Tag Archives: Kelley Hunt

Why You Should Support the Best Work Of One of the Best Musicians: Everyday Magic, Day 788

Kelley and some of the musicians she recorded with in Nashville

Kelley and some of the musicians she recorded with in Nashville

Yesterday I listened to one of the most beautiful albums in my life: Kelley Hunt’s new studio album. How did I get so lucky? Because I co-wrote some of the songs on the album, Kelley called me up and said, “Want to come over and listen to the music?” Despite being home less than a day from Goddard (when I normally won’t leave the house unless there’s a Kansas tsunami), I was out the door and on Kelley’s couch that afternoon. What I heard was what heart and soul sound like when made into music. I laughed, I cried, I hummed all the way home.

Which is why I’m writing today to encourage you to support Kelley in her indiegogo campaign. Being a musician, or just about any artist these days, ranges from dubious to impossible when it comes to making a living. Kelley and her manager/husband Al have been dancing on that edge for years, putting out powerful music in the form of five critically-acclaimed CDs and international tours from Vancouver to North Carolina and back again, both solo and with the Kelley Hunt band.

Kelley and the McCrary Sisters

Kelley and the McCrary Sisters

Now they have a new CD, freshly recorded with the likes of the amazing McCrary sisters (legendary gospel singers) singing with her, plus Tony Harrell on accordion and B3, drummer/percussionist Bryan Owings, a kick-ass horn section and many more of the top musicians in Nashville. The album is recorded and mixed, and just needs to be mastered while Kelley and Al work with artists on the cover art.

“This is the best work I’ve ever done,” Kelley told me. Those of you who know her music can only imagine since her previous best work shines long after the CD or concert is done. Here is she performing on the Legendary Blues Cruise last year, and here she is singing “My Funny Valentine.” Kelley has also played dozens of benefits, helping people in this region and beyond over the years.

So I’m writing you to invite you with all my heart to give some of your love to Kelley’s campaign — right here. For a small amount, you can get your own copy of the CD, signed, sealed and delivered. For larger amounts, there are other great perks (even a concert with Kelley in your backyard if you wish). Please support one of our best musicians doing her best art.

Brave Voice’s Round Rainbow: Everyday Magic, Day 703

IMG_0328At Brave Voice last week, we sung a new song repeatedly, a signature tune for the week:

A round rainbow is called a glory.

What you survive in life is called a story.

You only see the arc of it after the storm.

To see the whole miracle, you have to hold on.

The workaday miracle is where you belong, where you belong.

The story of how this song came to be may be a pebble in the ocean of the story of where this song is going, now that it’s inscribed in the memories and hearts of all of us who took place. But the song came in a miniature miracle kind of way: several week ago, watching Kelley Hunt perform at the Dakota in Minneapolis  I couldn’t help thinking of one word repeatedly: miracle. It’s a miracle she gives us this life-lifting music, and it’s a miracle that so many of us who create in any form for 376920_10201106479481349_1759454154_na living/for a life find sustenance for our art in this culture. But we do, and it kept coming to me that this was a workaday miracle, the kind you help to unfold word by word, note by note.

On the way home from Minnesota, Ken took a photo of a round rainbow with the shadow of the plane in the center of it. I posted it on facebook, and past Brave Voice participant Sandy wrote that “a round rainbow is called a glory.” Both Kelley and I emailed back and forth about that line, the photo, and the idea of a new song that encompassed all this.

A day later, I was walking the dog when we both got tired. I sat on the gravel driveway with Shay, and I began singing quietly, not really paying attention to myself. Shay cocked his right ear and leaned in. Soon I realized, I was singing “A round rainbow is called a glory./ What you survive in life is called a story…” and the rest of the song. I soon went to Kelley’s house, sat with her at her kitchen table, and sang this. “I think it’s the chorus of a song,” I told her, but she told it would work beautifully as a little song. Within a few hours, she found/created several other parts, mostly comprised of stretching the word “glory” into beautiful arrangements. We decided this song would travel with us to Brave Voice, but once there, Kelley found some verses to grow this little song.

