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The Festive Season, 2014

Greetings to all friends and family at this holiday time of year,

Nor’easter! That’s what is happening outside my window, here in New York today.

Not the greatest weather to shop the Union Square Holiday Market or hail a cab, but it is great weather for reflecting and settling the mind on more simple tasks: finishing work projects, practicing music, returning phone calls, clearing the desk, reading articles put aside, water proofing boots, maybe even baking cookies!

The year that once was new is now reaching its end. 365 days seems like a lot of time. But when you break it down, there is always a looming question:

Where Does All That Time Go?

I like to think much of my time goes into the fine art of writing, singing or practicing music. Even after all these years, I still feel humble about what I know and what I would like to learn about making music. My teachers remain very valuable to me but, at this stage of life, I must also count myself as one of my teachers. Patience. Persistence. Truth. Timing. These are my educational tools.  

But at this writing, the one that sticks out most is Truth.

The city has been on high alert, since the Ferguson grand jury decision was announced last week. Helicopters swarm the skies at all hours and NYPD cars, vans, SUV’s and buses are parked two blocks from here, just in case something erupts at Union Square. Cab drivers explain that Union Square is the easiest meeting point for the five boroughs and a logical place for a demonstration.  The neighborhood dogs feel the tension, as do the rest of us.

Not everyone likes to talk about it. Granted, it is a very volatile situation; a many-faceted problem in our country. Whichever way you spin it, the facts are there. A life was taken in an extreme and disordered manner. Two days after the verdict was released, the Lower East Side Girls Club of New York hosted a fundraiser at Middle Collegiate Church to support volunteer non-violent advocates for justice in Ferguson, MO. Members of the Gospel Choir were invited to sing with Joan Baez, renowned folk singer and civil rights advocate, that evening. What an event! She is a pilot light! She has a lineage and vision for advocacy that flows out of her like a basket bobbing down the Nile, or the Hudson, for that matter!

The experience was mighty! All ages, all colors, all styles of New Yorkers came together to sing, talk, testify, express and release what was heavy on our hearts. And the roof lifted! All our pent up energy morphed! The people came together to sing! Cameras were snapping, videos were purring. It was a Happening!

I have no easy conclusions about where we are as a city, as a country. It is a lot to hold at this usually festive time of year. I think of these words from Bob Beers' "The Peace Carol" (you might be familiar with the great John Denver and the Muppets' recording of this sweet song):

Add all the grief that people may bear, total the strife, the troubles and care.
Put them in columns and leave them right there. The peace of Christmas Day.

My heart is with everyone whose columns are overflowing with grief and strife, yet they still plan, organize, and find ways forward towards change that embraces peace and justice.

Life is ever changing, ever renewing. Whatever you celebrate at this time of year, I wish you a very loving and fulfilling holiday season filled with good food, good thoughts, good friends, good times!

Love and enlightened sugar plums,



Autumn in New York, 2014

The lazy days of summer are behind us now.  The nights are getting longer and life is taking on a more structured time frame… or is that just me?

Deborah and Silka Playing on the Admiralty DreamWe had a wonderful time traveling to Alaska in July.  It was a leisure trip, so I packed my little Baby Taylor travel guitar just for fun! The sights of Denali were spectacular and the small boat cruise through the Southeast Passage was magical.  Grizzly bear sightings, fly fishing in Denali National Park, the Raptor Rehab Center in Sitka, and taking the Polar Bear Plunge off the back of the Admiralty Dream were all highlights of a unique and exciting two week journey. 

Fishing in Denali

My adventures continued when I attended the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop for a week in August and played and jammed 'til the wee hours in paradise, under the pine trees in Bremerton, Washington.  As a topper, a group of friends sang our camp mate, Rachael, down the aisle outdoors with a beautiful song by Nick Drake called "Northern Sky."  A fitting title, as they were married in Kitsap Memorial State Park, in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

My teaching schedule resumes this week with the lovely members of the Singin’ Seniors at the Lenox Hill Senior Center in midtown Manhattan.  We always have a good time.  We have some fun songs to learn.  This semester we will start with "Manic Monday" by the Bangles (written by Prince).  We are also going to tackle the Beach Boys song "In My Room."  We will see how far we get with those luscious harmonies! Big thanks to Clare Cooper, our accompanist, for keeping the music flowing!

