Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

I’m going to sing and play it anyway.

Posted on: March 18, 2017

This post is an addendum to the post
Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor (from THE NEW COLOSSUS), A Singable Poem in a Picture Book



This post constitutes the hemming and hawing of an artist.  The horrible self doubt, the second guessing.  The raw reality of the risks every artist takes when she performs,   emotionally flaying herself in public.  It’s a risk.  I’ll be honest that I’m not always up to the task.  Being an artist, living my life this way, doing the work, fulfills what I know are my deepest needs and desires.  I also feel a satisfaction in the genuine sense that I am fulfilling my mission.  I’m doing in life what I was sent here to do.  I don’t need to be famous.  I need to go to classrooms and share this music with kids.  These are intimate performances, deeply engaging, profoundly important.

Sometimes, though, performing outside this context, engaging with others exhausts and damages me.  I’m just being honest.

I was contemplating bringing THE NEW COLOSSUS/GIVE ME YOUR TIRED YOUR POOR to an open mic sometime.  But the demons in my head went to work.  People will say my guitar sounds horrible.  People will see that I’m not a very good guitar player.  People will say my arrangement is not good.

Gee wiz.  Really?  The truth is, they WILL say these things, but maybe I should do it anyway.  I’ve begun bringing the poem/song to classrooms, a situation in which the importance and context of the words themselves clearly override any other concern.  Why, then, cannot this be so of an open mic?

Maybe this can be so.

One should not set up songs with equivocations, but I’m going to do it anyway, because sometimes life’s circumstances, and the opinions of others, puts one on the defensive, and, one (me) feels the need to guard against it, or to set expectations.

Additionally, I think artists have missions and sometimes we can’t let circumstances stand in the way of making the art and doing the work.

I know that my guitar is not high quality and it does not make a high quality sound.  I know I am not a good guitar player.  I know that the chords I’ve assembled (as they are the ones within my skill set) to sing/play this song do not always make the most beautiful harmonies with the melody.

However, I use the guitar when other accompaniment is not available to me.  Though I’m not a good player, I’m good ENOUGH to suit the situations in which I usually need to accompany myself.  As Mary Poppins says, “Enough is as good as a feast.” For example, I often accompany myself on guitar to play/sing  rhymes and little songs with children in classrooms.  And, if I were not doing it, no one else would.

THE NEW COLOSSUS and Irving Berlin’s musical setting of the last section of it, GIVE ME YOUR TIRED YOUR POOR, is important.  It is an important American Poem, written by a great American (Emma Lazarus) that gives voice to one of America’s most important icons, The Statue of Liberty.  The poem deserves recitation.  It deserves to be heard.  The song deserves to be sung.  The song deserves to be heard.  Especially NOW, TODAY, when many Great American Ideals are being subverted by greed, corruption, and plain meanness.

As the great quote (attributed to many) says, “If not me, who?  If not now, when?”

In spite of the fact that the quality and sound of my guitar and my skill to play it leave something to be desired, I’ve decided to take a stand (as Lady Liberty defiantly and proudly stands) and sing and play it anyway.  I will do this because the poem needs fresh life in its repetition, the song needs to be voiced so it can wing its way into hearts and minds, because the spark is within me to sing it, because I know the poem in my heart, because I desperately WANT to, and because it is important to convey the philosophy and ideals within it: sing it, I shall.

Martha Graham said,

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.

This poem is often attributed to Mother Theresa, but it seems that attribution is iffy.  I don’t care who said it.  The poem is correct.  Sometimes we just have to do something, regardless of what others will say and do.

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

Related Posts

Something Martha Graham Said, and My Friend Jill

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor (from THE NEW COLOSSUS), A Singable Poem in a Picture Book

This page has a list of Singable Picture Books Elsewhere Online


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