401952_10201113625019983_517343383_nOn Tuesday morning, Kelley led the group singing in three-part harmony to this little but mighty chant, and on Wednesday evening, we ended our performance with the fuller song, complete with breathtaking cello playing by Teresa (one of the BV partipants) before surprising everyone with the chorus they all knew by heart. The song itself became a round rainbow for all those present in that moment.

Singing this song with others all week, by myself while walking across the prairie at Brave Voice, and in my mind as I fell asleep many nights, I feel its power seeping into me with each repetition. The glory of the workaday miracle is where we belong.

Top photo by Ken Lassman; other photos of Brave Voice by Dianna Burrup.

Playing It Forward: Everyday Magic, Day 682

DSCN0891It was a watershed moment for many who performed, and one of the glories of our lives for Kelley Hunt and me, who co-facilitated a series of workshops culminating in a coffeehouse of wonder – “Play It Forward,” a program envisioned and put into reality by the wonderful folks at the Lied Center of Kansas.

DSCN0799We began close to a two years ago, meeting with Karen and Anthea at the Lied Center to talk about what might make for a great collaborative community education program, particularly because the Lied has been bringing in premier women performers — Suzanne Vega, Regina Carter, Ragamala Dance, and Nnenna Freelon – for a year-long program called Play It Forward. One idea sparked another, and Kelley and I came up with a program to help writers and musicians come together, bring more of their courage, creativity and vision into play with each other, and from there, create poems, stories, essays, songs and more they could play forward at a community coffeehouse.

We met the 29 wondrous souls who signed up in October for the first all-day session, saw them again for another day DSCN0826session in January, and this past Saturday was the Play It Forward Coffeehouse (after afternoon consulting sessions to help prepare people). Each session was a tapestry of humor, art, surprise, connection, delight and depth, some of our participants driving in from as far as Carbondale, IL and Lincoln, NE for our time together.

As for the performance, afterwards, we were joking that we saw just about every kind of performance but burlesque. People shared songs drawing from folk, rock, jazz, blues and even country traditions. Writing included poems (even some awesome alphabet poems, each word consecutively beginning with the next letter in the alphabet, such as, “A boy, comma….”), stories, essays, mDSCN0936ixed genre and memoir. There was even one performer, Maria, who shared paintings, yoga, prose, singing and piano, and this was all done, as all the other 20 performances, in 3 minutes or less. We heard about train whistles, dirty dishes, old love, support for the arts, the kindness of strangers in the middle of Israel or right in our own backyard. There was rhyme, meter, heartbreaking bridges, expansive high notes and gorgeous gravy low notes in music, poetry and prose.

Although Kelley and I put everyone in an order we basically divined on the hoof, hoping it would work well, strange and magical juxtapositions ensued. Iris belted out a hysterically funny song about “cleaDSCN0931ning up my kitchen, getting rid of you,” only to be followed by Jerrye, singing a beautiful tune celebrating long-term marriage and family. Sandy’s poignant prose/poem on the needs of children growing up against the odds followed an invocation on a more generous vision in the form of one of Cindy’s songs. Each performance was a delight, brushed free of static and bursting with spirit whether the performer DSCN0872had only sung in the shower before or recorded CDs for years.

The joy in the audience and the participants plays forward in myriad ways we can only glimpse. Already, I’ve heard from participants about how they’re playing forward the gifts of what come when you open your voice – on the page, aloud, in community or alone – to find the words and sounds you’re meant to share with the world.

Turning Point, the Writers Place, the Lied Center and Some Great Barbeque: Everyday Magic, Day 618

Play it forward — in our words sung, written and spoken — swayed through my Sunday for  people I work with as well as me, myself and I. The whirlwind double-header started with a reading at The Writers Place in Kansas City, featuring people living with or caring for someone living with serious illness. The 18 writers were all participants in the workshops I’ve been facilitating over recent years at Turning Point: The Center for Hope & Healing, one of the greatest centers for modeling how to survive serious illness with meaning, dignity and even delight.

