Tag Archive | music

Away in the Manger Memories

When I was little our house was full of music and never more than in the holidays. Everyone in the family except my dad was in at least one church choir and us kids were in more than one, usually at least a bell choir and regular kid’s choir but Cam and I were also in a special kids choir that sang during the second service and was in Wylie Chapel. It was a miniature service just for the children from 4th to 6th grade.

The holidays meant lots of rehearsal and lots of singing at Church events and when we got to Junior Hi through High School we got to sing in the 1000 voice choir at Disneyland every year because our Minister of Music founded it. It was hard work but we thought a free night at Disneyland was worth it and we got to have adventures we probably shouldn’t have because we were back stage at Disneyland.

But my earliest memory of Christmas music was singing in the car with my mom. We were at the school my dad taught at. I can remember being in the backseat and my mom had moved to the passenger seat so dad could drive us home. Mom usually didn’t take time with me other than reading to my brother and I and that’s probably why it sticks in my mind. But I can remember sitting there in car and learning to sing “Away in the Manger” which is probably why it’s still my favourite holiday song.

It was probably because I could always sing and hold pitch and that was important to mom so it’s something I remember so clearly that I was alone with her and she was paying attention to just me.

It’s a rate good memory of my mom when I wasn’t disappointing her in some way,

Here is the pagan version I wrote so I could still sing it:

Away as I’m walking ( I prefer the Flow Gently Sweet Afton Tune)

Away as I’m walking upon the far moors

I look to your heavens and stand here in awe

I watch as the far stars all turn in sky

I’m small and a tiny part of the whole.


Be near me O Goddess

I ask thee to stay

Close by me forever

And bless those I love

I’m standing here silently under your stars

I can offer you humbly my hands and my heart

(2016 Kat)




Insomniac at Work

My Lullabye playlist because work may drive me bonkers

Another Lullaby – Art Garfunkel

Asleep in my Arms – Barbara Higbie

Castle of Dromore – Kate Power

Christina – Alsdair Fraser

Day is Done – Peter, Paul and Mary

Deep Peace – Bill Douglas featuring the Ars Nova Singers

Everything Possible – Fred Small

Gartan Mother’s Lullaby – Linda Arnold

Irish Lullaby – Bill Douglas

Lagan Love – William Coulter

Lullabye – Arcady

The MacKenzie Lullaby – Talitha MacKenzie

Mo Ghile Mear – Mark Waters, Tristan Rosenstock

A Nightingale’s Lullabye – Julie Last

The Skye Boat Song _ Bear McCreary

Seoithin Seo’ – Liz Madden

Skye Boat Song – John Boswell

Suantrai – Anuna

Sunatrai Ar Sianaitheora – Fionnulla gill

Suantraithe (Lullabyes) – Noirin Nu Riain

You’ll be in my heart – Kenny Loggins

Neil Gow’s Lament for the death of his second Wife – Alsdair Fraser, Paul Machlis

Women of Ireland –Joannie Madden

John O’ Dreams – Arcady

Connamara Cradle Song – Mairead Sullivan

Thied Mi Dhachaigh

Lullabye- Cris Williamson

Starlight – John McCutcheon

MoonBoat – Tom Chapin

Sa Brooke Lullaby – Gary Stadler

The Second Star on the Right – Disney

Suantrai (Brahm’s Lullabye) – Orla Fallon

Tender Shepherd – John McCutcheon

Carul Lich Garman – Mary McLaughkin

Bi Thusa Mo Shuile – Mary McLaughlin






Me and my guitar

For some reason Gene Wilder’s death is bothering me more than some of the other multitude that has died this year. Maybe because that movie came out right before my senior year at a time when I was odd man out everywhere I went. My best friend had moved and I was a geek and for some reason didn’t have many friends until my senior year. I spent most of my time teaching myself to play the guitar and being music librarian for the choir teacher at school because I could hide in the music library when I wasn’t in class and studying for Latin Club competitions. Yep, I was a grade A nerd but luckily I was sitting in the middle of a wonderful era of songwriters and songs.

So I put together a playlist of the songs I was obsessing over learning to play my last two years of high school and first years of college.

