Category Archives: Singing

My 4th book, “Transcending Boundaries” is Out!!!

I’m thrilled to tell you that my 4th book, Transcending Boundaries: Inspired by Eric Whitacre and Virtual Choir, is out!!! The paperback is on amazon (and elsewhere). I am still working on the ebook. It took over a year longer than expected, but there were additional poems…and life…. Here is my reading of a poem inspired by a VC friend, “ On Imperfection: For Corax.”

Have you ever felt deeply moved by a piece of art? Perhaps a movie, book, dance, painting, or piece of music even spurred you to create? Transcending Boundaries is a wide-ranging collection of poems inspired by Eric Whitacre and Virtual Choir. These poems of inclusiveness and love act as an antidote to divisiveness and fear.

I first heard about Eric Whitacre from his TED talk. He’s a Grammy award-winning composer/conductor who envisioned what became the global phenomenon of Virtual Choir. The way it works is this: From anywhere in the world, singers learn and record their individual parts (soprano, alto, tenor, or bass) to one of his choral pieces. The videos are sent via the internet, compiled, and released. The first 4 VC videos have been viewed more than ten million times! Singers of all ages and abilities, from everywhere in the world, are encouraged to join in. Thousands of singers from more than 100 countries have participated. No one is turned away.

My whole life I’ve loved to sing. Once I heard about Virtual Choir, I longed to be part of it. For VC3 and VC4, I learned the music, recorded, and sent in my alto videos. For five years I also wrote a series of poems sparked by Eric Whitacre—his glorious music, gracious interviews, and Facebook posts—and the compelling stories and true connections with VC singers. My intention with Transcending Boundaries is to aid in healing what seems to divide us, enhance compassion and empathy, and awaken the imagination, encouraging yet further creativity.

Who should read this? Anyone who has ever felt the power of music (or any art) to move us: listeners, singers, musicians, and of course, those who are part of Virtual Choir. These reflective poems allow you to experience optimism, generosity, playfulness, kindness, and beauty, celebrating the open-hearted, richness of being human.

May healing inspiration continue to ripple out. Thank you for your support!

57–“Virtual Choir 4” from “Frazzle” and “Transcending Boundaries”

Door County in September by Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2013

7/16/13

Virtual Choir 4
Watching screen shots by Elisabeth

To be seen,
to be seen singing,

to allow
sounds to emerge

and release,
to take the step

driven to connect
or belong or create

a tiny piece of beauty,
trusting.

To open heart
and mouth,

let energy go forth
meshing with others

in the same quest,
hoping.

To strive and persist,
to learn and teach,

to wait for the outcome,
patient.

To join without boundaries,
to encourage, to support,

to accept grace and be
generous.

To demonstrate flight,
each a feather on a wing,

at least a little bit…
fearless.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
Copyright 2013

From my books, Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine, and Transcending Boundaries: Inspired by Eric Whitacre and Virtual Choir.

Listen here: https://youtu.be/_scl4qd8Aes (Video begins with an introduction and de-stressing, join in.)

I have been a singer all my life, usually in choirs (church, school, or community). When I first heard about Virtual Choir, created by composer/conductor, Eric Whitacre, I was determined to be part of it. Though I was not a particularly tech savvy person, and very shy as a singer in some ways, I still was moved by the music and the possibility of connection. When Virtual Choir 3 came along, I read all support comments on their Facebook page to see if I could manage it. I learned the music and practiced, putting together a recording setup in my office. I was so affected by all the encouragement from the support team (for other people), I overcame my “issues” and got my video in (alto 2). I was unable to find myself in the final film, but that did not diminish my joy in being part of it all.

When Virtual Choir 4 was announced, I was eager to do it. I donated to the Kickstarter campaign. I practiced to learn my part and upgraded my recording setup. In the final film I found myself right away, which was awesome. When Elisabeth, from Chicago, one of the support crew, decided to help singers find their videos by taking hundreds of screen shots, I watched all of them (no sound, just the faces) and was powerfully moved by all the people I was connected to, from all over the globe.

These videos have gotten millions of views on YouTube. Listen here to VC 3 and here to VC4.