I was so proud of the writers, who shared powerful prose and poetry about how impossible it is to find the opposite of alone when you lose your partner of 47 years, the miraculous gifts of a horrendous illness written by a mother about her young adult daughter, and what leaving cancer statistics in the dust looks like nine years after a terminal diagnosis. One man used the mesh model of his head and neck — part of his radiation treatment for parotid cancer — complete with KU ball cap — as the visual to accompany his poem about the hard truths and sweet gifts of survival and perfect peaches. A young woman had me read aloud the poem she wrote on what she learned from her young son, who passed away in May. A man told us about the ridicule he endured because of his illness and strength he found in spiritual gifts.

What people read wasn’t just about living with or surviving MS, cancer, Parkinson’s Disease and other chronic illness, or about taking care of someone in the grips of the impossible. People read poems in praise of the ex-husbands who surprise us, the grandchildren who complete our lives, the old love that shows us the way. Life, stripped of any pretense, was front and center in this reading, and who better to celebrate being alive that people who know intimately what mortality means?

After the reading, and the taking of many pictures (along the eating of many grapes), I took the poetry van (looks like hell, runs great) back to Lawrence, just in time for for a sound check with Kelley Hunt before we performed a short performance for the Friends of the Lied Annual Dinner at KU’s Lied Center. We also got to eat some rather spectacular Biggs BBQ, which absolutely ensured our best effort.

Reading poetry (me) and singing while playing piano (Kelley) in the Pavillon room was a special treat. The space is acoustic nirvana, and as I read, I could see both the shining faces of 150 or so wonderful Lied friends as well as the wind winding through the leaves of cottonwoods outside through the wall of windows. “Play It Forward in Music & Poetry” was Kelley and my newest collaboration, featuring a spanking new song, “Let It Rain,” which is all about passing on what we’re given. “It was all given to you/ Now who will you give it to?” Kelley sang, one of my favorite new lines that came to us.

Lying in bed late last night, the day swam through my heart, lifting it to the starlight as I thought to myself, “I get to do this for a living.” Not just to pay it forward, but to play it forward, with all the added joy implied.

Pictures: Our sparkling Turning Point readers and friends/family: top photo: Cathy, Peggy, me, Dee, Debby, Megan and Lou; Earle & Lois; Will and Stacey; Carol.

Pinneapple Power, Couger Blessing & Other Wonders of Brave Voice: Everyday Magic, Day 551

Friday, I landed home from the 7th annual Brave Voice: Writing & Singing for Your Life retreat that Kelley Hunt and I blessedly do together, along with our fellow artists extraordinaire Laura Ramberg and Ardys Ramberg. Back at White Memorial Camp — located on an arrowhead-shaped peninsula in Council Grove Grove surrounded by the Flint Hills — we were at home with the beauty, art, music, words and other surprises of the Brave Voice participants (called BVDs for Brave Voice Divas & Daredevils) and the lush land.

While what happens at Brave Voice stays at Brave Voice, some things I can share with you involve the magical combination of a pineapple, a cougar, canoes and kayaks and a whole lot of music. Here’s some highlights:

  • Did you know the pineapple is the international symbol for hospitality? Somehow a pineapple ended up at the center of many of our circles, and conveyed to us how such hospitality needs to extend to the ways in which we welcome our creativity, compassion, acceptance of others and ourselves, and power. Thanks to some singing involving drawing on the power of the pineapple, we ended up with a pineapple power hand gesture and affirmation.
  • Cougars are notoriously shy when it comes to keeping at bay from the humans, especially on the peninsula where the camp is and particularly during mid-morning (like other species in the wild, they tend to be on the move more during sunrise and sunset as well as in the night). When we were doing our first writing prompt during the writing workshop focused on writing from our callings, I happened to look out the window, having opened all the blinds earlier simply because something told me to let in the sky. And there the cougar was — 20 feet or so away, walking around the back of our building. A bunch of us rushed to the window to see him/her — a long, sleek mammal, golden brown with an outrageously long tail. Some later wondered if we needed to take precautions, but Laura reminded us that seeing a cougar here and now was a blessing. I’ve longed to see a cougar in the wild for decades, and now, here one was. Our only pictures of it were fuzzy, a little like trying to photograph the Loch Ness monster, but we know what we saw.
  • A bunch of us took to kayaks and canoes one warm afternoon, floating or paddling on Council Grove lake. Because of the heat, I tended to park my kayak in small coves, marveling at the shade-viewed green and blue world all directions. Of course, when we came together, we ended up singing on the water as usual, and moving fast or slow across the expanse. Some got on the water this way for the first, or the first in decades, time self-propelling over water, but all of us found solace in the sun-laced water.
  • Although it’s hard to remember what was so funny now, at the time, there were frequent forays into laughing so hard we cried as well as writing and music that broke our hearts open in the name of life, in remembrance of beloveds gone, and in joy for what and who we love most.
  • Laura and Ardys set up art stations as usual, and this year, they had supplies out for pen and ink drawings and the making of yantras, a traditional kind of mandala using geometric composition as a kidn of meditative ritual. Some of us painted, scribbled, colored, designed, drew and collaged, art at the edges and centers of our week together.
  • Walks, talks, quiet and song punctuated our time together in between workshops on singing, songwriting, writing, conversing with our callings, opening our voices and coming home to where we are.
  • Buddha the sheepdog mix, Isadore the brown and black puppy, Tomcat and other critters of the camp accompanied us whenever they could. Tomcat even slept on our blankets one night when Laura and I dragged mattresses out to the field near our cabin to sleep under stars and near the lake. The animals were as loving and welcoming as the camp, probably because of the hospitality powers of the pineapple.

We’ll be announcing the dates of Brave Voice 2013 soon, but for now, I’m thinking of pineapples in a whole new way and keeping my eyes open for what other wonders move quietly along the edges.

Holiday Gifts For the Heart & Soul: Everyday Magic, Day 461

I believe in giving gifts whenever the spirit moves us as well as giving ourselves whatever gifts feed our souls and lift us up to live out our callings. In this tune, I want to recommend these possibilities for you to give others and/or give yourself, all of which are home-grown (benefiting the 99% and not just the 1%) and offered by people I believe in.

  • Writing as a Way of Healing: Ourselves & Others, an online class with Sharon Bray: Sharon is fabulous at helping people connect with their deepest truths, and she’s very experienced at offering superb online classes. She writes of this one, “What is the story you want to tell? In ‘Writing as a Way of Healing: Ourselves and Others,’ we begin with you. Your experience. Your story. We will work together to create a virtual community that has as its ground rules an atmosphere of safety, support and mutual respect, one that allows you to write authentically and deeply from painful life experiences. In this way, we will experience and model the ways in which writing can be healing, for ourselves and for others.” This class is offered by the Transformative Language Arts Network.
  • The Music of Kelley Hunt, Greg Greenway, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Leonard Cohen, and Others: Music keeps speaking through us and to us, and a gift of music goes, like the song, on and on and on. These are some of my favorites, but feel free to ask people around you who their favorites are, and then investigate! Also, Kelley has an amazing New Year’s Eve Eve concert coming up on 12/30.
  • Great Books!: I recommend these books I’ve read in the last year and loved: Chris Offutt’s The Same River Twice, Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa, Harriet Lerner’s The Marriage Rules, Betsy Sholl’s Rough Cradle, Katherine Towler’s Island Light, Dick Allen’s Present Vanishing, two anthologies I edited (so of course I love these poems!) — Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, and An Endless Skyway: Poetry from the State Poets Laureate, Stephanie Sandmeyer’s Broken for You, and anything by Pema Chodron.
  • Solitude & Beauty: Consider a retreat, particularly in Kansas at Shantivanam, a beautiful center just an hour from Kansas City or Lawrence. It’s a great way to recharge and relax.
  • Brave Voice: Writing & Singing For Your Life: This six-day retreat I offer with Kelley Hunt is all about recovering and celebrating your creative spirit. Past participants have gone on to write and publish books, release CDs, perform and read, and most of all, make enduring community with others who support their art and share the riches of their voice and vision. We have a solstice sale — $60 off if registered by 12/21 — here.