The Middle Church Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir has also resumed their schedule.  We had a beautiful service on Sunday evening at Art & Soul.  One of our choir members had a new baby daughter who was being baptized and we sang as much for her as for the adults attending.

On a sad note, we had to say goodbye to our dear dog, Lincoln, on August 29th.  He was a very brave fellow.  Cancer is a beast.  I think of him with love on a daily basis and I wish anyone who is going through a similar battle with cancer all the best and my best wishes for healing and peace.

I continue to write songs and practice guitar and mandolin.  I hope to make it back into the studio some time in the near future to start on CD number 6.  Maybe when the winter winds blow.  It is always great to get back to the recording studio.  I love it!

Last but not least, I'll be performing at Tin Angel in Philadelphia on Wednesday, October 22. Check out the Facebook event page for all the details!

Deborah Berg, The Please Please Me, and Brian Flanagan - October 22 at Tin Angel, Philadelphia, PA

Thank you for listening!

With this update, I send you much love,



The Joys of Summer

I hope this season finds you well and enjoying the beauty of nature!

A quick re-cap on spring and summer's activities:

The Singin’ Seniors had their spring concert in May and rocked the house! Bernice "Boom Boom" Brooks and Danny Cheng joined me and Clare Cooper to make a real band for our students. The Lenox Hill Senior Center crowd thoroughly enjoyed themselves and the Singin’ Seniors gave it their all. I am very proud of the work they have done. They have made amazing progress in our year together. We are starting up again in September with a new group of songs.



I have been taking mandolin lessons with the great Barry Mitterhoff and he hosted a mandolin recital for his students on June 27th at his home in New Jersey. It was great to meet and hear new people and the jam afterwards was fabulous! Thank you, Barry and Gayle!



Rochelle Green-Doctor, Me, and Carol Kissling

PRIDE Parade this year was, once again, an amazing experience of music, love, and flash! I am so grateful to be singing with the Middle Church Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir under the direction of the talented and gifted John Del Cueto. The enthusiasm that comes out of this group is palpable…and contagious!

Emily Bindiger, me, Sherryl Marshall and Leslie Wagner

My bestie, Sherryl Marshall, is in the studio again, recording songs for her new CD project. I was one of her backing vocalists on her song called "Home." We recorded at Lincoln Schleifer’s studio in the Bronx. Sounds great!

Another talented friend, Janet Laing from Wanda and the Way It Is, is putting the finishing touches on her new CD. I sang back up on a number of her awesome songs and even got to sing in Spanish!

Today, Mike and I are heading for a two-week trip to ALASKA! We are meeting my sister and her husband and my 93-year-old dad and his lovely wife for a hike in Denali National Park and then on to a small boat cruise through the Northwest Passage. (I am taking my travel guitar.)

Later this summer, I head to Bremerton, WA to attend Puget Sound Guitar Workshop. There is so much about that place that makes me smile. And now my brother Bruce is going, too! Music everywhere for a week!

Let me know how you are doing. Thank you for staying in touch with me!


Much love,



Spring Cleaning

Union Square, Saturday, April 12th, 2014Greetings to you, my good friends and fellow music lovers!

Finally, finally, we are seeing and feeling the results of a long, cold winter.

Hibernating roots and bulbs have emerged from the deep freeze and the city’s trees and flower beds are alive with blossom and color. The entire mood has changed down here in lower Manhattan; people have finally shed their thick down parkas and winter uniforms! The winter of 2014 was a doozy.

There is rebirth on every street corner!

I press on, singing regularly with the Middle Collegiate Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir in the East Village. Singing in a faith-based choir is very different than working on my own songs with a killer band that I hand pick. Both are fantastic experiences that I love so much and feel fortunate to have in my life. Singing in a choir is ensemble work on steroids. Music blasts out of the choir like water out of a fire hydrant on a steamy summer day.

Our choir director, John Del Cueto is a fireball maestro who takes no prisoners. He makes us work hard to read the chart, find the harmonies, hit the notes and study the lyric content. The Middle Church Gospel Band led by Dionne McClain-Freeney is also solid gold.

MCJJGC, January 2014 at Public Theater’s Fringe FestOf course, feeling the group’s spirit of faith and healing is priceless. The whole experience is a full tilt pleasure.

John tells us never to forget the importance of conveying the message behind the lyrics. He says you never know who will walk in to a service with personal pain or worry and be touched by something the music puts forward.

