Category Archives: Singing

I Know That (song version)

May is my month, with my birthday, Mother’s Day and my wedding anniversary. As a 62nd birthday challenge I wanted to get something unstuck: post my first video on YouTube. I’ve had a channel since 2011 and I would almost do it, but pull back. Always some snag. How to do the recording on iMovie? How to load the video? It felt too personal or too exposed, or laryngitis, or not enough time, or the need to wear makeup, or whatever…. Over the last few years, partly through Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir, I became more confident of my ability to do tech stuff. I got a Blue Yeti microphone –which is the coolest– to record VC 3 and VC 4.

DSCN0690

My office recording set up

I made the light that Jack Rowland recommended last year. I learned enough of iMovie to submit my video for the last Virtual Choir. Thank you also to Gene Waddle and Elisabeth Smith and “the team” for your encouragement and to the worldwide family that is Virtual Choir.

Thank you to Tom Prasada-Rao and Cary Cooper for their bravery in posting very personal and moving songs. And to Charlotte McDaniel who keeps on learning and posting her lovely video creations. You all inspired me to make the leap.

I’ve had some recent clarity about my job: to deliver the poems that come to me. At first it meant reading in person and in print, then on a CD, and now on video, where the words can reach someone and help to heal, inspire, comfort, give voice to an experience, encourage, support, connect with.

I am very excited to tell you: here is my first video, I Know That (song version). Originally published in my book, As Easy as Breathing, I wrote the poem in the middle of chemotherapy, when losing my hair was imminent, a very big deal. (I also sang this on my CD, Full Blooming.)

I did lose my hair, but not my eyebrows. And I was grateful for that. My aunt (in the song) had just died of breast cancer and my dear Grandma had also just passed away. I had recovered from surgery, then began chemo, with radiation to come, as was the standard of care then. I was trying to not get pulled down by the losses and to stay focused on healing.

So here goes: A New Beginning.

Thanks for being there! What creation have you been putting off? Go to it!

Sarah Horn Sings with Kristin Chenoweth

I was moved by this powerful and spontaneous performance by young singer and voice teacher, Sarah Horn, on August 23, 2013, who was called up onstage to sing with Kristin Chenoweth. The original duet was posted on the internet and quickly went viral (3.5 million views as of Sept 8), obviously resonating with many people. Watch here. (This version is three videos later edited together).  Follow up article.

I intended to post the poem inspired by this back in August, when everyone was paying attention, but life swept me along. In working on my next book I was reviewing past poems, and this poem came back to me. So here it is: An inspiring example of what can happen if we are ready and say yes…to life. And inspiration leads to creation…and on and on…. What has inspired you lately?

8/26/13

Sarah Horn Sings with Kristin Chenoweth
(before 10,000 people at the Hollywood Bowl)

When stars align
and impossible piles on
impossible and then
you are called,

and when you are ready,
if you are brave enough and trust,
you say yes
and step up even

if heart is pounding
and knees give way
a little. You say yes
because you are in

the right place and time
to speak, to sing
for everyone. And
everyone’s heart opens some.

And you are seen
and heard and known
and for that bit at least
you are aligned with the stars

and life shifts
not just for you
but all around

and that is the gift.
What you do with what has been given,
what you do with the possibility of new direction,

what you say to the clamoring,
holding what you love close and releasing,
how you thrive without armor…and sing,

remembering who you are,
that is up to you, dear one
now and evermore.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2013

My Tribute to Pete Seeger

Lone Seagull MDMikus Copyright 2013

Lone Seagull MDMikus Copyright 2013

My family lived in a working-class suburb of Detroit. Mom took care of us (eventually seven kids) and also worked sometimes as a registered nurse. Dad worked in the same factory all his life, mostly midnight shift. He was a card-carrying union man. Our house was originally a two-bedroom bungalow and my Dad partially finished the attic into two more bedrooms (but still only one bathroom). We all had chores and were expected to pitch in. We always had food, shelter, and clothes and did not consider ourselves poor, but hard-working, not many frills, as were most of the people we knew.

I grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s, a singer in church choir and Catholic school chorus. I never met Pete Seeger, nor saw him perform in person, but I was deeply shaped by the Folk Revival he helped spearhead and by his songs. We moved across town in 1965 for us to attend the new Bishop Gallagher High School. Around that time were the Detroit riots and the protest movements were catching fire: against the Vietnam war, against segregation, for peace and equality of race and sex. I sang in the Folk Mass group at church and at some point I learned If I Had a Hammer, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, Turn, Turn, Turn, etc. The music just soaked right into me, in part shaping the clay of who I was becoming.

Shore Rocks in Calm Water MDMikus Copyright 2013

Shore Rocks in Calm Water MDMikus Copyright 2013

Since his death this week I’ve read so many stories posted online of those who knew Pete Seeger and are saddened by his loss. I too wanted to say something about his effect on my life and this poem/song came to me. A unique process from my other writing, and the music still has to be worked out (easy to sing along). But here is the poem/lyrics, my attempt to “catch something of the man.”

1/28/14

My Own Tribute
Pete Seeger, 1919-2014

Although Pete Seeger
traveled here and there,
now he is everywhere.

Though there are those
who would make him saint (or sinner)
he doesn’t care, if he ever did,

for he knows best what we all know
how the days are numbered rare,
now Pete Seeger is everywhere.

