opened up for me.
The organization began holding Sunday Zoom Sings, with participants leading songs from our repertoire and others appropriate to the situation. This has enabled me to teach my compositions to choir members anywhere in the world. (In the past, this was only possible at Regional or All-Choir Gatherings or by visiting other choirs.)
Last July I was interviewed for a video series called “Songwriter Salon,” which included the opportunity to teach several songs. That prompted me to experiment enough with GarageBand to create learning tracks, which have been very useful for both the weekly Zoom Sings and teaching my songs at the Zoom rehearsals of various choirs.
I have also been learning to use iMovie. Invited to submit a piece for the Threshold Choir’s online Winter Solstice celebration, I added still photos and video clips to “Light Without, Light Within” for a meditation on ways in which various traditions celebrate the turning of the year. The video then went on to live a life of its own on YouTube. For the Choir’s Summer Solstice celebration, I created a video combining images from Santa Barbara’s “I Madonnari” chalk painting festival with my song “All Is Well, All Shall Be Well.”
I never would have predicted that a shutdown would create so many opportunities for my songs to be more widely disseminated.
The vaccine has made it possible for Penelope to return to Ed Tree’s studio, where she is currently finishing her 5th CD, a collection of her inspirational songs and the pieces she has composed for the Threshold Choir repertoire. A Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Penelope composes songs that compassionately, poignantly, and often humorously explore this wild and tender experience of being human. Six years ago, she co-founded Women of Song, which meets monthly in Santa Barbara for mutual encouragement and song strengthening–and which (of course) generated a band, called Sister Velvet.