Have I Ever?!

Life is nothing if not amusing at times.  I haven’t participated in a Daily Prompt in…well, I don’t rightly recall the last time.  I was on my way back to bed (not feeling close to well today) when the thought occured to me, “If the Daily Prompt has something to do with making music, I will post.”  And, lo and behold.  I had to laugh out loud when I read today’s Daily Prompt in my email, We Got the Beat, which asks (and instructs), “Have you ever played in a band? Tell us all about that experience of making music with friends.”

I won’t point out the obvious (oh, ok, I will…some people don’t know me from a hole in the ground, so… I’m a singer/songwriter and I have been off and on, throughout my life, a professional vocalist (professional simply means getting paid for what you do) since the age of 4). One could say I was born into a band.

Singer/Songwriter Autumn Dawn Leader at age 6

Singer/Songwriter Autumn Dawn Leader at age 6

Daughter of a professional vocalist and musician, as soon as I showed both the ability and the passion to sing, my mother “signed me up” to sing with her, lending harmonies, or taking the lead so she could do the harmonies.  She directed various choirs and choral groups, and I often lended a strong voice to these, as well.  I was in a variety of the trio groups she put together. Harmony is fun (one of the reasons I love to do my own backing vocals on recordings) and, as much as I like the spotlight and solo work, a good vocal group can be what I call a good time. Of all the people I have made music with, I probably enjoyed making it with my mother the most.  An ocean separates us now, so we don’t get to work together. I miss it.

The Chairs

When I moved to the UK, I managed to get a solo gig – a one off which didn’t amount to any more jobs.  So, I got a day job and did the nine to five where I met a computer tech who also played bass in two bands, one of which was losing their lead vocalist due to wanting to go solo.  I auditioned for them. I got the job (all of this one could read in my bio on my website…hint, hint).  I sang with The Chairs for nearly 2 years until the break up of the band (we lost our drummer and the keyboardist who started the band was getting bored, I think).  I enjoyed working with such excellent musicians and I was sad when my time with The Chairs ended. But, I’m still in touch with Ivor, the bassist, and we catch up and play together from time to time. It’s always a joy.

Making music with Bob…

Making music together is an intimate thing. Music is powerful. It’s more of a spiritual force – it transends the natural and temporary. Music belongs to the soul, belongs to the eternal. It can forge bonds…. and I get attached.  Of recent times I have played and sang in both a folk/acoustic band and a worship band with a couple of people that I miss very much now that – due to life and illness and the illness of life taking weird and agonising turns – I am no longer playing with.  This is a sadness. Attachment is dangerous. Playing in a band can teach you this. Painfully, but you learn the lesson.

I figure that before I leave this plane of existence I will play with others (oh, yeah, that’s another thing… musicians love the inuendo) once more.  But, right now, I am solo… making music, on my own. I make it because I am it. I was born into it. I was born of it… I make it because I’m made of it. I believe in it.  It’s more than what I do (but it is the only marketable thing I can do); it is who I am. I am the band.

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Take “The Bear’s” Advice

wordsofautumn

I saw this today on Twitter.

I immediately “favourited” and retweeted it.

And, I think it applies to blogging, too.

If I start to water me down just so I can get a few more followers, then shame on me! When I begin to care more about the statistics of my blog and tailoring it to reach a certain demographic or making it palatable to a wider audience, it is no longer an expression of myself…which is, generally, what this blog is about.

So, my advice to new bloggers? Take a page out of mine and @Laughbook’s book and be true to yourself.  Blog like nobody’s watching, reading or judging. Just blog!

Glass? What Glass?

Daily Prompt | The Glass asks us that old chestnut:

Is the glass half full, or half empty?

Well, after some thought, I’d say, it depends on the glass.

image

Take this glass here. This glass is half full of delightfully taste bud tantalising ginger beer. Mmmm, delicious and refreshing.

But, we’re not talking about literal glasses and what fills (or doesn’t fill) them; we’re talking about (sigh) life.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be writing about this when I’m depressed. But, the Daily Prompt prompted me. So, here I am.

