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Friday
May182018

Blossoming Time

Greetings Music Friends,

Finally! After having survived an exceptionally long winter, the arrival of blooming flowers and blossoming trees is much appreciated. Except for raging tree pollen allergies, this spring weather is a welcome relief from winter’s blast!

One of the good things about our Atlantic Northeast winters is that the cold weather offers the best excuse to stay inside and write or practice! That said, it is so worth it to venture out for music and adventure. I have had some wonderful musical opportunities lately and wanted to share them with you.

Most recently, the Singin’ Seniors had their Spring recital on Friday, May 11th

The Singin’ Seniors are a group of well–elderly citizens who are members of The Lenox Hill Senior Center, located on the lower level of St. Peter’s Church at 3rd Ave and East 53rd Street. I teach a vocal ensemble class with the help of accompanist, Clare Cooper, through the support of Feel The Music, a non-profit organization founded by friend and fellow songwriter, Valerie Ghent. We offer three vocal ensemble sessions during the year and take the summer months off.

The Singin’ Seniors performed eight great songs on Friday, complete with harmonies, counter melodies, and a band! Marc Daine joined us on guitar, Steve Marks on bass, and Gary Fritz on percussion.

Here is the set list: Hello Mary Lou, A Kiss to Build a Dream On, You’re the Top, With A Little Help from My Friends, Teach Your Children, Dance Me To The End of Love, Everyday People, Dream a Little Dream of Me.

I am very proud of the Singin’ Seniors and wish them good health and a wonderful summer!

In February, over President’s Day weekend, I traveled to the Pacific Northwest for a fantastic PSGW winter music retreat.  Singing, writing and playing music with wonderful friends and fellow musicians filled our days, nights and wee hours. I had a blast!  And after music retreat, I finally made it to Wintergrass!  Wintergrass is a huge Bluegrass convention held annually in Bellevue, WA, where, besides hearing great performances of vital bluegrass musicians, I met and jammed with a group of fantastic women (including good buddy, Rachael Snyder) who are involved with the non-profit organization, The Handsome Ladies. This fabulous group is dedicated to bringing bluegrass music jams to a ladies-only playing population. They’ve got over 300 members across the country, and they host monthly Ladies’ jams in five different towns. Watch this space for info about a possible New York City area jam!

 

After the total immersion of music retreat, Mike flew to Seattle to meet me for a visit with my Berg family north of Seattle. That is always a special time. At the ripe old age of 97, my father, Darrel Berg, is hanging in there.  He’ll tell you, some days are better than others, but his attitude is unwavering. He is always so glad to have his family visit. We drink coffee in the morning and talk, talk, talk and read the paper and discuss various topics, his favorites are baseball teams from his childhood (1938 Chicago Cubs) the justice activism that I'm participating in, and updates on his McCarthy grandchildren (Dan is a first mate on a tugboat in the New York Harbor and Keenan is graduating from IYRS in Newport RI in two weeks)! He likes to say, “You gotta be good to be lucky”.  That motto seems to have carried him through life!  I ❤️ my Dad!

 

A Bunch of Bergs!, niece Ursula, me, Darrel and brother Bruce

 

Per usual, Middle Church Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir has been very active this year and I have been busy singing and practicing civil rights with them!

In the beginning of 2018, on January 20th, we marched in NYC from 72nd and Central Park West to 6th Ave and 42nd Street, in the 2nd annual Women’s March, joining in solidarity with thousands of other State wide marches, to once again, support the rights of women; equal pay, fair wages, a woman’s right to choose, affordable health care, work based child care, affordable legal aid … and the list goes on. That was quite a day.  
 

Photo by Peter Calderon

On March 11, a group of us sang in front of one of Wendy’s corporate offices on Park Avenue to protest unfair wages and to offer support to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a worker-based human rights organization based in Florida. Dave, you should know better! Cheaply purchased, below-wage lettuce prices for your franchise is not worth a legal battle! Fair pay and better conditions for fair work hours and quota.

And again, on March 24, gospel choir sang and marched to support gun control awareness with a huge crowd of inter-generational Americans with March For Our Lives, organized by students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida who were themselves victims of a brutal gun-toting rampage of a fellow student.  Among the songs we sang were Down By The Riverside, Give Peace a Chance, and Rich Man’s House.

 

On Easter, at Middle Church, I soloed on the beautiful gospel song, “The Storm is Passing Over.” Is there ever a time in our lives when we do not welcome an opening in the proverbial clouds to see the sun finally shine through? “Take courage, my soul, and let us journey on, though the night is dark and I am far from home” …

Photo by Patrick Mulcahy

I was not scheduled to sing the solo. I was not listed in the church bulletin. But at choir practice, director John del Cueto asked me to improvise at the end of the song. It was more a spontaneous improvisation than a solo— I couldn’t say exactly what was coming out of my mouth! But I felt a positive charge and a lot of good Easter energy coming through me as I improvised. To me it felt like the whole room was breathing.

The song starts around 30 minutes into the video at this link!

On April 16, I sang backup for the boldly talented Madge Dietrich in,“The Year of Madgical Thinking,” a benefit for Middle Church’s LGBTQ Ministry and Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Youth. With musical director Drew Wutke on piano, Basssik on bass, Jeremy Price on Hammond organ, and John Del Cueto and I singing backing vocals.

In the club scene world, I had the pleasure of singing the lush harmonies of Monica Passin’s beautiful CD, “Monette” with Monica Passin and Sherryl Marshall twice—at both Cornelia Street Café off of Bleecker Street and also at the legendary Treehouse at 2A in the East Village. 

Also in April, girlfriend Sherryl Marshall and the Girleens (including me!) had a great time back at Tom Clark’s Treehouse at 2A. Sherryl’s songs are soulful and solid, groove-based and quirky and very fun to sing! With Elise Morris, Tricia Scotti, Stephanie Seymour and band mates, Charlie Giordano, Paul Pimsler, Lincoln Schleifer, and Fred Wolcott. What a hoot!

Photo by Jessy Dunn

I have booked some time in the recording studio this summer to record a few new tunes! In my opinion, recording is one of the most wonderful experiences a musician can have. It is quality time specifically set aside to work on and create the tone and mood and message of the song. Each songwriter has their own unique expression. Listening back to what was recorded is confirmation of who we are and what we do.  Chris Tedesco on violin, Richard Hammond on bass, and Charlie Giordano on accordion are joining me, on acoustic rhythm guitar, to find the groove and lay down basic tracks at Grand Street Recording in Williamsburg, with the fabulous Ken Rich producing.

I know, no drums.  What has happened to my rock and roll roots??

 

Portrait of Renie McFee, my new Goodall guitar!


More to come! Thanks for listening!

Love to you,
xxx
Deborah

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