Not up on a pedestal I’m sure he’d say,
he was an honest man with a mission,
not down in the gutter either, nor scared,
now Pete Seeger is everywhere.

Singing in his confident voice
inviting us to sing along,
songs that we all know and share,
now Pete Seeger is everywhere.

Not in charge of anything big,
working day to day for the voiceless ones,
a determined “ordinary” man who cared,
now Pete Seeger is everywhere.

All the stories of something kind he said,
from everyone who met him or wished they did,
but when Toshi died last year, he died a bit I swear,
now Pete Seeger is everywhere.

His energy released from form now joins us,
not buried in the ground nor ashes spread,
not in some fancy world “up there,”
now Pete Seeger is everywhere…

singing, playing, chopping wood,
encouraging, traveling, doing good,
planting seeds, making a better place,
playing banjo, eye to eye, face to face,
exhorting us to care, I swear

now Pete Seeger is everywhere.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2014

Update: A few days later I emailed the poem to Rich Warren, who is the host of Folkstage (and The Midnight Special) on WFMT, where Stephen and I are members. I knew Rich would be working on his radio tribute to Pete Seeger and thought he might like it. He said I could read my poem to the audience before Folkstage went on the air. It took me only minutes to agree. In the “spirit of Pete,” the group said the repeating line with me. It was awesome! Thanks, Rich, for the opportunity!

Me at WFMT-- Photo by Stephen Mikus, Copyright 2014

Me at WFMT– Photo by Stephen Mikus, Copyright 2014

Update: Finally, a video of my reading this poem.

 

All Together: Virtual Choir 4

One of the fun things about Virtual Choir 4: Fly to Paradise (by Eric Whitacre) was finding myself in the crowd of 5905 singers after the video came out in July. Last year, for VC 3 I was not able to see myself, which was fine, the music swept me away anyway. But this year, naturally I wondered if I would be there. I had submitted 3 videos (alto 2, tenor 1, tenor 2). Would that increase my chances? (Note: best to watch the HD version of the video if you can, full screen. Crank up the sound…just sayin’.)

I was lucky this time. I was in a relatively prominent place and found one of my videos, with even a smile while singing. Elisabeth Maria Smith, a VC4 member from Chicago, did an amazing thing: put together an album of over 800 screen shots to help singers find themselves. Thank you Elisabeth for sending me the HD version of the screen shot below. Each time I listen and watch Fly to Paradise, I am greatly moved and proud of us, and see different things in the graphics. It took a huge number of people to make this happen (the credits are longer than the song!).

I knew the video had an impact on me, but I had not anticipated the emotional effect of searching through all the faces (from 101 countries!). No sound to “distract” me. Looking intently at each face in the screen shots. Just the power of all of us together, from all over, connected in some profound and transforming way. Thank you Elisabeth! Of course a poem came from all this.

Virtual Choir 4: Fly to Paradise

From Virtual Choir 4: Fly to Paradise                Under the soloist, I am in the 2nd row down, 2nd from the right

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
melding 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
© 2013

You may be interested in other recent Virtual Choir posts
A Portrait of Eric Whitacre
Virtual Choir 4: Bliss

Third Healing Offering

first 3 stanzas Essence of Tulip Copyright 2011 Margaret Dubay Mikus

I would like to share my healing song, “Prayer of Lovingkindness,” which I wrote back in 1996. When I read the first three stanzas below, I heard music. This was not usual for me, so I paid attention. I sat at my piano and figured out the notes I had heard. Years later, I was doing healing work with Susi Roos, NP, and she suggested adding on the second part to the song using present tense. It seemed very powerful together–and peaceful. Although  originally shy about singing on my own, I’ve now sung “Prayer of Lovingkindness” at workshops, funerals, healing services, and in the surgical suite with my medical team before cancer surgery at a major Chicago teaching hospital (a story for another day). Read, listen, or sing along with my CD, Full Blooming: Selections from a Poetic Journal (track # 59). Please share.

Prayer of Lovingkindness

(music by Margaret Dubay Mikus)

The asking:

May I be at peace.
May my heart remain open.
May I awaken to the light of my own true nature.
May I be healed.
May I be a source of healing for all beings.

May you be at peace
May your heart remain open.
May you awaken to the light of your own true nature.
May you be healed.
May you be a source of healing for all beings.

May we be at peace.
May our hearts remain open.
May we awaken to the light of our own true nature.
May we be healed.
May we be a source of healing for all beings.

The answering:

I am at peace.
My heart remains open.
I am awake to the light of my own true nature.
I am healed.
I am a source of healing for all beings.

You are at peace
Your heart remains open.
You are awake to the light of your own true nature.
You are healed.
You are a source of healing for all beings.

We are at peace.
Our hearts remain open.
We are awake to the light of our own true nature.
We are healed.
We are a source of healing for all beings.

And so quite naturally, healing ripples out from you like a stone skipped on a clear pond.

Words adapted from the Buddhist metta (lovingkindness) meditation,(originally I read it in Pocketful of Miracles by Joan Borysenko, Ph.D.)

Song copyright © 2006 by Margaret Dubay Mikus.

Recorded on Full Blooming: Selections from a Poetic Journal, (2007). Scroll down to track # 59 and sing along.

Please share!