Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Behind the Scenes: "Danny Boy"

We enjoyed a fun visit with my uncle and aunt last night, Tom and Andrea Brett. I've written a lot about my family ties on my dad's side, and there is just as much still to say about my mom's (Andrea is one of my mom's sisters). I really am fortunate to have received a musical heritage through both sides. Andrea arranged "Danny Boy" (audio clip on the right) and I thought it might be fun to give a bit of the background on this piece.

I first heard the Brett's recording of "Danny Boy" at a Christensen Family Reunion in 2007. Andrea had arranged it and their family recorded it for a very special man, President Gordon B. Hinckley, for his 97th birthday. "Danny Boy" was his favorite song. Beyond their beautiful arrangement and performance, it touched me deeply for another reason. My grandad had just passed away and the words "for ye will bend and tell me that you love me, and I shall sleep in peace until you come to me" brought me great comfort.

You can hear an excerpt of their original recording, featured on their CD "A Capella Inspiration" here. It's track 10 on the Song Sampler.

During the reunion, Andrea and I took a morning walk in the thin mountain air of Breckenridge, CO (for some reason our family reunions are usually in places that leave me gasping for breath) and bounced around my initial ideas for recording a CD. At this point the idea was still so new and overwhelming to me that I was keeping it a secret from anyone else! Andrea was a great resource and support for me from planning to the final stages in the studio. She graciously gave me free reign to do whatever I needed to with the music to make it work for the violin and accompaniment.

My recording engineer, Jim Robeson, accompanied me on the keyboard and made it possible to change the voicing with ease. It was a fun creative process to take a piece written for five voices and turn it into a violin solo. At the time, the Bretts were on tour and our communication was limited to intermittent cell phone signals on the road and McDonald's wireless internet service on their laptops. Tom sent me a file containing the score from somewhere in the Upper Midwest, I did a lot of cutting and pasting and reassigning voice parts, Jim sent Andrea a file with our initial recording, and I left voice messages asking her about specific chords we weren't sure about. (That's the short version of the story.) Jim and I were down to just a few minutes left in the studio and I'll never forget when the phone rang. It was Andrea - she had the info we needed and we got 'er done. Phew! I'm very grateful it all came together because I just couldn't picture doing this CD without it.

The Bretts have a fantastic show in Branson, Missouri. Here's a taste! Andrea wrote "I'll Give America My All" and I cry every time I watch it. You'll see why!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Feeling of Peace

Last night I had a sweet, unexpected "payback" moment and wanted to share it here:

The conversation began with, "Arian, let me give you a hug". (A nice start!) "My daughter gave us one of your CDs for Christmas. The first time I listened to it was in the car while I was driving, and that was a big mistake." (This had me a little worried.) "It just made me cry and I had so many tears streaming down my face I couldn't even see anymore! I couldn't believe it. So the second time I listened to it, the same thing happened. I had to tell my daughter about it, and asked her if it had made her cry - and she told me the same thing happened to her. Thank you for making this CD, it has touched me so much and has brought me so much peace."

I told her sincerely that is my highest hope for this, and that I know what she meant because it has brought me so much peace as well. She asked for a couple more to give to people she loves who could use that feeling of peace right now. St. Francis of Assisi's prayer, "Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace," comes to mind and I count it a blessing to be a small part of that in another's life.

I can pinpoint a couple of personal reasons this music brings me such peace, although I'm sure it's going to be different for everyone. I've written about these reasons in older posts: why I made this recording and couldn't have gone better. This last post is what I talked about when I performed at my CD Release open house.

I am grateful that several of my CDs have been given as gifts (by people I know and love, to people they know and love, but whom I don't know)! I would really enjoy hearing about where those have gone and any stories or feedback from the recipients. This started out as a very personal family heritage project, as you may already know, but I didn't know if it would go anywhere beyond my family. In fact it scared me to think that it might. It turned out to be too much of a miracle to just keep it to myself, and it really has meant a lot to me that others have wanted to share it, too. It's gone from Alaska to Florida and is floating around in Germany, Norway, Japan, and even Qatar now! Thanks for sharing it, thanks for your feedback, and many blessings to you.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

"Good, Awesome Days"

Happy 2010, everyone!

This past week my little brother John came out to visit. Among all the other holiday festivities and catching up on the last 2 1/2 years since we've seen each other, John and I did something really fun: we recorded a song together! He's composed some really cool stuff, and in this case he wrote a violin part to go with the guitar and vocals. It won't be long before his CDs are flying off the shelves, I'm quite sure!

Just as much fun for me was to watch him and my boys develop a rapport (2 1/2 years is a VERY long time apart when you're only four!). I overheard John ask them what they wanted him to write a song about, and my youngest replied without hesitation, "good, awesome days". Thus a very catchy tune with lyrics inspired by two young boys enjoying the holiday break was born. With more than one reference to chocolate. I love it!

John and I kind of grew up in two different worlds as siblings separated by 13 years. When he started Kindergarten, I started my freshman year in college. I remember so clearly when I came home for my first Christmas break and what a comforting feeling it was to be back with my family. (In this picture I think we were singing "Somewhere Out There" on Karaoke...)

The problem came, of course, when it was time to go back for my next semester. I found my sweet little brother John curled up on the floor by the Christmas tree, crying, the night before I left. He knew I was about to leave again and it was just too sad for him. Oh, my heart! I curled up on the floor next to him and just held him for awhile. I didn't want to leave him any more than he wanted me to go.

Something interesting happened when it was time to say good-bye again yesterday, this time John headed back to college and we were the ones who stayed. My youngest son watched from the window while John loaded his suitcase into the car to head for the airport. He turned back to me, laid down on the couch next to the Christmas tree, and sadly said, "I don't want Uncle John to go." I knew exactly how he felt. I felt it 16 years ago, I felt it right then, and I felt it for my little guy who reminds me so much of my brother all those years ago. I knew what to do. We waved good-bye through the window, and I laid down on the couch with him and held him.

We had some good, awesome days over the holidays indeed! And I am confident that there are plenty more ahead this new year. I am reminded that sometimes we are the ones who help make it a good, awesome day for someone else without even knowing it. My family has certainly just done that for me.