Because I’ve booked studio time to record a new CD next August, I am taking the songwriting fairly seriously just now. I’ve joined a group of songwriters here in Victoria who get together every couple of weeks to discuss the art of writing songs. A meeting consists of each person “checking in” – telling everyone else what’s going on with them – then we start playing new songs. The others listen carefully, after which a benevolent critique happens: did the song make sense? did it resonate? is it interesting and catchy? That kind of thing.
I have joined this group to find the impetus to write some of the many stories I have collected into songs. Somehow, when there’s a meeting every two weeks, it’s helpful. Deadlines are very good for me (that’s why I’ve booked the studio time in Toronto BEFORE I have all the songs done!). Otherwise, I’d be downstairs in my sewing room, quilting…
Last weekend, I realized I had nothing new to sing for them that afternoon. I took advantage of a quiet Saturday morning to write a new song about an old story – one that’s been awaiting my attention since I read about it, several YEARS ago! It’s from Ruth Finley’s book: Old Patchwork Quilts and the Women Who Made Them, first published in 1929.
The story involves an old unfinished block that she describes – an appliqued oak leaf, with the needle rusting in the fabric. (Remember she wrote this in 1929, so the block must be REALLY old now!) The family story that goes along with this block is wonderful. It involves a young, beautiful and wilful girl who falls in love with a young whaling master. Her father disapproves of this union, and locks her in her room (working on oak leaf applique) until she comes to her senses. After two weeks, she agrees to marry a local gentleman of her father’s choice, and marriage plans are made. One day, she and her friends are clamming on the beach, and they see a ship anchored offshore. A dory is rowed across and they go to meet the sailors in it. One of them jumps on the beach, and the girl runs to his arms. He carries her away into the sunset, leaving behind the unfinished oak leaf block. They marry in Rhode Island, and word comes back that on their honeymoon voyage they run into a typhoon in the China sea and sink, all hands aboard.
I think maybe the family has embellished this story over the years, or perhaps Ruth Finlay did, but: does this not scream to be written into a song? But what kind of song? How to tell it?
As we drove across from Boise to Hood River and Kent Washington, we were listening to an NPR folk music show which featured a beautiful song called “The Lass of Glenshee”, sung by Lisa Moscatiello. I thought – that’s exactly how I should write the song about the oak leaf block!!!
So, that’s what I did on Saturday morning. It’s funny, how a decision like that will simplify everything. It took only about an hour and a half to write the whole thing. I sang it at the songwriters’ group, and they liked it.
Another one for the next CD.
We also set challenges for each other at these meetings. Guess what the next one is? Everybody has to write a song about quilting!!! lol I did not set this challenge, I’ll have you know, but I can’t WAIT to hear what these guys write!!!
As for me, I’m going to try to put all my quilting parodies into one seamless song… It’s going to start: Mothers, don’t let your babies grow up to be quilters……