I used to be Valentine’s Day Grinch.
I really hated Valentine’s day. If I had a mate I felt an obligation to celebrate. If I didn’t have a mate, I felt the day like a cold slap of water.
But since last year – and don’t ask me how – I’m like a One-Woman-Love-Fest.
This wasn’t intentional, I didn’t fall in love, I had no epiphany. I just surrendered. Somehow Valentine’s Day transformed into an opportunity to learn more, share more and feel more love.
On my own terms.
It Started with Video Valentines
Last year I discovered the joy of making musical Video Valentines, and more recently learned why we MUST send valentines. Now I have a whole CLASS in how to make Video Greeting Cards and if you want a quick intro – join me this Saturday for “20 Seconds of Love: An Intro to Video Valentines” and make some to send out to folks you love.
Then it spilled over into my conversations
When we chose the subject for the “Jung at Harp” conversations this week, I told my co-host Kathleen what I’m up to and she said, “Let’s talk about the 4 Chambers of the Heart” – so you can join that conversation here.
And then … the “30-Days of Love Songs” Challenge
This year I gave myself a challenge. I started it January 15th and call it “30-Days of Love Songs.”
It was fun to start. It got scary 3 days later. Then it turned into a Love Fest.
At first, it all seemed pretty innocent: challenge myself to get on ‘Facebook Live’ every night and play a love song – any kind of love song: folk song, original, jazz standard.
Of course, it’s me, so I had a basic ‘plan’ which looked kind of like this:
Love Song Challenge Guidelines:
- Choose a Theme: Love Songs
- Create a Practice: get on Facebook Live and play a different love song every night
- Make a Commitment: do it every night no matter what
- Have a Personal Goal: To learn first-hand about emotional vulnerability
I wasn’t sure how this was going to help me learn about emotional vulnerability. I assumed it would be by showing up live, playing songs that have a romantic meaning for me and sharing that meaning in music and words. But I knew the ‘goal’ or the ‘how’ wasn’t important, because I’ve learned that the beauty of a committed practice is that you’re probably going to get something totally different – and much deeper – than you think you’re working towards. So just pick something and work towards it.
In full disclosure, there’s a reason for doing this. Did I mention I’m 6-years single? This was after a long relationship I thought would be my ‘forever’ – not realizing that for the entire 15 years I wasn’t showing up for that relationship in a way that would make forever possible. I really wasn’t available … even though I was totally committed.
I realized I need to learn to be a person who’s available for love – and the idea of combining vulnerability, visibility, commitment and love songs as a 30-day practice fits my quest to find out: where is love in me? How do I make it available to me and to other people?
Enter the Repertoire
I made a short list of Love Songs I know how to play.
I started on Night #1 with the jazz standard “When I Fall in Love” – a classic love song filled with hope, longing and tenderness. An excellent start.
On Night #2, I went back to my roots in American folk music: “Red River Valley” and the simple, heartbreaking vulnerability of asking someone to declare their love by sitting down beside you. I had a brainstorm that night: that I could sing in costume, so I wore my fringed jacket and cowboy hat. But when I watched the video, I realized I wasn’t singing this song the way I sing it when I’m alone. That meant I was hiding the real connection I have to it. So I got back on Facebook and played a do-over.
Night #3 I sang “Cindy Cindy” – still pretty comfortable territory for me, a love song I’ve sung since I was a kid, and written new verses for. I love it, in part, because in its original version it’s anything but romantic (“Oh Cindy had religion, she had it once before. She had it with the preacher’s son right on the chapel floor”) – and the tag line “I’ll marry you some day” was likely a snickering lie.
But if Cinderellas can become Princesses – then songs can be reclaimed from the rubble of crass sexist humor to live a life of deep, heartfelt love. That’s how I love “Cindy Cindy”.
On Night #4 I sang an original – “Bring it all Down” and I was starting to second-guess myself: Who came up with this idea?? What if I don’t sound good? What if I make a mistake? I mean, I’m a professional, right? My studio is rudimentary. OK, I admit it – it’s just an iPhone. If I don’t sound like a recording, if I strain to sing a note – will that damage my credibility??