Dancing Angels, Fairies & Gymnasts at the Kelley Hunt Concert: Everyday Magic, Day 396

Some of them cartwheeled across the floor while others bent their wrists like figures in Egyptian art and rocked their shoulders up and down to the music. Whatever the moves, the dozen or so girls and one boy who danced right below the stage at the Kelley Hunt concert in the Lied Center last night were in tune with the music and alive in their twirling bodies.

Sitting in the front row, Ken and I got to watch two levels of the show: Kelley and the band above, and the dancers below, some as young as four and probably none past 14. It was one of the most beautiful double shows I could imagine, particularly since the dancers instinctively set their gait, handstands and tumbles to the music. A slow song, and suddenly we would see three sets of feet rise into the air, several dancers rolling onto the floor and back up, and two sisters who couldn’t seem to stop doing cartwheels, but slowly and with feeling. A fast tune, and everyone would jump, run, swirl, and link elbows into groups of three and four so they could spin themselves into ecstasy and the floor.

Some moves like fairies, some like angels (a wee one who paused at the dance floor, holding her ears because of the volume of the music, even wore wings), and some like circus gymnasts, ready to leap for the crowd. Whenever the crowd would applaud, particularly during the stand ovations, many of the girls would splay their arms, life their chests and smile in appreciation of their adoring public. One girl did a split, spreading her arms wide to accept the acclaim and her next Olympic medal.

All were beautiful. All were shining. All were poetry in motion, mesmerized by the music, catalyzed by Kelley’s boogie-woogie piano playing, Shawn’s fall-over-backwards-in-amazement guitar solos, Sam’s soul-astonishing bass playing, and Victor’s powerful drumming that held all the music together. The dancers rode the love at the core of all this music, embodying all the facets of life they heard and felt so we could see it more vividly. As Kelley said at one point, “Let’s hear it for the dancers!”

Thanks to all for the kind words on the poem I read before Kelley performed. Here’s the poem in print, Seeing in the Dark.

“These Are the Best Days of Our Lives”: Everyday Magic, Day 362

Last night, right in the middle of Kelley Hunt and her band performing “These Are the Days” (a song we co-wrote), time stopped and the moment sealed around me. Kelley was singing her heart out, her band — an amazing bassist, drummer and guitarist — were playing to perfection, and a giant fan to my left blew wind across my face as I sat with 5o or so others in the giant warehouse-type studio of the gracious, kind and talented Stan Herd. The dim light of the coming evening, offset by the warm orange glow from lamps situated around the space, and the people there — arranged on chairs and stools of all stripes and stops — all seemed encased in the beauty of Kelley’s singing, her clear tones ringing through us and clearing our minds of clutter.

Kelley's new album, which features this song (and we co-wrote 8 of the 12 songs). Click here to buy the album.

Soon she would move onto a boogie-woogie rollicking song that brought us to our dancing feet, people coupled, singled and tripled in the dance space in front of the band, and eventually rising in the make-shift aisles and corners because they couldn’t help but dance. Soon the heat of the day would completely dissolve, the concert would end, and we would disperse. But at this moment, precisely when she sang  “These are the days/ These are the days/ These are the best days….of our lives,” I suddenly realized the song was about right now.

Not to privilege the present over the future or the past, there were and will be many more moments that make us realize we’re living one of the best days in our lives. Yet in the center of that moment last night, I felt more than ever how close we are to waking up our sleeping hearts to what we are given, again and again, by the generous voices and visions all around us. All we need do is stop and listen.