This connection has blossomed into an online community, a Virtual Choir family, that supports each other in hard times and celebrates together in joyful times. When possible they meet in real life and may even sing together. I am blessed to be part of it. Thank you, Eric, and all.

For more poem videos in the series

THROWN AGAIN into the FRAZZLE MACHINE: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transcending Boundaries: Inspired by Eric Whitacre and Virtual Choir

Inviting You to a Celebration

Roadside store, Door County, Wis., Copyright 2015--MDMikus

Roadside store, Door County, Wis., Copyright 2015–MDMikus

Twenty years ago this week I began a poetic journal to “sing from the heart.” I had healed from multiple sclerosis and my creativity was cracked open. The words lined up in my ear, compelling me to write them down, see where they would take me. This was quite a surprise since I had a Ph.D. in Microbiology and had been headed for a career in molecular genetics research and teaching.

But something about writing the poems aligned me, healed me, even increasing my body temperature (another story) indicating reduced stress. At first I didn’t know what to do with them, maybe they were just for me. But I noticed that sometimes when I spoke to someone, recent poems would come to my mind. I sent them a packet of poems and they responded. The poems helped.

Sometimes after talking with someone a poem would come to me for them, not the entire thing at first, but those compelling opening lines that led to the rest. If I read the finished poem aloud to them, often I could feel the words soak in. And that poem changed some thing, shifted some small thing. I keep a folder of letters that I got after such events to remind me that this work matters, to not get so discouraged that I stop writing.

Tied Boat, Door County, Wis., Copyright 2015 by MDMikus

Tied Boat, Door County, Wis., Copyright 2015 by MDMikus

So for you now, here are a few recent poems. During this past year I have had several serious medical problems and at one point the poems stopped coming. I wondered if the “run” was over and I grieved the loss. But I also waited to see. All these years I have worked on building trust and patience. When I am in the middle of a “shift” –physical, mental, emotional, spiritual—in the past I might stop writing…as if change is hard to do on the fly. “Sometimes you have to stop and take stock, be quiet enough to listen, raise a finger to the wind…” (see below)

And that was true this time. The writing began again and had changed. But the joy of expression, the trance feeling of time that disappeared, the joyfulness, that was back. So in celebration of two poetic decades here are poems inspired by, or that directly came out of songs by Krista Detor, including from her new CD, Barely. Usually it takes me some time to grow into loving a new CD of hers; the earlier ones had become such heart-favorites. But this time, I fell in love with these lush songs instantly. And my poems flowed out of her music. Listen for yourself.

10/6/15

From Krista’s New CD

The story behind
every song bright or dark
where it came from
where it is going
what life happened
what was chosen

combined with the lilt
and grace notes, the flexibility
the hope of conveying something
complex maybe or maybe
ultimately simple
just soak it in and do not worry
about the intention, let it be

what it is
without interpretation

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2015

10/7/15

Krista

When you sing
there is a certain inevitability
as the words line up
and you remember.

Fingertips brushing the feathers
the pure church bells of notes
that soar and swoop
dance and turn expressing
unbidden emotion, drawing us in
to feel again.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2015

10/7/15

A Story True and Not True
Krista: The World is Water

Let me remove the stray thread
from the sleeve of your jacket.
It could have been white or black
no matter it doesn’t belong.
I pluck it off casually
and we keep walking along.
Listening to Krista before sleep—
it is not what I dream
but what I wake up from.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2015

Watching Sunset, Fish Creek, Wis., Copyright 2015 by MDMikus

Watching Sunset, Fish Creek, Wis., Copyright 2015 by MDMikus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rest of the poem from above, one of the early “signature” poems:

After Lisel Mueller

Sometimes
you have to stop

and take stock,
be quiet enough

to listen,
raise a finger

to the wind;
be still enough

to hear direction
even when heart

pounds in the darkness…
sometimes.

Sometimes
living life

is not writing,
but living,

not writing,
but waiting.