I have an ex-boyfriend who used to say to me, “Autumn, your problem is that you always see the glass half empty.” My response always was, “What glass? There isn’t a glass!” I was being very cynical and negative, yes. But, I was also disappointed by his use of the tired and, in my opinion, incorrect analogy.

I know, I know. Hard to believe me being negative and opinionated. And, sarcastic.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. – Psalm 23:6

So, first of all, it isn’t a glass; it’s a cup. And, it isn’t half anything; it’s full and running over.

At times it (life, the cup) is full and running over with misery (like when the husband is ill and the kids are misbehaving and one realises their dreams are only fantasies and you are overwhelmed and drowning in the sucky-ness of life).

There are times (such as, when you are doing what you love, you have an appreciative audience and you feel as though there is yet hope; like when your husband gives you “that look” that defies logic because you know how time has ravaged you; moments when your kids make you laugh with their humour and warm your heart with their love) when the cup is full and runs over with wondrous delight.

Most of the time it’s a swirling, whirling, overflowing mix of the good and the bad together. But, it is never empty, and it is never half empty or half full. It may be full of emptiness sometimes, but it is not in the nature of life to be half anything.

That’s just the nature of the cup.

C.S. Lewis’s most forgotten work, and his best…

Tillwehavefaces

Ok, so perhaps it is only in my not so humble opinion that this is his best work. I am very biased, after all; this is my favourite book of all time. Thus, when Daily Prompt asked their question today:

Tell us about a book you can read again and again without getting bored — what is it that speaks to you?

I certainly wasn’t going to let an opportunity pass to gush about it.

I have lost count how many times I have read this book. It frustrates me that in all the C.S. Lewis quote pages I am subscribed to both on Facebook and Twitter, I have never seen any quotes from my beloved Till We Have Faces. I can’t figure it out…or, maybe I can.

Till We Have Faces is not an easy read, in that you are slapped right in the face with yourself. It’s painful to read something that so lays your soul bare – something that so exposes the true nature of yourself. I’d like to say that like so much of fantasy fiction (or, in this case, the re-telling of an ancient myth) that clothing the truths in the guise of a well-told story will lessen the blows it delivers. But, I’d be lying to you if I told you that. This book brings one face to face with themselves and, most of the time, that just isn’t pretty. It is, however, very liberating.

Every time I read this book I get something out of it. It never fails to speak to me.  And, while its lessons may be hard to swallow, it manages to remain entertaining (a spoonful of sugar afterall, perhaps). I certainly wouldn’t want to scare you off from reading it (I, personally, think it should be required reading for every person on the planet), I suppose someone might be able to ignore the obvious while reading it and simply read it for its most excellent story. But, I suspect, one would really have to be utterly obtuse to get through it without seeing the message at its heart.

The core of the book lies in the difference between selfish and real love. It shows, in great detail, what we do to others when we say we love them but how often everything we do is out to serve ourselves and not what is best for the one we confess to love. It also examines how too often we only see and hear what we want to see, even when the truth is staring us right in the face.

Till We Have Faces is a re-telling of the classic myth of Psyche and Cupid, told from the perspective of Psyche’s older half-sister. It is a first person narrative, and I defy anyone to not see and hear themselves in Orual. I certainly identify with all her struggle.

I would implore you to read it. I would get down on my knobbly knees and beg for you not to delay after reading this post but go secure yourself a copy. I would plead with you to discover this most forgotten but best of C.S. Lewis’s works for yourself. But, eh, who listens to me, huh?

There really was something about this particular Mary…

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named  Martha welcomed Him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary,  who also  sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.  But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her,  “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But  one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”  – Luke 10:38-42

Be still, and know that I am God. – Psalm 46:10

During a recent time of worship, I wrote a song based on this account of Martha and her sister Mary from the Gospel of Luke. It is also based on the first part of Psalm 46:10.

My desire has always been to be like Mary but, I have to admit, I have spent more of my life being rather Martha-like: anxious, stressed out, overwhelmed, frayed and frazzled. And, then there are my really bad days.

This song was birthed equally out of my desire to more like Mary and my Martha-like desperation. It’s a heart-cry and, since writing it, I can’t get it out of my head.

Lists? We don’t need no stinking lists! Or do we?

