Daily Ditty #3

Did our parents every really invoke the phrase upon which today's song turns? Or did that only happen in TV shows and movies? Whatever the truth, it's what popped out at me today (even though today is the birthday of Busby Berkeley, Louisa May Alcott, CS Lewis, Madeleine L'Engle and Mr. Doppler). 

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A Year of Song: My Daily Ditty Challenge

I have decided I don't write enough. Enough lyrics, that is.

Suzan Lori-Parks did a 365 day challenge (a play a day), and others have as well. So I'm doing mine. The Daily Ditty. My lyrics on someone else's music. Every day. Some will suck. Others will suck less. Maybe.

Since today is my birthday, I'm starting off with birthday songs. Email me your birthday and I'll try to put you in a ditty. Today's tune is Don McLean's American Pie.

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Music You Should Know from WOMEX 2014

Just finished 4 days in beautiful Santiago de Compostela at the World Music Festival.

Here are some wonderful artists you should know:

Ester Rada - Wow. She totally blew me away. Israeli-born Ethiopian singer. Soulful "Ethio-jazz." Think Nina Simone meets Lauryn Hill meets - well, herself.

Maarja Nuut - a fiddler and singer from Northern Estonia. She plays and it records and loops and she sings and plays over it, dueling and trio-ing with herself. Spooky and lovely.

Troker - what jazz would sound like if truckers listened to it (and maybe they do). Jazz, metal, all sorts of crazy stuff from Mexico. They rocked their Saturday night show at WOMEX. 

Happy listening!


Stories Wanted - the Anxiety Project

Musical Theatre writer/producer/blogger David Brush reached out to me about a fascinating new project he's started. With The Anxiety Project, David and composer Rachel Dean want to help people suffering from depression and anxiety by turning their stories into songs - and a show (just what we love here at Hope Sings!).

If you want to share a story - your own, or one of a friend/loved one -  check it out

Rachel Dean (composer) and David Brush (lyricist) began writing together after participating in "Across a Crowded Room" - a program of the New York Public Library. Since that time, Dean and Brush (along with bookwriter Andrew Lease) have launched THE ANXIETY PROJECT with the assistance of Crazytown: An Artist's Asylum. By collecting personal stories of struggles and triumphs of Anxiety and Depression disorders, and using musical theatre as a medium, the project intends to shed light on the too-often silent strife that accompanies this disease. 


Mother Jones opens tonight!

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be able to spend some time at one of the final rehearsals for the musical, "Mother Jones and the Children's Crusade," which opens tonight!

Rehearsal for Mother Jones - Lynne Wintersteller (ctr), Robert Mammana (far right)

Rehearsal for Mother Jones - Lynne Wintersteller (ctr), Robert Mammana (far right)

"Mother Jones" has received lots of positive pre-opening press - and demand has been strong enough that they have added not one, but two performances. If you like an uplifting show with a strong message, this show could be for you.

Producer Ben Simpson and writer Cheryl E. Kemeny

Producer Ben Simpson and writer Cheryl E. Kemeny

Writer Cheryl E. Kemeny definitely knows her away around a musical. Co-founder of Crystal Theatre, a non-profit 501C-3 performing arts school since 1987, she is author/co-author/composer of over 30 produced musicals. Kemeny says she started writing musicals out of self-preservation - no one was writing the right roles, the right singing parts for kids. 

Lynne Wintersteller and Kevin Reed

Lynne Wintersteller and Kevin Reed

"Mother Jones" features four such kids, as well as musical theatre notables Lynne Wintersteller ("Annie") and Robin de Jesus ("In the Heights," "La Cage"). Coincidentally, Lynne played the role of Diane de Poitiers in the show I (Beth Blatt) wrote for NYMF, The Mistress Cycle. Director Michelle Tattenbaum received fabulous press for her direction of "Nobody Loves You," by Gaby Alter and Itamar Moses. Choreographer Clare Cook has her own way-cool dance company.

Lynne Wintersteller and director Michelle Tattenbaum

Lynne Wintersteller and director Michelle Tattenbaum

Lots of other great shows at NYMF as well - check them out!

Inspiring New Musical: Mother Jones and the Children's Crusade

Our friend, the very talented Michelle Tattenbaum is directing a new musical at NYMF on a truly uplifting subject: the aging woman who, at the turn of the last century, takes a ragged bunch of mill children on a march for justice. 

The show is written by Cheryl Kemeny, who has made music just about everywhere around the globe and currently runs a theater in Norwalk, CT. The wonderful Lynne Wintersteller plays Mother Jones (in a nice coincidence, Lynne was also in Hope Sings' founder Beth Blatt's show The Mistress Cycle, when it was at NYMF). Robin de Jesus of In The Heights fame also stars.

Tickets go on sale today - and the faster tickets for these scheduled performances sell out, the faster they'll add extra shows, which would be huge for everyone.  

We'll be checking out a rehearsal soon - so stay tuned for more fun inside scoops on Mother Jones!

As Dolly Parton, sings...

...Here I go again, she sings. The 2nd biopsy of my thyroid nodule is finally here, five months after the 6.8cm nodule (along with several smaller ones) was discovered and biopsied the first time. 

Oh no! It's not called Here I Go Again - it's called Here You Come Again! Talk about a double-dyslexic attack...But I get such a kick out of Dolly I'm leaving it.

There is good news.