Skye Boat Song  – Alex Beaton

Mr Tambourine Man – The Byrds

Turn! Turn ! Turn! – the Byrds

Annie’s Song – John Denver

Take Me Home Country Roads – John Denver

Sunshine on My Shoulders – John Denver

Song for Judith (Open the Door) – Judy Collins

Both Sides Now – Judy Collins

Neverland Melody – Kenny Loggins

House at Pooh Corner – Loggins and Messina

Last night I had the strangest dream – Limelighters

Edelweiss _ Sound of Music

500 Miles – The Seekers

April Come She Will – Simon and Garfunkel

The Candy Man – Aubrey Woods – Willy Wonka

Pure Imagination – Gene Wilder – Willy Wonka

Leaving on a Jet Plane – Peter, Paul and Mary

Moonshadow – Cat Stevens

Day is Done – Peter, Paul and Mary

I Whistle a Happy Tune – The King and I

Where have all the flowers gone – Peter, Paul and Mary

Follow Me – John Denver

Mo Ghile Mear

Because I have an earworm this morning

Lá na mara
Lá na mara nó rabharta
Guth na dtonnta a leanadh
Guth na dtonnta a leanfad ó
Lá na mara nó lom trá
Lá na mara nó rabharta
Lá an ghainimh, lom trá
Lá an ghainimh

(The day of the sea
The day of the sea or of the high tides
To follow the voice of the waves
I would follow the voice of the waves
The day of the sea or the ebb tide
The day of the sea or of the high tides
The day of the sands, the ebb tide
The day of the sands)

Can you feel the river run?
Waves are dancing to the sun
Take the tide and face the sea
And find a way to follow me

Leave the field and leave the fire
And find the flame of your desire
Set your heart on this far shore
And sing your dream to me once more

‘Sé mo laoch mo ghile mear
‘Sé mo Shéasar, gile mear
Suan gan séan ní bhfuair mé féin
Ó chuaigh I gcéin mo ghile mear

(He is my hero, my dashing darling
He is my Caesar, dashing darling
Rest or pleasure I did not get
Since he went far away, my darling)

Now the time has come to leave
Keep the flame and still believe
Know that love will shine through darkness
One bright star to light the wave

‘Sé mo laoch mo ghile mear
‘Sé mo Shéasar, gile mear
Suan gan séan ní bhfuair mé féin
Ó chuaigh I gcéin mo ghile mear

Amhrán na farraige
Ór are na seolta
Amhrán na farraige
Ag seoladh na bhfonnta…

(Song of the sea
Gold on the sails
Song of the sea
Sending the melodies…)

Lift your voice and raise the sail
Know that love will never fail
Know that I will sing to you
Each night as I dream of you

‘Sé mo laoch mo ghile mear
‘Sé mo Shéasar, gile mear
Suan gan séan ní bhfuair mé féin
Ó chuaigh I gcéin mo ghile mear

Ag seinm na farraige
Ag seinm na farraige
(Playing the sea
Playing the sea)

Seinn… Play…

‘Sé mo laoch mo ghile mear
‘Sé mo Shéasar, gile mear
Suan gan séan ní bhfuair mé féin
Ó chuaigh I gcéin mo ghile mear

Gile mear, the wind and sun
The sleep is over, dream is done
To the west where fire sets
To the gile mear, the day begun

‘Sé mo laoch mo ghile mear
‘Sé mo Shéasar, gile mear
Suan gan séan ní bhfuair mé féin
Ó chuaigh I gcéin mo ghile mear

‘Sé mo laoch mo ghile mear
‘Sé mo Shéasar, gile mear
Suan gan séan ní bhfuair mé féin
Ó chuaigh I gcéin mo ghile mear

Ó chuaigh I gcéin mo ghile mear
(Since he went far away, my darling)

Amhrán na farraige
Ór are na seolta
Ag seoladh na bhfonnta
(Song of the sea
Gold on the sails
Sending the melodies)

Written by Paddy Moloney, Sean Macreamoinn

Music alone shall live

All things shall perish from under the sun,

Music alone shall live

Music alone shall live

Music alone shall live, never to die.

Sing when you’re sorrowful

Sing when you’re gay

Sing with the rising sun

Sing when the day is done

Singing is happiness

Sing everyone


Himmel und Erde müssen vergeh’n,

Aber die Musici,

Aber die Musici,

Aber die Musici bleiben besteh’n.


This has always been one of my favourite rounds. I don’t remember learning it, just that I was very young and I learned it in German before I learned it in English. I learned the English when I started to working at camps.

As I grow older the words mean more. What do I leave behind? When I’m gone will my songs live on?

Music alone shall live? Hopefully, my stories will live on but my oldest friends and a lot of my newer ones will remember singing together. I remember the soaring of mingled voices on a mountain hillside as night falls. I remember singing at campfires on the last night filled with hugs and love and tears. I remember singing on long backpacks or as we did the dishes around tables after eating. I remember singing at Scout’s Own or in chapel when the bats would fly overhead or as the sun rose over the trees.

Music alone shall live.

Does it still echo through the canyons when the girls and staff are long gone? Do the mountains remember the songs and the love?

