If you have listened to any of my CDs, you already know that I have a love of spiritual songs, in all species: plainchant, spirituals, hymns, shape note songs. As far as I know, I’m the only composer/performer ever to use an African-American spiritual as the lead-in to a Gregorian chant!

I have more arrangements of spiritual songs sitting around unrecorded and this is the year for the recording of all of them. I want more music for the “album,” of course, so once again I’m in composing mode — a happy place to be!

Monday morning I created an arrangement of Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence. I hadn’t really thought about using it for the new CD, but, as occasionally happens, after playing some other music, I found myself playing it, “accidentally.” The melody is quite ancient and haunting (possibly my favorite type of melody, come to think of it). I just had to keep playing it.

This music really speaks to me, so my arrangement came together pretty quickly. I like it, but as I’ve written before: I’d better like it, & if I don’t then it’s my job to keep playing with it until I DO like it. 

Kathleen Ryan • Picardy • © 2015 Kathleen Ryan

What interests me the most about my arrangement of Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, though, is what happens after I play it: in my head, I hear Push (from Verbs Book 1) coming next. And Push should be worlds away in feeling, but somehow it’s not.

Verbs: Push • performed by Keith Porter Snell • composed by Kathleen Ryan • © 2008 Indigo Mesa Music

I also keep thinking that I’ve stolen the opening chords of my new arrangement from somewhere, but I have myself pretty well convinced that I’ve stolen them from myself, from an improvised accompaniment I created to Tom Waits’ Train Song for a singer friend a long time ago. I can’t remember my entire accompaniment, but I do remember the rhythm of the chords & it’s the same.

Odd resonances: a haunting melody from the Liturgy of St. James — a 21st C. LH piano prelude, all rhythmically spiky & aggressive — a singer/songwriter ode of loneliness and lost opportunity. For some reason, to my ear, they all match.

I really hope this doesn’t mean I have to learn Push. It’s hard!

© 2006-2020 Topaz Productions • Email Kathleen