A quick note to remind everyone that I have a couple of author events coming up for my new book, Music in the Westward Expansion. I’d love to see you there! Both events will include narrative interspersed with live music played on the Northern Cheyenne Courtship flute, the piano, and the guitar!
*Audience members at the Music Center are required to wear a mask. *I will have a limited number of books on hand for sale for the Music Center event. If you’d like a book signed, I encourage you to purchase a copy ahead of time at your favorite book seller
Summertime! I hope you are enjoying activities, places, and people that bring you joy. The studio is buzzing with summer lessons, and preparations are underway for upcoming August author events. I’ve have launched a series of short music videos that go hand in hand with my book, Music in the Westward Expansion: Songs of Heart and Place on the American Frontier, and I’ve created dedicated page on my website just for the book. I encourage you to visit the book page for new updates-including music clips and videos! I hope to connect with you soon either online, at an author event, or around the neighborhood!
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William Van Orsdel, “Brother Van,” known as the best loved man in Montana. (ca. late 1800s)
The seed I have scattered in spring-time with weeping
and watered with tears and with dews from on high;
Another may shout when the harvesters reaping
shall gather my grain in the sweet by and by.
Over and over, yes-deeper and deeper
my heart is pierced through with life's sorrowing cry,
but the tears of the sower and the songs of the reaper
shall angle together in joy by and by.
By and by, by and by
by and by, by and by
But the tears of the sower and the songs fo the reaper shall
mingle together in joy by and by.
Then palms of victory, crowns of glory,
palms of victory I shall wear.
William Van Orsdel (1848-1919), known as Brother Van, was often referred to as “the best loved man in Montana.” Brother Van, an enthusiastic singer, often broke into song during his sermons. He was a 19th century Methodist minister and circuit rider – a preacher who rode from town to town conducting church services. He tirelessly preached the gospel to congregations both large and small – on a steamboat, in saloons, in churches, and on rustic homesteads throughout the state of Montana. As a young man, a riverboat captain asked why he was going to Montana, Brother Van replied, “To sing, to preach and to encourage people to be good.”
For more about Brother Van and how he once saved his life with music, you’ll have to read my forthcoming book! I just learned that my manuscript has moved into the paging or pagination phase-which means another step closer to the publication date-early 2022.
Emigrants Crossing the Plains (Albert Bierstadt), 1869
Our long journey thus began in sunshine and song
Peter H. Burnett, May 22, 1843
For the past two years, I’ve been researching the history and music of the early American West for an ongoing research project I call Heart and Place: Music of the Westward Expansion. The history of the American West brims with inspiring stories, musical diversity, artistic creativity, and valuable life lessons relevant to our modern world.
Today I’m sharing four video clips featuring short narratives and music of the Westward Expansion -played on four instruments. I have played this music for concerts in Oregon, Washington, and Montana, and even at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. I’m looking forward to working with this music and history for many years to come.
A “June Gloom” day in Seattle made for the perfect opportunity to visit the VICTORIAN RADICALS exhibit at Seattle Art Museum (SAM).
The attention to detail in the array of colorful paintings, tapestries, clothing, jewelry, and pottery transported me into a romantic world of gardens, gods, goddesses, secret liaisons, betrayals, and courtly love! My hands down favorite painting was Musica, by Kate Elizabeth Bunce. The lovely young musician with her ornate lute, sumptuous dress, and intricate jewelry, posed in front of a blooming floral arrangement, swept me away.
At one point I was asked to kindly step back from a display case (got to close). The case held a book which was open to a poem entitled, Edward Gray. I was mesmerized by the beautiful poem written by an English poet, Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892). I thought to myself, someone must have set this poem to music. When I got home, I did a little digging online and found a piece of sheet music written by Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900), of Gilbert and Sullivan fame. As it turns out, Edward Sullivan set Edward Gray to music. Sullivan’s setting is operatic, covers multiple octaves, and is far too complicated for the purposes of laying down a quick track for my blog…….. so I modified the melody and accompanied myself on my Taylor guitar as I don’t have a lute lying around the studio, I do however, have plenty of floral dresses.
Here’s my version of Edward Gray:
Here are some more beautiful paintings from the exhibit!
Sigismonda (or Gismonda), 1897 by Joseph Edward Southall
I didn’t get the name of the artist for this one… the narrative of the painting is about a young man who died in battle, the women are handing over some of his personal belongings to his broken-hearted lover!
Couldn’t we all use more flowers, more color, more art, more music, more beauty, more love?
Hear IT! Sing IT! Move IT! is available as a Pre-K or K-5 Residency! Laura will visit your school and teach the songs and dances in a classroom setting!
Hear It! Sing It! Move It!is my latest project, the online package includes a booklet and recordings featuring 15 North American folk songs drawn from English, French, Latin American, Caribbean, Canadian, and Sioux traditions. The complete recordings and the PDF booklet, bursting with lead sheets, a teacher’s guide and links for further exploration, are available gratis on this dedicated page!
The project, funded by a Teacher’s Enrichment grant from the Music Teachers National Association, was originally intended for preschoolers, ages 3-5. However, I think anyone, young at heart, will enjoy the recordings and the booklet!
Go ahead, dig into the guide, sing or play your way through the songs on your own, or share them with a special person in your life. Feel free to pass on the link to children, grandchildren, teachers, friends, musicians, librarians, or your next door neighbor. It’s up for all to enjoy!