Sing when you’re sorrowful

Sing when you’re gay

Music is always there, it’s the thing that my heart will always cling to. It’s a gift you share with people and is gone if not recorded, on the wind, its ephemeral grace lasts only as long as it hangs in the air.

Sing with the rising sun

Sing when the day is done

Will we remember singing “Annie’s song” in 8 part or more harmony and the joy we had at singing at Kelly’s wedding as a gift to her that only we could give? Will those of us who sang as Women With Cakes remember the joy we had in singing and playing together in ritual and at Faire? Will we remember the joy that went with every song we sang at camp even if it was a very silly one like “Wasn’t it a bit of luck the I was born a baby duck” or “if I was a little mosquito there was love and hope?” Will we remember the joy in the sounds of us singing “jubilate Deo” as grace for Sunday dinner? I remember.

Singing is happiness

Sing everyone


It’s going to be a rough week.

July 30th is always a hard day for me, thank heavens it’s not a weekday this year because I tend to turn into a sieve while also turning into my own version of a pensieve, so many memories. July 30th is the 11th anniversary of my little brother’s death.

Today the pensieve is serving up music which is always hard since music was a bond our whole family has. I remember lying on the floor with him, playing 78s from mom and dad’s collection of records. Everything from the Mikado and Victor Herbert to Bozo and the Birds and Danny Kaye telling fairy tales and Hans Christian Anderson’s stories and a lot of Scottish folk songs and Harry Lauder.

He was a year and half younger than me, so I had a shadow whether I wanted one or not. We were in choir together, and in bell choir and in school choir but he took a left turn and took up the trumpet after torturing us for a semester on the violin, it was not his instrument. He joined band and orchestra and I stayed firmly in choir but played my guitar and recorders at home, you can hide in choir.
Mom and dad took us to concerts and musicals from the time we were little. Some of my earliest memories are sleeping in dad’s lap at the Hollywood Bowl under a starry sky and watching deer creep down the hillsides. I think our first musical was Brigadoon but it may have been Peter and the wolf too.

When we got to college we took voice class together and I was always more terrified for him than me even when we had to do recitals. He went on to do musicals and I was stage security and prompter. I did take piano but had to drop out because every time I had to play in front of the class I spent the hour before vomiting from stage fright. When Cam took piano the professor recognized him by his hands. He told Cam I had the best piano hands he’d ever seen. Wish he’d told me that but I just couldn’t do it.

I have a rather eclectic music collection and I put my Kindle on shuffle today, I shouldn’t have. It started to play Broadway musicals and the switch got flipped. I remember him singing in Fiddler as one of the sons, I remember him in the chorus of Hello Dolly but most of all I remember him in Babes in Toyland.

He played Barnaby and had a grand time twisting his moustache and trying to scare small children. That was the show I did security because some idiot had designed the stage door to open onto the main hall and not into the dressing rooms. Cam had to navigate the hall to get to his dressing room and the first time he got kicked all the way down the hall by small children with hard shoes since you used to get dressed up to go to the show and tennies are not dress shoes. His shins were black and blue. Cam was the bad guy in the black cape lined in bright red and with his top had and moustache he was easy to see especially since he was 6’4”. After that night I was his protection and since I was really good at the death stare, no kid dared kick him. Pretty funny 5’8” me staring down 5 year olds and sending them running. Cam was a big teddy bear, I am not! And I’d already been camp counseling for 5 years so I was good at the death stare. He hated scaring the kids in real life,on stage it was funny, I thought it was funny, period. I wish I had a picture of him in full makeup. I’m sure there probably is one back at school but I would have no idea how to get something from the mid 1970’s from them.

He ended up getting his BM in Music, in Opera, the one kind of music besides rap I’m not that fond of and one in computer science after his brain cancer went into remission the first time.

So this is going to be a hard week and Saturday was Mary’s birthday so the fun just keeps coming. Sigh…

Poetry Month – April Fool

Listen to the bark of the dogwood tree
Go into the garden take a little green pea
Just one month till the end of school
I’m an April Fool
The willow in the backyard can’t stop weepin’
Seeds in the ground are soundly sleepin’
Days are warm but the nights are cool
I’m an April Fool


I’m an April Fool, and I’ve got to say
From the end of March to the first of May
That’s the place I’d love to stay
I’m an April Fool

Sheets on the line all wild and blowing
Cross your fingers there’s no more snowing
It froze last night in the swimming pool
I’m an April Fool
Gotta mow the grass, been nearly half a year
At nights spring peepers are all you hear
Old full moon like a shining jewel
I’m an April Fool


The old crabgrass keeps on complaining
It’d be real dry if it’d just stop raining
Eliot said this month is cruel
I’m an April Fool
March to the beat of an April tune
We May be this way till June
Take a deep breath and I know that you’ll
Be an April Fool


