Salt and Light #2

This year in lockdown, many of our earthly pleasures were stripped away. But through loss and change, we experience a process of death and rebirth – a resurrection of sorts. Activities that were lost to so many of us in the midst of our busy lives, were found to us again: walking, writing, painting, cooking (or soap-making… read on!). The scriptures read: ‘Those who love their life lose it, and those who lose their life, find it’. Perhaps these words are hard to understand at face value, but as we deepen into those words, it’s possible to feel a truth. We may feel like life as we know it has been taken from us, put on hold. But alternatively, we could see it as a period of gestation – of growing, thinking, shedding, preparing; preparing to rise again, changed, with new wisdom, and new priorities.

For those following the Easter story this Holy week, today is Maundy Thursday. It commemorates the washing of the feet and the Last Supper with Jesus and the apostles. Foot-washing in churches won’t be permitted this year for obvious reasons, but at home, we can still devote time to ourselves and loved ones by cleansing and caring for this precious part of our bodies, and I’m excited to share with you a new collaboration with a local soap maker, and the launch of a new range of organic cold-pressed soap handcrafted with essential oils, rose petals and Himalayan salt. By chance, by the beautiful River Teme, I met Georgie Turner founder of ‘The Salted Grapefruit’ made in Shropshire. Creative conversations led us to explore future recipe ideas. As a result, Rose Geranium Salt BarsDarjeeling and Tea Rose Soap, and a Lavender Foot Salt Scrub, are now available in my online gift shop. In the spirit of giving this Easter, these can make lovely gifts instead of, or alongside, the more traditional option of Easter eggs and flowers. Georgie and I both loved and lost family members who lived and worked in Africa, so a percentage of each soap bar will go to women and children in Kititi, Uganda, and the Joy Collective.

Connecting with Georgie was a special moment this month, and I’ve also found connections with loved ones so important in this slow lead up to Spring. Losing myself in laughter with close friends who share a similar sense of humour and a taste for the absurd has been a saving grace. A friend and I have found ourselves creating a series of characters and sketches based on our daily lockdown encounters – just for creative play, not public performance! On one occasion I laughed so hard at her impersonation of a scolding parent, I gave myself whiplash. I’ve also found myself turning to comedy just as much as music for creative inspiration. Fleabag, written by the brilliant Phoebe Waller-Bridge, has made me laugh until I cried, through both its satire and poignancy. Laughter can boost our immune system and is a great way to embrace the inner child. It can brighten the darkest of days. What has made you laugh recently? In the spirit of April Fool’s Day, I wrote a blog this week for ‘Coffee and Creatives’ about humour as a creative medium – you can read that here.

Thank you so much to everyone who wrote to me after receiving the first newsletter. It’s so lovely to hear from you all. Also to those who kindly bought my vinyl ‘Anam Cara’ and ‘Rings of Saturn.’ Digital downloads for both singles earned me a total of £3.56 – just enough to buy the producer a coffee, with marshmallows on top! This is the sad reality of free downloads affecting musicians today. But, the old-fashioned vinyl saved the day! I’m so grateful to everyone who bought one for their record collection or as a keepsake. Because of you, I’m able to continue making new music. If you want regular music updates, do keep in touch with me via social media @deborahrosemusic (all my social media links are at the foot of this email).

Back cover of my vinyl ‘Anam Cara’ and ‘Rings of Saturn.’

As the world shows signs of opening up, longing thoughts of travel arise, although taking part in Chris Difford’s (of Squeeze) ‘Songwriting Garden’ last month felt like a pilgrimage from the comfort of my sofa! Collaborating with artists from Europe and America, I wrote a pop song with a Bulgarian harpist, Rockabilly with a New Orleans native, and a techno duet with a Parisienne singer who grew up with the Moulin Rouge. I’m feeling very grateful for Zoom, whisking me around the planet from my living room. I don’t miss airports but I am missing my soul family and friends in Baton Rouge, LA, New York and Africa.

The world feels quieter than it was. From my home, while I’m working, I can still clearly hear birdsong and the subtle whispers in the wind. Reading Julia Cameron’s The Listening Path, the sequel to The Artist’s Way, I’ve been learning that the art of listening is something we can develop and fine tune. Julia’s idea that ‘in a time of unnecessary noise, listening is the artist’s way forward’ has been shaping my creative process – listening to others, and ourselves, we can heighten our awareness and sensitivity to people and our surroundings.

I’ve also been listening to the voice of Norwegian singer, Ane Brun. Her cover of Beyoncé’s Halo is wonderful, as well as Lucinda Williams’ ‘Right in time’ and Julie Miller’s ‘All my tears.’ These can be found on the album ‘Rarities’ along with the song ‘The Opening’ which she wrote for a TV series, ‘Wallander’. The lyrics spoke to me and seemed to echo feelings about the strange times we’re living in: When there’s so much darkness closing in, just swerve around slowly, you’ll find an opening, like an animal between the trees, there you’ll find your pocket of peace. The intimacy of Ane’s voice and at times, her use of sparse accompaniment, makes for a heavenly listening experience.

I was very sad to hear that composer Ian King, who contributed music to my first album Song be My Soul’ passed away after a long battle with cancer. He was a gifted classical musician that wrote major sacred choral works for Worcester and Gloucester Cathedral. His version of the St John Passion was said to be a masterpiece by the Anglican Church. For my album, he wrote the music for Tennyson’s poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’ and Eva Cassidy’s ‘Springtime.’ I’ve got special memories of performing these songs at a concert for Eva’s parents at Walcot Hall, Lydbury North in Shropshire on their UK visit in 2011. Here’s a link to ‘Little Boat‘, featured on the album. Ian wrote both words and music, with the fading outro ‘Sail towards the light’. This is my favourite song to sing live, along with the album title track, co-written with Martin Riley.

I’ve done a reprint of Song be My Soul in memory of Ian.

‘Song be my Soul’ really reflects my love of Pre-Raphaelite art and literature, featuring odes to Waterhouse, Rossetti, Tennyson, Blake and Dickens. In this season of Lent, I’ve been taking an Alpha course with Hereford Cathedral, a course which asks the big questions of life and faith. In this week’s discussion Pre-Raphaelite painter Holman Hunt’s ‘The Light of the World’ was chosen for contemplation. The original hangs in St Paul’s Cathedral, with a passage from Revelation underneath “I stand at the door and knock: if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come into him.” The door in the painting has no handle, and can be only opened from the inside, symbolising the concept of choice in responding to the gentle nature of Jesus’ call.

Wishing everyone Easter blessings. If you’re looking for good chocolate, Booja Booja salted caramels are divine – vegan, gluten and dairy free, with an inspirational message inside. Or, in the spirit of foot and hand washing, you can never have enough good soap!

With love,