Rodeo queens, show girls, casinos, hustlers, Texas hold ’em, slots, swanky shops, and mile after mile of neon lights, oh my! Last weekend, Joe and I took a trip to Las Vegas, my first time. Why Vegas? Two words: George Strait.
I’ve been listening to and singing George Strait songs for over thirty years. I love his soothing voice, the beautiful songs, his personality, and his old- school country sound. What’s better than George singing more than thirty of his greatest hits, accompanied by the Ace in the Hole Band? Amarillo By Mornin’, Check Yes or No, The Chair, Easy Come Easy Go, are some of my favorites. I also enjoyed the two songs tribute to Merle Haggard, including, Are the Good Times Really Over, now that’s some old-time country!
I can’t stop thinking about the show, what a delight to experience a stage full of seasoned musicians who effortlessly and elegantly tossed off hit after hit. I think musicians of all genres would find inspiration in watching these professionals at work. Some of those guys were in their late 70’s if not 80’s. Definitely not their first rodeo.
While in the big AT&T Stadium, the concert had excellent sound with amazing views of George and the band no matter where he was standing on the square-shaped stage, thanks to the Jumbotron. For the encore, the George and the band played a perennial favorite… All My Ex’s Live in Texas, the Milk Cow Blues, and an old-time swing number, Take Me Back to Tulsa. Here’s George Strait singing Old Troubadour.
We also took in Cirque du Soleil’s One, featuring the music of Michael Jackson. A stunning show with death-defying acrobatics, creative staging, brilliant costumes, amazing performers, and dazzling lighting. Standouts of the show include, Billy Jean danced in the dark, the dancers (and flying acrobats), outlined by a tiny lights, the sexy, Dirty Diana, danced by an athletic, and incredibly flexible woman, the fierce female bass player playing all those memorable riffs such as Beat it and Smooth Criminal, and a hologram of the King of Pop himself, dancing the grand finale of the show. Absolutely mesmerizing. Here’s the trailer for the show.
Below are some shots of the strip and check out George Strait singing Old Troubadour.
Fourteen performances in four days in six different venues! (Sounds like a country song) I’ve just returned to Seattle after presenting my program,Heart and Place, Music of the Westward Expansion, in Great Falls, MT last week. The week involved hauling around a guitar, fiddle, Cheyenne Courting Flute, and sometimes a full size keyboard, and amp along with samples of C.M. Russell artwork.
The C.M. Russell Museum sponsored the residency which included programs in middle and high schools, as well as an evening performance in the museum.
The highlight was playing a concert in the intimate setting of the museum for around eighty people on a beautiful Yamaha grand. There was something magical about playing 19th Century music surrounded by Russell’s artwork and artifacts from the same era. Many people in the audience were from my hometown of Choteau. Choteau is 50 miles down the road from Great Falls. Thanks to all who made the journey down the road!
I can’t say enough about the dedicated arts professionals in Great Falls including the music and art teachers in the classrooms, along with the Music and Art Supervisor for Great Falls Schools, Dusty Molyneaux and Eileen Laskowski, Education and Programs Manager for the C.M. Russell Museum.
I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.
I’m delighted to announce the launch of a new program, Heart and Place: Stories of the Westward Expansion told through music and narrative. This project feels like coming home, as I grew up in rural Montana. Choteau, Montana, to be precise, population 1800.
My early music experiences in that small town and have fueled my career as a music educator/ musician. Some of those experiences include singing in choirs, playing in band, studying piano, playing for church, acting in musicals, and to driving to the next small town for voice lessons. This program brings it all home.
I’ll be launching the program in Seattle on Oct. 14 and will be taking it to Montana to perform at the CM Russell Museum Oct. 26, 7:00, as well as several Great Falls area schools.
The story of the West is epic, and while I cannot focus on everything, I’ve chosen certain aspects to highlight including the music of the Overland Trail, the early frontier settlements, and the Northern Cheyenne Courting Flute as taught to me by Jay Old Mouse of Busby, Montana. The performance includes solo piano music, singing, guitar, and demonstrations on the fiddle and the Northern Cheyenne Courting Flute.
“COURAGE IS BEING SCARED TO DEATH, BUT SADDLING UP ANYWAY.” ― JOHN WAYNE
Girls with Guitars! Last week, I taught a beginning guitar day camp that introduced these young ladies to the guitar. Thanks Ruby (my daughter), in the pink shorts, for helping me this week! We had a blast. We met for two hours every day Monday-Friday and our week culminated in a performance for family and friends on the deck.
Our songs for the week included….. Firework by Katy Perry, You Belong With Me by Taylor Swift, This Land is Your Land by Woodie Guthrie, and a traditional camp song… Ain’t No Bugs on Me.
I’d like to give a shout out to Rob Hampton of Heartwood Guitar. I love Rob’s site and frequently pull from his 600+ chord charts for inspiration. Thanks a million Rob for all of the great work you do! (I’m convinced you never sleep) These girls certainly appreciated learning such cool and accessible songs!
Here are two wonderful links to the song: Girls with Guitars who was written by Mary Chapin Carpenter performing it here. Also check out the incomparable Wynnona Judd performing it here. Oh, to be that fierce on stage!
Everyone love guitar, including French composer, Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944), who wrote this piece for solo piano: Guitare , which I recorded a couple of years ago on Women with a Past.