The Magic of Brave Voice: Everyday Magic, Day 172

On the first day of the year I brunched with the BVDs — the Brave Voice Divas & Daredevils,  people who attended past Brave Voices, the 6-day retreats Kelley Hunt & I have been offering in the Flint Hills of Kansas since 2006. A bunch of BVDs had come to our fair city to dance in the new year the night before when Kelley played Liberty Hall with her band. As way of catching up, of course we ate and visited, but mostly, we sat in a circle and sang, read, made up poetry, drummed and jammed together for several hours as is the way of the BVDs.

When Kelley and I started designing the Brave Voice writing and singing retreat about seven years ago, we envisioned a clearing, a place where people could gather and have enough solitude and community, enough spaciousness of being, enough inspiration, humor and tenderness so they could create what called to them freely. What happened surpassed our imaginations. As we head into our sixth Brave Voice retreat — May 8-13 in the Flint Hills of Kansas — we bring with us layers upon layers of witnessing magic.

Yes, there is the magic that can come when writing, singing and songwriting workshops are well-designed and facilitated, but there’s a magic that met us both at the site of the retreats and in the souls of those who come. We do the retreats at White Memorial Camp, which is located on an arrowhead-shaped peninsula in the middle of Council Grove lake, surrounded by rolling hills in all directions and held in very big sky. The location of the camp is also where tribes from throughout the plains would meet in council (thus the name “Council Groves) for hundreds, probably thousands of years.

The people who came are drawn to immerse themselves in Brave Voice from near and far. While we often have a contingent from Kansas and especially our hometown, Lawrence, we’ve had people come from British Columbia, Florida, California and Vermont too. BVDs are writers, singers, musicians, artists, yogis, ministers, community leaders, and people who’ve lived quietly while creating wildly in their lives through homemaking, parenting, contemplating and reading. I’m sure if you could look up the phrase, “the ones who show up are the ones who should be here,” you would see a picture of BVDs at the end of a retreat, falling into each other while laughing and hugging. The community that emerges each time is so rich and life-giving that it cannot help but to support everyone in taking creative leaps in their art, writing, music and lives….and it cannot help but continue over distances all year long.

So here’s to the magic that we create together when we open our voices. Thank you, Brave Voices!

Thanks to Julanne and Danny for the photos!

When Kelley Hunt Sings: Everyday Magic, Day 167

Last night, once again, I was transported along with many others on and around the dance floor when Kelley Hunt and her band brought us over the threshold of 2011. As we danced, people yelled in my ear things like, “We’re back in the vortext,” “I feel like we’ve always been here,” and “It’s all happening again.” We sang “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” with her, we were bedazzled by an electric guitar player who brought us out to Jupiter and back home, we were astonished by Kelley on piano, her voice loud and low or fast and wide, and we truly came home to something far more real and alive than everyday life usually shows us. Here’s the poem I wrote last year about it all:

When Kelley Hunt Sings

The night is made of song in this moment, the chords ringing

through our bones in harmony or dissonance at the end of one world

and the beginning of another. She closes her eyes, leans forward, sings.

The first velvet words land right in the center of whatever we thought

we knew. By the time the next words arrive, we’re ready: hips tilting

to one side, shoulders to the other, the drum beat an ocean of rhythm,

a hummingbird in the center of our chests. The fire warms us

across the distance, from the CD player in the car on an icy day

or right here, in Liberty Hall, on the last night of a decade.

When we inhale, we’re down at the riverside. When we exhale,

it’s clear that it’s not over when it’s over. The band explodes

at the top of the mountain, her hands dizzy across the keyboard

or the red guitar, each low note catches sun right below horizon.

Then the sudden rise of voice and bass, horn and drums,

following us into the dark, falling away but always near, light

as the strongest wings, heavy as the siren calls of all we’ve lost

but still love in our lives. She sings this, here, a new shade of blue

that rushes us back toward the dance floor right into music

that chimes our hearts open, boogy-woogies our muscles

into the lone star road of twist and rise, lifts our sights above

the blue notes and uncertainties so that finally, maybe forever

nothing holds us back from how we were meant to move.

***Thank you, Kelley!***