©1998 John McCutcheon/Appalsongs (ASCAP) & Joe Hill Music (ASCAP)

Poetry Month – Follow the Light

Song credits:
Words & music by John McCutcheon, Tom Chapin & Michael Mark
The weekend following September 11th I played at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS, as I’ve done for twenty years or more. Without the option of flying, I drove all night that Thursday to make my Friday afternoon and evening performances. When I finally got to my hotel room it was nearly midnight and, like most of the rest of America, I immediately turned on the television. I caught the very end of a prayer vigil in Manhattan. As the credits rolled the camera focused on a small circle of candles left by now-long-gone participants. In the center of this circle of candles was a hand-lettered sign, “Follow the Light Home to Me.” At breakfast the next morning I showed Tom and Michael the first draft of this song. We finished it that afternoon and debuted it that night.

Follow the Light

We were 7 and 8
My sister and I
Lost in the woods
When lightening filled up the sky
As we ran through the ran
We knew where to head
To the light on the porch
“Come home!” like Mama said


Follow the light
When you’re lonely and lost
When out on the ocean
You are tumbled and tossed
Follow your heart
Wherever you may be
Follow the light on home to me

Out on the sea
The waves heave and rise
Far from the shore
When a storm mounts the skies
We look for a sign
For some welcoming sight
A beacon from home
To guide us on this night



There’s a hole in our skyline
There’s a hole in our town
There’s a hole in our hearts
The whole world around
How do we heal?
How do we see
The mercy that shines in you and me?
(We follow the light…)

When the world feels so big
And we seem so small
And you wonder if life
Has any meaning left at all
When you’re losing your heart
When you’re losing the fight
Hold on to my hand
And we will follow the light

©2001 John McCutcheon/Appalsongs (ASCAP)
Winfield, KS September 2001

Getting older is a bitch

I’ve been a musician all my life. Some of my first memories are being taught songs in the car by my mom while we waited for my dad after work. For some reason I don’t remember where my brother was so he must have been pretty small or he would have been there too. Or sitting with my grandmother on an overnight at her house at the piano while she played short chants for doing things like weaving. I remember being so small that my feet didn’t reach the floor.

Mom and dad bought us lots of records and I’m giving my age away when I say the first ones were on 78 not 33 1/3 like LPs. We had a lot of folk songs and one with Danny Kaye singing and telling stories and one favourite I wish had survived, “Bozo and the Birds”. I was fixated on the Spoonbill.

My first instrument was the alto recorder, I think my parents didn’t want the ear piercing blasts produced with by the soprano, They didn’t buy me the soprano until I learned to play fairly well. I used to sit crossed legged on my bed and dad would ask me how the snake charming was coming or call me “swami”.

I started to learn the guitar when my best friend was being taught by her father and gave me her first guitar. She didn’t continue but I fell in love because it was smack in the middle of the folk song era and the Kingston Trio’s Lemon Tree was the first thing I learned to play and went on to the Child Ballads and then Peter, Paul and Mary and I was off.

Now that I’m going deaf playing the guitar is difficult because I can’t hear well enough to tune it and electronic tuners are too exact and don’t sound right. But the thing I miss most is singing with others and singing with other people takes very careful listening so that you match pitch and tone with everyone else. I spent a lot of time this last weekend Trying hard to listen when we were singing at the memorial and the FOI anniversary. Hoping I was in tune and fearing I wasn’t and too scared to ask how bad I was.

I miss playing my harp and guitar. I think I’m going to invest in a new recorder if just to have a way to fight back against my neighbor’s loud wall rattling video games and his monotonous electric guitar practice.

Anyway losing my hearing can be depressing

A Monday Playlist

Monday Playlist

Distant Shore – Orla Fallon
Fields of Gold – Sting
This Piece of Earth – West of Eden
Appalachia Waltz – YoYo Ma
American Collection – YoYo Ma
Dona Nobis Pacem – YoYo Ma
Da Pacem – Libana
Dance ‘til the Rain Begins – Laura Powers
An Ron – Julie Fowlis
Tha Mo Ghaol Air Aird A’Chuan
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – Josh Groban
Nothing More – The Alternate Routes
Faerie Queen – Blackmore’s Night
I’ll be by your side – Kathy Heller
Lullabye – Cris Williamson
Ready for the storm – Deanta
From the Goddess – Desert Wind
Hills of America – Emerald Rose
Penny in the Well – Emerald Rose
Laura’s Hill – Gary Stadler and Singh Kaur
All that we let in – Indigo Girls
Follow the lIght – John McCutcheon
Streets of Sarajevo – John McCutcheon