Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

My Green Man

A song for my husband, my Green Man (who has green eyes and Celtic ancestry).  This is the story of our wedding, held on May Day.  I may change some words, but then I may not, but whatever I’ve got, it’s all for Green Man.

The tune will be a jig (in 6/8).

1. On the first of May
Twas a cloudy day
But with garland gay
I wed my green man

2.In the church we did vow
Forever and now
“Before each we’ll bow”
Did say my green man

3.A song I did sing
Gave we each a ring
the piper did bring
all out with green man

4. Around the Maypole
My ladies did stroll
To ravel each roll
Before my green man

5. With delightful glance
My maids did dance
To weave and entrance
My laughing green man

6. Ribbons light in hue
Colored pink and blue
Wove a web for two
Around my green man

7. At last they cried
“Hooray for the bride”
And headed inside
To feed my green man

8. Then thru the gate
in to celebrate
the happy fate
of me and green man

9. A brogued biddy most spry
our craic she did spy
and with glee did cry
“such a handsome green man”

10.And as we stepped gaily
as if at a Ceilidh
marched in the trail she
of me and green man

11. My limbs did move
In a reveling groove
To dance for love
With my green man

12. His hand I did take
My heart did ache
I kissed and ate cake
With my green man

13. I never will part
From the joy of my heart
For my breast feels a start
When I hold my green man

14. Years later we’ll kiss
Even when our words miss
And belie any bliss
With my green man

15. For even in May
When the world is gay
The skies can be gray
O’er me and Green Man

16. But I’ll love him true
whether rosy or blue
le chroi, anam, agus guth
my own, my green man

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Ave Maria, Gratia PlenaI have just finished composing this song for harp and voice for performance as guest artist at a Vespers next Sunday.  The topic provided to me was “Mary” or “commitment” or “The Three Kings”.  I was inspired by the first two (the breastfeeding counselor in me, obviously).

The melody is “odd”.  In the chorus, the word “Maria” always starts with a descending tritone, which is echoed in other parts of the chorus and verse (on the important word of the phrase).  This melodic device is an homage to another “Maria”.  If you can guess who’s and where, you get special points from me (but other than that you got the point, I’m not sure what’s special that I can give you).

Instead of the usual western chords, I mostly play a sustinato 5th of F-C (even when I start with the tritone on Bb to E), and the musical interludes have a decidedly Latin flavor with lots of thirds and off-beat rhythms. Overall, it sounds “ethereal” to me–so the feel is not “cutesy” at all.  I promise I will upload a performance in the new year (once I figure out how to record something that replays well in the computer).

Ethereal--indeed, to Maria, ethereal is how she might have felt when a winged angel appeared at her side.  And ethereal is sometimes how a first-time mother feels when she holds and nurses her baby in those beginning days.  Ethereal is what a mother feels knowing that this new child is now “my child forever” (“the rest of my life”).  So, my other homage in this song is to that of “the great mother”–eternal, ethereal, loving, warm, sustaining, light-shining, powerful, and any other “amazingness” you’d like to assign the great mother.  PAX

Maria of the Shining Light


Maria, Maria, Maria,
A woman, a mother, a wife,
Maria, Maria, Maria,
Bright emblem of loving and life.


Archangel Gabriel flew into your sight,
Declared he, “Shall birth you a child of might.
I vow that Joseph will honor this right
And promise that you shall be mother of light.”

Three womanly joys in us you do rest:
Devotion and reverence, a sweet love sure blest;
Provision and sustenance, kind milk of one’s breast;
Salvation and providence, warm arms as babe’s nest.

A small infant, whimpering, squirms in my clutch,
I salve baby’s hunger with soft milky touch.
O, help me, Maria, commit to this much.
On all mothers, Maria, shine your light such.

Final Chorus:

Maria, Maria, Maria,
Wise woman, great mother, good wife,
Maria, Maria, Maria,
Shining paragon of loving and life.

