This was our little neighborhood Elementary School in Toro Park near Salinas, California. Right now, it is the evacuation center for people fleeing their homes due to the River Fire burning the hills to the east. I feel so sorry for the folks in our old neighborhood. The fire is ravaging and sending smoke into the air that we are seeing come into our valleys in Utah.
Many of our children attended this little school. They had no Music Program at the Elementary level, so I volunteered to lead a Choir and do the end of school Dance Festival. Love this picture of the rainbow arching over the school. One song we sang in the Choir was "The Rainbow Connection." This song by Paul Williams and Kenny Asher is a beautiful song about wishes and kindness and love and hope.
This song was written for the Muppet Movie. It became such a popular song because it opens the heart and encourages faith in dreams. A rainbow is a symbol of hope. I sure hope for better days for our poor old neighborhood!
How does the old Beatles song go? "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?"
This year of being 64 has not been what I had imagined for my future. For example, I had not imagined being widowed, being isolated so much from family and friends, not being able to participate in any singing or musical activities, and seeing such terrifying acts of violence and unrest happen in the world, our country and even in my little neighborhood.
Thankfully, there have been positives, too: So far my family members have all stayed well. We were able to have our Family Reunion and get our latest Family picture taken. We have enjoyed holding Church meetings in our own homes -- where we can SING as part of our worship! We have been revisiting and developing old interests and talents. And we are amazed at the advances in technology that allow us to continue working, going to school and meeting together over extremely large band width.
After spending so much time alone with myself these days, I have had the opportunity to look back over the things I have done and witnessed in my lifetime. I was born the year Disneyland opened - 1955. Television was brand new. Baby Boomers were starting their families, building little homes, and trying out all sorts of new technologies for the home. The Space Race was heating up. I got a front row seat for this. My Dad worked for NASA and brought home samples of all the newest inventions they were creating for the astronauts to use in space. Who knew so many of those items would soon show up on the grocery store shelves? My childhood was an exciting and fast moving time!
Changes in technologies happen so routinely now, we hardly get excited about what might be new. We are absolutely bombarded by advertisements everywhere competing for our business, so we try to ignore all that noise. We don't even have a sense of wonder at new advances. We simply expect advances to happen and they had better work! But, because of the Pandemic, many people are opting for a much quieter, slower pace right now.
Apparently, the musically-minded have still been out there looking for new music to perform. It has been interesting to me that the music from my catalogue that has continued to sell over this time of Pandemic have been the Vocal Solos and Duets and Easy Piano solos and duets. (I guess people are really still enjoying doing music in their homes! Kind of helps renew your faith in humanity, doesn't it?) Some of the best selling ones have been the songs from Disney movies and the Beatle songs. Who knows, maybe I will write a few more...
All You Need Is Love
If there is one Prophet/Writer in the Book of Mormon that I would especially like to meet, it would be Alma the Younger. Even in translation, his powerful spiritual insights are delivered in a particularly poetic style. (Perfect for inspiring songs!) Since we have been studying the words of Alma during July and August (2020), it has reminded me of the great privilege I had to create sacred songs from three of his passages.
"Counsel With the Lord in all Thy Doings" Alma 37:37 (solo)
"Counsel with the Lord in All Thy Doings" Alma 37:37 (SATB)
I really, really do not like giving talks in Church. I would much prefer singing my testimony. One Father's Day, years ago now, I just couldn't convince the Bishop to give the assigned talk to someone else. As I was researching to find ideas for the talk, I read the account by Alma where he was giving counsel to his son. Here was a father hoping that his words would inspire his son to be faithful, to sincerely pray always, and to dedicate his life to serving the Lord. What a beautiful message for Father's Day! So I wrote a song and had my daughter and her friends sing it. (I still had to give the talk, but I felt better about it.)
"O, That I Were an Angel" Alma 29:1-9 (solo)
"O, That I Were an Angel" Alma 29:1-9 (duet)
Back in the early 2000's, I sang in a community choral society choir. The conductor was very kind to indulge me every time I asked him questions about composing. He was very supportive of my efforts and even complimented me saying that I had quite a flair for "melodic drama." He especially liked this piece.
At the time, my youngest child had also started school, and that left my days wide open. I decided to start writing sacred solo songs for myself to sing, and while I was at it, I decided I should write some songs that my vocal students might like. One of these students was a young tenor who got a mission call while he was taking lessons from me. I decided to write this piece for him to sing for his Mission Farewell. He really did the song justice with his heroic tenor voice.
A few years later, a Baritone friend from the Tabernacle Choir asked if I would create a duet version for us to sing together. So, I did that, too.
"How Exquisite Was My Joy" Alma 36 (solo)
The entire chapter of Alma 36 is written in chiasmus. That is an ancient poetic writing style that uses inverted parallelism to emphasis the most important phrase at the center of the passage. A friend from the Tabernacle Choir, Barbara Cramer, invited me to try writing a solo for her to sing at the 50th Anniversary Jubilee of the Discovery of Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon. Her brother Jack Welch had made the discovery while he was on his mission years ago and would give the keynote address.
She gave me a few phrases from the scriptures to concentrate on in the chiastic form ABCDDCBA. But, I really couldn't wrap my head around trying to write music in a strict chiastic form. Did the melody and accompaniment have to stick to the form and the inverted parallelisms?
Anyway, I decided that the scriptural phrases would stay in the chiastic outline, but the music would not stay strictly in those patterns. After all, I had to build up to not only the climax in the center, but save a little something for the ending.
Creating these songs was spiritually moving and testimony-building for me. I realize how fervent Alma's testimony of Jesus Christ was and how he wants us all to believe and put our trust in the Lord. All I can say is Amen.
My name is Betsy Lee Bailey. I enjoy singing and writing all kinds of music. I have performed and directed or taught music all of my life. This blog is dedicated to all of the people who have been encouraging me to write about my experiences.