  • I feel fine, always have. No thyroid malfunction.
  • The nodule is noticeably smaller (tho it’s still there, and tho who knows if I have normalized the cells, as I visualize in my meditations – spreading out the fried egg-like cells so they’re not overlapping, clearing up the yolks of the nuclei).
  •  I’ve really, really enjoyed this blogging, how it’s widened my focus and that of Hope Sings to include music, inspiration and wellness/healing.

After 5 months of -

  1. weekly acupuncture,
  2. major diet modification,
  3. daily meditation/visualization/blockage-specific yoga,
  4. vocalizing –
  5. not to mention the pricey electrified waters –

(maybe I should have seen  a gypsy...oops...)

After all that, I wonder: how did I do?


(And I also wonder how much I’ll blame myself if I didn’t do well enough, which my pal Holly B brought up.  Will I feel like a failure if the nodule is still too big to leave alone and more likely the cells are cancerous - a 2nd data point the biopsy will give).

My dear friend Gail (anesthesiologist, passionate lover of life and founder of an awesome social enterprise, Spiralis Ventures) reminded me of another, perhaps even more important healing factor I hadn’t recognized:

all the prayers, positive thoughts and support I’ve received

from family, friends, practitioners and total strangers over the past months.

And that may be the best “treatment” of all. LOVE.

So if you are so inclined, on Tuesday February 11 at 8:45 am EST – send a little love wave up to Mt. Kisco NY and yours truly.

I am not scared of the procedure or the results, not at all. But I am sooooooo curious.


The Songs We Don't Share




The very first song I created for Hope Sings was a huge leap for me.

With the blind hubris of an innocent who doesn't know any better -

  • - I approached a huge Latin star (Ruben Blades) 
  • - who graciously connected me to one of his star composers (Romulo Castro)
  • - with whom I couldn't communicate (he speaks no English, I speak no Spanish) 
  • - but who graciously agreed to write music to my micro-finance-success-story -inspired (English) lyrics
  • - over which he labored longer than I had any right to expect
  • - after which his band leader arranged and recorded the demo of the song
  • - which I sang in their garage studio in Panama City.

So - I cooked up the idea, concocted the collaboration, wrote the lyric, sang the demo - and then never released it. That was more than 3 years ago.

Why do we do that? Choke back what we feel is less than perfect? Care so much what others think of us?

Or is it just me who says -

It doesn't sound the way I want it to (in this case, it's too  "musical theatre") 

I hate my voice

It could be better

They say, Kill Your Babies, and boy, do I. I tweak and fix and edit so endlessly that I never - well, ok, rarely - finish. So many of my babies have never seen the light of day. They're sitting in files, still-born. 

In this case, I also stifled the lovely work of my collaborators, composer Romulo Castro and musician/producer Luis Thomas.

So, first of all, to them, this apology: I'm sorry I never let your work be heard. It was my fear, not any failure on your part (not that they would go there - though I would).

Second of all: I'm taking a deep breath and letting all of you hear that song now. It is not perfect. But it tells a meaningful story - of a woman named Blanca from the town of Barcenas, outside of Guatemala City. She had little money to feed or educate her family, but did break delicious bread. Full of trepidation, she approached the microfinance organization FINCA for a loan - and they gave her one. And another. And another. 

Blanca's story deserves to be heard, as does the beautiful work of Romulo and Luis. Listen past my voice, through a clunky or trite lyric, and with forgiveness.

Third of all: I am meditating on creating a stage show that tells women's stories of empowerment - a hybrid world music concert and theatre piece. I think Blanca would be perfect for it (as long as someone else sings it). What do you think?






Take a Risk - Live in the Grey 10 day challenge

Live in the Grey is a new community/website that advocates getting out of your comfort zone. 

Plan to fail, then figure out how you'll keep trying to get what you want.

Small things - try a new food, travel a new route to work.

What risk could you take that would scare and free you?

  1. I could sing what I write.
  2. I could go to Nashville and try to "write around."
  3. I could do nothing at all. Besides be kind, generous, loving. That's the scariest of all.

And you?


It's getting smaller, or, Honey, I shrunk my nodule!

I'm doing it!

My formerly 6.8cm nodule is definitely smaller than 6.8cm. 


The combined onslaught of my treatments - the waters, the meditation, the visualization, the yoga, the diet, the acupuncture - seems to be working.

I wonder what is having the most impact? 

The one I most feel is the acupuncture - and my acupuncturist, Regina Walsh, is the one who confirmed the shrinkage, and that the nodule feels different, too - softer.

I see Regina weekly, and every session is different. She specializes in what's called Five Elements Acupuncture, which works with the five elements (duh): wood, earth, fire, water, metal. 

Turns out, I couldn't have picked a better type of acupuncture for releasing the blockage, getting my "chi" flow going again.

See, my friend Jo wanted to have a second child. They tried and tried to get pregnant – IVF, the whole nine yards. No deal. Then she tried acupuncture - of the Five Elements variety. Within a few months, she was “with child” (the phrase Anne Boleyn uses to tell Henry the VIII in Anne of the Thousand Days).

Now, that’s releasing some serious blockage. If you have a blockage, too - TRY IT.

I’m not used to taking an hour a week in the middle of my work day and just laying there – much less paying for it – but I tell myself I am worth it (?). 

But the luxury of it!

Regina also utilizes Aromatherapy – yummy lemon, soothing lavender, invigorating geranium. Hard to believe something so indulgent can be so good for you. But Regina says she gets as good – if not better results – from lightly applying these essential oils to the energy meridians than sticking needles in them.

So if you haven't tried this stuff because you're scared of needles - fear no more! Try that Aromatherapy. You're worth it. 

 Now, for a little comic relief ;)