That can be said for gigs anywhere, not just church choir.

I remember not long ago listening to John Hiatt at City Winery. A line he kept repeating just got me, and before I knew it, I was riding my own emotions, tears streaming down my face, fingers fumbling in the dark for a tissue in my bag.

It’s never a bad thing to feel emotions, especially those brought on by music. It’s a healing thing.

My Dad and my Mandolin, both built in 1920!I'm also keeping my fingers nimble with guitar and mandolin lessons from two wonderful teachers, Terre Roche and Barry Mitterhoff.

This Thursday, April 17th, Middle Church hosts its annual Maundy Thursday multicultural Seder and Agape meal with the Shul of New York, where the Gospel Choir will be singing in Hebrew! It will be at 6:30pm at 50 East 7th Street.

On Easter Sunday, April 20th, the Gospel Choir will be singing at the two Easter services. You're welcome to join us, either in person or via livestream online! (Click here for the 9 a.m. service and here for the 11:15 a.m. service).

And on Friday, May 2nd, The Singin’ Seniors group has their spring concert and you are invited!

Lenox Hill Neighborhood House
Senior Center at St. Peter's Church
619 Lexington Ave, NY
Refreshments provided

We hold a weekly singing class at Lenox Hill Senior Center, sponsored by Feel The Music!, where we practice vocal exercises, sight reading and harmony singing and rehearse colorful and eclectic songs that are fun to sing and beautiful to hear.

The lovely and talented Clare Cooper is our illustrious accompanist!

I am very proud of these hard working, fun loving students. Their spring concert will surely be a feel-good event. Way to go, Singin’ Seniors!

One final note -- heads up for some good music. Four Fab Friends have released or are about to release new CDs this spring! Keep an eye & an ear out for:

Catherine Russell: "Bring it Back"

Amanda Homi: "Til I Reach Bombay"

Ann Klein: "Tumbleweed Symphony"

Valerie Ghent: "Muse"

And one more for the boys:
Noah Brandow (my awesome hip hop godson) has released a second CD with Twisted Linguistics: "Deep Waters."

Sending Love and Appreciation to you,


P.S. The John Hiatt song that got me crying was "Damn This Town":


January's Teachers

Greetings All Good People!

The New Year has arrived in all its splendor. Along with some classic, crystal clear winter blue sky days here, we have experienced quite a bit of nasty north-eastern weather. Slushy intersections, freezing cold temperatures and a huge broken water main on 13th Street in NYC, one block from our apartment building, that sent traffic, and pedestrians (and heat for many buildings) all akimbo!

With each new year comes the anticipation of better days, flowering possibilities and intriguing potential. The annual passing of the torch by Father Time promises to bring positive change! But, so far this year, I have cared for my dog during two surgeries to treat bone cancer, including an amputation, and I have mourned the death of a handsome young man with a family whose hearts are broken.

Lincoln with his cousin, RudyWhen life feels so precarious, I tend to wobble and isolate. I know I'm not alone in this. It’s hard to stay on task. Lately, I have had no choice energetically but to keep my life as quiet and as simple as I can manage. Everywhere I go and everything I do seems to require more time.

I have learned to trust in my teachers more than ever. My guitar teacher helps me stay focused on technique, theory and songs, even when my mind plays ping pong with my attention span. With Gospel Choir, our Director is very clear how he wants to hear us and what he expects from us as a choir. That helps me focus on the music and not on the 10,000 other things dashing around in my brain. My yoga teacher helps me listen to my body's wisdom. With my dog’s medical condition, I listen to our veterinary doctor and follow his directions. Lincoln himself is teaching me a lot! I know I do better if I listen to my smart and steady teachers.

By slowing things down, I have been able to understand the many good things a quieter lifestyle brings. My expectations of what I thought I could cram into an hour or a day were unrealistic and only created frustration ahout how little I was getting done compared to my grand plans. It was self-inflicted pressure and anxiety.

Real things do take time. Visiting friends who are going through hard times, cooking nutritious meals, practicing music, caring for a recovering pet: those are all real things that happen between the obligations and appointments and meetings.

It is surprising, how trauma and tragedy were the ingredients needed to get me to take it down a notch and find a different frequency at which to live my life.

My wish for you is a that you too find a bounty of smiles and clear space in your day (and your mind), and that it will help guide you through your next challenge, which is quite possibly lurking just around the corner.

My Love to you,


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