Sometimes
you must breathe out

before you can
breathe in again.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 1999

From As Easy as Breathing

Clouds and Road, Door County. Copyright 2015 by MDMikus

Clouds and Road, Door County. Copyright 2015 by MDMikus

A Moment of Grace (meeting Eric Whitacre)

In an earlier post I wrote about meeting composer and conductor, Eric Whitacre. This is about inner guidance that came to me that night.

As I sat in Alice Millar Chapel in Evanston two feet from him, I felt that familiar feeling of smallness, almost wanting to become invisible. I was afraid I would try to speak and fumble with the words, mumbling something inane. I feared not being…well, myself…meeting someone I greatly admired, a gifted musician, a public figure, a gorgeous guy. Normally I am very articulate and love meeting new people. In fact, that night I had met a number of local members of Virtual Choir (and their partners) for the first time. I even read a few of my VC inspired poems for them. But sometimes, unknowingly…all my insecurities get triggered. Have you ever felt this way?

This was my first solo outing after recovery from major surgery in December. It was a harsh winter to be out in, and I still felt vulnerable. I am grateful Elisabeth Smith, a Virtual Choir team member, urged me to not pass up this opportunity.

JC7_3246

I have to say the whole evening was amazing in every regard, restoring my confidence. Several new poems were inspired by that night. Here is one, from my new book, Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing. (Thank you, Jonathan Cohen for generously sharing your great photos.) By the way, Eric is genuinely lovely and warm, insightful and funny, both in front a group and with each person who wanted to speak to him, a rare quality indeed.

2/8/14

Amidst the Buzz
Eric Whitacre at Alice Millar Chapel

“Do not make yourself small”
the silent voice said as I sat at the end of the pew

in the chapel where I’d never been…
and very close to you.

I had become smaller, to not be noticed perhaps,
familiar feeling I could not trust?

As an experiment I let go of
feeling intimidated.

I uncrossed my arms and breathed
air into my body as if blowing up an inflatable doll.

Could I become myself,
risk being at full strength,

no excuses to fall back on if I failed
in my clearly unstated mission?

Breathe, expand, feel energy flowing,
slowly aura grows, needing nothing.

Breathe and hold the space,
no questions to ask, only listening.

Receive what is offered, no control over anything,
feeling awareness of everything,

holding the space for what was to be, as if
every word spoken by anyone was wisdom passed down

for everyone, including and especially for me.
Give and receive, barriers and barricades demolished,

vulnerable and powerful,
the truth suddenly so obvious.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2014

From Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing now available to pre-order. Thank you for your support!

Read more posts and poems inspired by Virtual Choir and Eric Whitacre

Portrait of Michael Smith

On a humid, 86 degree day like today in Chicago, it may be hard to remember what a long and cold and snowy winter it was. After having major surgery in December, my first big outing was to a concert by Michael Smith with my husband, Stephen, and friends, Randy and Wendie. It was a big deal even cautiously walking on the icy asphalt of the parking lot.

Our seats were in the second row. I felt like I could see Michael Smith very clearly, inside and out. The show was both deeply moving and hilarious. Because I did not get to talk with him after the show, an insistent poem percolated all the way driving home. I did not write this as a “fan” poem, but rather what I saw as true. Parts of myself perhaps, reflected back from him.

I read this to a few people and they urged me to send it to him. In tracking down an email address, I learned more about his life and accomplishments. I felt a bit intimidated, but sent it anyway. He graciously responded right away: “Thank you, Margaret. I love the poem.” What a gift! Lit me up for days….

What has someone done for you that warmed your heart unexpectedly?

1/19/14

Portrait of Michael Smith
Concert at Lake County Folk Club

He was not old
but old enough
to be comfortable
exposing bits of his humanness,
to be felt and heard and seen
without disguise sometimes, to be
clever and mischievous, gracious and generous.

To be naked enough
to make us cry or laugh,
you have to put in the years,
put in your time as apprentice,
to gather the stories, weave or live them,
to know what is what,
to see the risks and still be willing

enough so some pieces fit,
and brave enough or fearless
to go out and let out some
of the accumulated multitudes of children,
all the practice paying off, the determination
to deliver the songs yet again.
Amen.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2014

From Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing, coming in summer 2014. Check FullBlooming.com for more details.

Here is my reading, in my fourth video.