Musical and Spiritual journeys – sublime and yet at a discounted price…
A three day stint in the recording studio was embarked on with more than the usual enthusiasm; Kenny and I had never previously had as many as three consecutive days at Fieldgate recording studios in Cardiff during which we would dive into the album ‘The Journey Home’ and swim in the inspiration and the sound created by the talented musicians, each with their own fabulously idiosyncratic styles. Atmospheres and landscapes were created, transporting us to the Scottish Highlands, to the ocean waves, and to memories of those who’s lives have touched our hearts and who’s love is rekindled in the experience of music making.
The arrival of Richard Jones, the guitarist on the first day, just as the sky was darkening was suitably apt for the track ‘Forget-me-nots’. Dark, brooding and atmospheric ‘ Strange so much remains’… as the lyrics go, entwined with the reply from the electric guitar solo which speaks a thousand words…
This is a difficult song for me to sing for many reasons, one being the fact that this is the song which is full of ever shifting emotion and I find it somewhat difficult to retain the fluidity of the song whilst also express the powerful and ever changing emotions therein. Also, on this day, I was suffering from sinus problems which I have frequently following the reconstruction of the roof of my mouth as part of my cancer treatment. A guide vocal would be laid down to enable the guitar part to be more easily added.The depth and colour of the work on this day was contrasted with the light and angelic energy of the vocalist Susan Black who’s high soprano voice beautifully graced the song ‘Fallen Angel’ which expresses the transformative nature of the human spirit and the joy of self-realisation ‘There’s a light that shines before me, knowing you has warmed my heart’…
This second day in particular was guided by an experience of two words being spoken to me whilst I was driving.
‘Uillleann Pipes ! ” Ahrgg… I almost crashed the car when I experienced a sudden flash of these words spoken from wherever whence they came to my inner ear. Thankfully I was able to say to the recording engineer – Ian Lawson ‘Have you heard of Uilleann pipes?’ to which he replied in the affirmative and we then married the sudden and silent flash of those two words experienced internally into the external realm, interwoven through a magical song which lifted us all to a cinematic experience of breadth and depth to the ‘mountains covered in golden light ‘ and even further still…..
The third day brought with it new delights, a sudden urge when driving through the grey, whimsical rain in the cosy warmth of the car occurred to me. I could not wait to sit at the incredible Fazioli grand piano and play ‘And dream of sheep’, a song by Kate Bush which is profoundly atmospheric and oozing with mystical stimulation.
Six more piano tracks later and the inspiration changed . Now was the time to listen to Fallen Angel and Forget-Me-Nots. Each needed a little of something here and there and it was indeed about listening carefully, both to the music and to that which is silent, yet often just as loud as the grand piano in fortissimo mode. Now free of sinus problems I was able to sing ‘Forget-me-nots’ with more ease on a physiological level. This is a bittersweet song for me to sing as it tells of a memory I have of playing in the garden as a four year old while my gradmother was hanging washing on the line: ‘Playing in the garden I found flowers that were blue and wild. I asked grandmother what they were ‘They’re forget- me –nots was her reply’ . I was very close to my close my grandmother who sadlypassed over from Alzheimer’s related conditions in January 2016. I feel her with me many times, and both Kenny and I felt her presence on this trip, most notably when Kenny was giving me healing the previous evening, which thankfully resulted in an almost total elimination of my symptoms of sinusitis. I thought it was interesting that I have such a vivid memory of that interaction with my grandmother, now 39 years ago and also that I discovered recently that forget-me-nots are the adopted flower symbol used be that Alzheimer’s Association.
At the heart of the album is a celebration of the way in which relationships can impact the quality of our lives and make this journey a hell or a heaven. We have such a great opportunity to support each other in making this life one, which is joyous and loving. I am blessed to be able to say that I have experienced deeply caring and loving people in my life who have truly extended themselves at times in my life when I was extremely vulnerable. The process of making this album is also very humbling for me because the support and encouragement I am receiving is something I deeply appreciate and treasure. It is a real joy to be in the throws of such an exciting project and working in the recording studio is frequently utterly blissful for me!
I reflected on how the dinners on each of the two evenings were each events worthy of being made into songs. Firstly the dinner with Gwenno Dafydd who is often referred to in the media as ‘The most Welsh woman in the world’. Such enthusiasm for the arts, for music and culture is inspiring, as is speaking Welsh with Gwenno, reminding me of the warmth of my childhood days in the Swansea valley.
Equally wonderful was dinner with Susan Black, who’s magnificent voice on the album is something I will be eternally grateful for. We talked candidly about our experiences with alternative therapies and medicines. I always find conversation with Susan stimulating; we have a passion for exploring spirituality and this was augmented by the fact that Kenny was also present. Two people who make this world a much lovelier place and who certainly infuse my life with tremendous beauty.
Another person stood out for me, a lady who served breakfast at the hotel. She was one of around four or five waiters and was so lovely to speak with on each morning, always with a sincere, warm smile and greeting. It’s people like this who really make a difference when I travel. It was a pleasant enough hotel, with a rich history and very comfortable bed, but what I will remember the most is how this lovely lady expressed such warmth just in her few words and gestures each morning. I was pleased (after a few minutes of searching before I left) to find her and give her a tip. She seemed surprised to receive it which was rather sad because I would have hoped that she was accustomed to frequently receiving such gestures.
However, paradoxically perhaps I was also rather grateful for the inadequacies which we experienced at the hotel which resulted in a fairly large deduction in the bill. Recalling the sudden room change etc..
In amidst the three days of creativity we were gifted also with the more grounded realities of life. Whoever would have heard of being asked by a hotel to immediately change rooms, to move all their belongings into another room because someone else had suddenly asked for the room you were in?! Only to find that the new allocated room was without wi-fi, adequate heating and one operational, bedside lamp.
How dare they do this to my manager who is without doubt the least deserving of this treatment. The diva in me kicked in and I addressed the concierge with the characteristic akin to the bemused guest at Faulty Towers. We gracefully accept the apology and admission of guilt and we reminded the staff member that we were also made twenty minutes late the previous day for the recording session, and that a gesture of good will would be the normal procedure in such circumstances.
A quick flurry with computer activity and paper work ensued and an adjustment was made to the bill.
The journey back to London on the M4 went exceptionally smoothly. I was quite pleased that the car is now frequently clean and kept pristignly tidy. This was one of the many positive results following a
Christmas gift to myself from Kenny- the online Comfortable Confidence Course created by Carole Ann Rice which for me is a wonderful process if internal spring cleaning and also resulting in very clear results on the external! One of the exercises on this course is to ask five people to list five things which are positive about me and five which are negative. It is a very interesting experience! One of Kenny’s responses was the state of my car ( which frequently is a chaotic mess of papers, music books, pens... cds… strewn all over the place). Having had such constructive responses I decided to act on them, resulting in a far more pleasant journeys for all who experience a ride in my fiat punto !
The journey back to London on the M4 following the three day expedition of creative depth and height engendered in me profound gratitude for the experience of making this album with such a fantastic group of people. I also experienced another sudden realization that there is nothing quite like discovering that a mistake was beneficial, particularly when you find out that the benefit is yours and the mistake was someone else’s!