Today’s Daily Prompt: The Satisfaction of a List

Who doesn’t love a list? So write one! Top five slices of pizza in your town, ten reasons disco will never die, the three secrets to happiness — go silly or go deep, just go list-y.

Who doesn’t love a list? Me! The satisfaction? Really? They are too organised for my chaos. They are too constrictive to my natural free-spirited, impulsive nature; they go against my spontaneity. The only lists I regularly make are set lists for my gigs (and those not as regularly as I’d like…grrr…but, I digress) and song lists for when I lead praise and worship, like this:

wpid-24-March-song-list_01.jpg

I even have trouble making shopping lists. Honestly, I kid you not, I just attempted to type the word “lists” and it came out “lusts”. See, lists and I just don’t get along. I’d obviously rather be writing about lust than lists! Well, who wouldn’t, really? (And, I’m sure someone just answered that question with, “Well, I’d much rather write about lists…” AHEM, moving right along…).

It’s not that I cannot see their benefit or that I don’t use them when absolutely pressed to, but the idea that everyone LOVES a list? Come on! Not I, I say. I’m just a rebel that way. 😉 Maybe we do need them on occasion, but love them? Puleeeeze!

I’m not even going to “categorize” this post. If any post should be “Uncategorized” it should be this one.

Gloriously Autumnal

“Victim of Autumn”
Photograph by James Leader, SquarePeg Photography

Today’s Daily Prompt: Turn, Turn, Turn just gives me an excuse to hold forth and make much ado over the best of all seasons. Now, I know I am biased. But, in what other season do you have such glorious contradition and riotous beauty? Autumn is a beautiful mess.

I was named after this season. Decades before my name became the flavour of the month, back when it was unique. I miss those days. I liked having a name as unusual and uncommon as the season itself. It’s an Individualist thing. We insist on being different. I have actually mourned over the (in recent years) popularity of the name. I have begged friends NOT to name their children after me. But, I digress (just a whole lot); I’m not here to talk names, but seasons.

There’s a vibrancy in the season of Autumn that is unmatched in any other season.  For me, what I look forward to every year is the reprieve from the over-hotness (in my opinion) of Summer and the fling of colour before Winter bleaches the land again.

Autumn is passionate and powerful and…magical. Yes, all things Autumnal are magic. She is moody; she is erratic; she is flippant, she is serious; she can be gentle, she can be raging and violent; she whispers, she shouts; she is…wild, untamed, and she has a music all her own. And, I could have replaced all those “shes” with “I”. My mother named me well. She is beautiful (well, I couldn’t have it all…that’d just be greedy).

I love the season for which I was named. I feel intimately connected with it. Last year I had the great delight of releasing my first EP length album. It was aptly titled:

Gloriously Autumnal Album Cover

And, really, everything I could say about my favourite of – and the best of all – seasons, I have written in the title track of that album. I invite you to listen, and fall. Fall for Autumn. She is both the most treacherous and most faithful of loves. I invite you to sing her glory with me.

It feels gloriously Autumnal
Colours swirling in the wind
Sweep me away, again
Carry me away, carry me awayTumbling through the air
The colours beyond compare
Sweep me away, again
Carry me away, carry me awayThe crunch beneath my feet
The vividness so sweet
I’m swept away, again
Carried awayAnd everything is old and new
I begin again, and end with you
I lay me down, and rise so high
In a whisper, I die
In your wildness, I fly
Carried awayThe chill that takes my breath
(How beautiful) this mingled life and death
Sweeping me away, again
I’m carried awayAnd everything is old and new
I begin again, and end with you
I lay me down, and rise so high
In a whisper, I die
In your wildness, I fly
Carried awayCarried away, carried away
Oh, carry me away, carry me awayEverything is old and new
I begin again, and end with you
I lay me down, and rise so high
In a whisper, I die
In your wildness, I fly
Carried away

Carry me away, carry me away
Carry me away, carry me away
Oh, carry me away, carry me away
Carry me away, carry me away

credits

from Gloriously Autumnal, released 02 November 2012
Written and performed by Autumn Dawn Leader.
All vocals: Autumn Dawn Leader. Piano: Autumn Dawn Leader
© Autumn Dawn Leader