© Janna Maria Fröhlich, 12/31/2011

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Musings on strings and keys

The harp is just a piano sideways.

The piano is just a harp horizontally.

A piano is making music in two dimensions while a harp is making music in three.

I want to get an accordion for my next instrument.

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An attempt at Fado

I had not heard of Fado until a few years ago I bought a Putumayo CD with cafe songs from different wine-producing countries.  One of these songs was the Fado Velho Fado by Jorge Fernando (hear it:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVcYU5t17-c).

I fell in love with this song’s sound, with the sighing emotion of the singer and the sweetly trilling echos of the guitar.  This particular song was the kind that you never get tired of hearing, both because of the singer’s pleasant hypnotic timbre and the melancholy upbeatness of the tune.  Ah…I had fallen in love with Fado.

But only now, I’m finally learning what it’s all about…a musical form native to Lisbon, Portugal.  A form with roots all the way back to the middle ages, but its modern form being born somewhere around 1825.  On November 21, I heard a report highlighting the wonderful young Fado singer Carminho on WGBH’s The World (http://www.theworld.org/2011/11/carminho/).  Fado is a candidate for World Heritage Status by UNESCO, which candidacy is supported by pop singer Nelly Furtado.  Hearing this report reminded me that I have wanted to try my hand and voice at composing a Fado (what will pass for a Fado for this American composer/singer in any case).

My understanding of Fado is that the lyrics are emotional commentaries on the vagaries, movements, sadness, inevitability of a life, a city, a sea, a love affair, an aging mind and body, and more.  Fado (the word stemming from the Latin fatum (fate)) is the soul reflecting on its own existence and the reality around that existence.  It is also the soul feeling saudade, an untranslatable word that perhaps connotes longing, sadness, “why not?”, “why?”  all in one.  At least, that’s how I interpret it.  The music grew out of the poverty of parts of Lisbon, but to my mind, it transcends place and time.  Who of us on this planet has never had a moment in which we wonder, what if, or, if only, or, such beauty, but it cannot withstand time.

Here is an attempt at Fado.  I will soon compose a melody for this, but this kind of song has to start with the vision, the images, the poetry, the saudade.  One other thing:  the point of the poetry, of the performance, is to make the listener feel a tear come to the eye.  So, if I have succeeded, you should feel overcome with emotion.

I play my instrument

I play my instrument
giving voice to my soul
with every quick pluck
with every fiery chord.

But who here truly
hears my soul’s longing?
I  play for an audience,
but who listens for meaning?

No matter–my soul delights
in telling itself the story,
for each desire sounded
relieves an anguish inside.

Each tone, a lovely gasp,
each chord, a rapturous wounding,
each phrase, a beautiful ache,
each melody, a magnificent malady.

Thus, my soul gives voice
with every string I strum
to this instrument of fate,
singing my heart inside out.

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A Sacred Space is Any Place

This song was written in honor of a sermon about pub churches (see the references at the end).  I’ve yet to compose the music, but it was read as a poem for the readings of that church service wherein the sermon was spoken.

A Sacred Space is Any Place*

A woman kneels down on the floor of her shop.
She prays to Allah, for at times, she must stop
To be devotee to her God.
A group of folks gather with laughter and beer
To talk and to pray, to sing and to cheer,
To voice holy hopes in a pub.
The hapless, the homeless, the privileged few
come together outside to worship anew
in common; with spirit, they share their grub.

Any place can be sacred space:
Not arches or gargoyles nor stained glass or statues
Need make it a place of prayer.
A holy hall is not the objects inside it,
Nor its brick, nor its mortar,
But the honest intent of those gathered there.

The walls of a prison and cells solitary
Once were thought to enforce a penitent passion,
like a monk’s confinement, but involuntary.
In Eastern State Penitentiary
A Catholic sinner painted mural and altar,
Created a chapel, a place for “Hail, Mary”.
In its temple Jews prayed “Adonai” aloud.
Neither rabbi nor priest were too proud
To make sacred those walls so contrary.