In other words – I realized I was going in the opposite direction. I was looking for ways to hide in the music – or the cosumes – a way to ‘sound professional’ – or look like a cooler or more quirky me – and that made me realize I needed this challenge more than I thought. So I recommitted.
Here’s what I didn’t expect:
- The big emotional rewards started happening when I got bored with the project, but showed up anyway.
- My first performance of the song each night, is usually more ‘careful’ and less exposed, vulnerable, authentic – even though the goal of the project is to share vulnerably – and even when I remind myself to go to that place in myself immedaitely. But I could get to the ‘truth’ of the song for me if I stayed long enough, if I admit to myself I’m holding back, and explore – still live in real time – what the song truly means to me. Each night is a process of discovery even when I think I know what I’m bringing to the session.
- My Repertoire exploded. At first I mostly played songs I knew I could play. But starting in Day #7 (“I’m in the Mood for Love” – dedicated to Pepe Le Pue) I began pushing myself to play music I’ve never played on this instrument – the lever harp – and often never sung except in secret. Songs I’d assumed were really workable for this instrument.
- Each time I played a song I hadn’t thought would be realistic to play, I got a little braver to try another ‘probably impossible’ song. In day 15 & 16 I worked out two originals I haven’t played in years.
> #15, “Sweet Goodnight” is my great love when I was 17, originally written on piano, never recorded, never played in concert and never even tried on harp.
> #16 “Love is on Your Side” was a ‘pedal harp’ piece I thought was impossible on lever harp, but suddenly I discovered a new way to play it that made it almost easy.
> #11 “My Foolish Heart” is a song I never thought would be playable on lever harp because of how it modulates – but I found new ways. Which I’ve probably forgotten, as I sit here writing on Day 26. Which leads me to …
I Sang the Insides of the Songs
Around Day 7: I started singing the song a second time, but singing a different part of it: playing the song and singing the ‘chord progressions’. If you’re not a musician, this would be a little bit like a model in a fashion show shouting out each muscle group she’s using as she strides down the runway: it’s irrelevant to the emotional impact of what she’s doing, but it’s fundamental to her being able to do it.
I did that because it’s a huge part of what I’m ‘thinking’ as I play the song – and also a huge part of what I’m NOT thinking – so I wanted to open up my full thought process: to share not just the song, and not just what the song was doing to me, but also how I was logistically navigating the experience.
And, to be honest, I knew I’d forget how I’d worked out the tricky modulations about 48 hours after figuring them out – but now I can go back and see what I did.
I hope you enjoy these 30 songs. As of this writing there are 5 days left.
And I hope you’ll join me this Saturday to learn how to make Video Valentines yourself. If you miss it, sign up anyway, so you can grab the replay. It’s a harp training – but if you come and play a different instrument (or no instrument) – just let me know you’re there and I’ll show you how to make one without a harp … or any instrument at all.
And … Happy Valentine’s Day.
Here’s the Set List for the first 25 Days
Day #1: When I Fall in Love (1/15/21)
Day #2: Red River Valley (1/16/21)
Day #3: Cindy Cindy (1/17/21)
Day #4: Bring it All Down (1/18/21)
Day #5: The Land of You (1/19/21)
Day #6: O Susannah (1/20/21)
Day #7: I’m in the Mood for Love (1/21/21)
Day #8: Greensleeves (1/22/21)
Day #9: Our Love is Here to Stay (1/23/21)
Day #10: As Time Goes By (1/24/21)
Day #11: My Foolish Heart (1/25/21)
Day #12: You Are My Sunshine (1/26/21)
Day #13: My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose (1/27/21)
Day #14: Til There was You (1/28/21)
Day #15: Sweet Goodnight (1/29/21)
Day #16: Love is on Your Side (1/30/21)
Day #17: Nature Boy (1/31/21)
Day #18: Cry Me a River (2/1/21)
Day #19: Many Fish in the Sea (2/2/21)
Day #20: They Can’t Take that Away from Me (2/3/21)
Day #21: Georgia on My Mind (2/4/21)
Day #22: My Romance (2/5/21)
Day #23: My Funny Valentine (2/6/21)
Day #24: The Water is Wide (2/7/21)
Day #25: Irene Goodnight (2/8/21)