Any place can be sacred space:
The penitents’ purity is not necessary
To make it a place of prayer.
A church’s charisma is not in its beauty,
Nor in its richness or oldness of duty–
It’s the honest intent of those gathered there.

A coven of witches form a circle in a bower.
To them, earth and wind and fauna and flora,
Contain the spirits of earth’s blessing power.
A flock of youths follow a leader, to mountaintop climb.
Sun’s shadow on meadow and hill, sweet birdsong, and
smell of fresh air carve a cathedral of wonder sublime.
A chapel, a temple, a parlor, or bar,
A forest, a garden, or bare mountain side–
A church may be simply the place that you are.

Any place can be sacred space:
Neither flowers, nor candles, nor chalice,
Nor pews, nor pipes, nor granite stair,
Nor pages, nor preachers, nor orders of service,
Nor ushers, nor music, nor walls like a palace,
Just the honest intent of those gathered there.

– for Terry (10/13/2011)

*Inspired by these blogs

“Religions of Harlem”

“The Pub Church”

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Several weeks ago, I was listening to NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t tell me!” and heard a tidbit about the journal Evolutionary Biology publishing that research on pop songs reveals that to be a hit, a pop song has to be filled with reproductive messages (i.e., words about sex).  You can see the transcript here:


Peter Sagal, the host of the radio show, quipped “I’m waiting for the first, like, successful pop group to actually use the words ‘reproductive message’ in a song. It will rocket.”

OK, so at that point, I figured that Mr. Sagal had just challenged me to write a song with “reproductive messages” in it.  So, I wrote one, in the car, driving to a concert, singing the lyrics into the voice recorder of my cell phone.  I was on a roll.  And here’s the latest draft.  Sorry, no audio to go with this–yet.

Come hither darlings,
Let me tease you a tale
‘bout how I met my sweetheart,
My own, oh, so masculine male--

v. 1  	I met my baby in the corner store,
He had these eyes that I just really adore,
He had this look that I just couldn’t forget
And even though we’d really just met,
Ch. 	I had to give him reproductive messages,
I had to give him reproductive messages.

v. 2	I went up to him and I said with a smile,
“Hey, sweets! I really like your style,
And if we meet up I could give you a ball,
Tell me your number and I’ll give you a call, cause..
Ch.   	I have to leave you reproductive messages,
I have to leave you reproductive messages.

v.3 	 He looked right at me, and his fingers touched mine,
“I saw you laughing and I think you’re so fine,
Your smile is pretty, and your eyes are so blue,
Here is my address, could you email me too? Cause…
Ch.  	I want to read your reproductive messages,
I want to read your reproductive messages."

Bridge (swelling chorus lines interspersed with melody constantly rising)
So then we take a walk to my place,
    [chorus sings: She thinks she loves the way he plays her!]
Where I plant kisses all over his face,
    [chorus sings: She feels his hand can really slay her!]
"Oh, baby, your touch gives me a shock!
    [chorus sings: She says his touch is over the top!]
Oh man, I’d like to blow your ... "Oh, don't stop!”
    [chorus sings: She wants to..."Oh, don't stop!"

v.4 	Now he’s my baby, and we have lots of fun,
	He’s got a rhythm that gets the job done,
	He talks romantic and he kisses good too,
	We’re like bonobos making out at the zoo--

Ch. 	We’re always sending reproductive messages,
	We can’t stop sending reproductive messages!

v.5 	So darlings, that’s the story for you,
Any more would be just red hot and blue.
Some tales are better when twixt the lines you hear
"Oh sweet baby,  just touch my--yes, right there!"

So, I’ll have to tease you with my reproductive messages..
Now, I’ll just leave you with these reproductive messages,
Go out and send your own reproductive messages…

Post updated on 11/17/11 with changes & additions to the bridge text.

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