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Troubled? Then stay with me

Free concert combines poetry readings, improvised music

“In the house of lovers, the music never stops, the walls are made of songs & the floor dances”


Rosie Fanale describes herself as “a woman 61 years old, a pianist and multi instrumentalist since the age of 5, classically trained for 25 years” and “a nurse psychotherapist and music therapist in private practice for 23 years, whose ... special concentration since graduating from Yale in 1992 has been to work with medically ill, disabled and dying and their family members and recently bringing my music into homes of homebound sick ... in Shelburne Falls and nearby areas.”

She accounts cellist David Darling’s “Music for People” workshops and continuing mentoring for having catalyzed her continuing bedside musical ministry since 1990, the latest installment of which is a free concert, Sunday, May 19, 2:30 p.m. at Trinity Church, 17 Severance St., Shelburne Falls.

Of the occasion, Fanale writes, “I read the poetry of great masters — in this case Rumi and Hafiz (mystical Persian poets) and follow this by playing improvised piano responses coming from the feelings and inspiration produced by the poetry itself.”

Darling’s “Musical Bill of Rights,” reproduced below, is surely a document designed to ensure that absolutely no one be left with the feeling he or she is somehow lacking in the credentials needed to be a member of the “Creative Musical Club,” whether or not their invention measures up to traditional and technical musical watermarks. Indeed, above all, it is aimed at rescuing the incalculable number of youthful casualties engendered through wrong expectations and needless criticism — on the part of both teachers, families and friends — at a tender time when free exploration and joy should have been the only laws of the land:

“Human beings need to express themselves daily in a way that invites physical and emotional release.

Musical self-expression is a joyful and healthy means of communication available to absolutely everyone.

There are as many different ways to make music as there are people.

The human voice is the most natural and powerful vehicle for musical self-expression. The differences in our voices add richness and depth to music.

Sincerely expressed emotion is at the root of meaningful musical expression.

Your music is more authentically expressed when your body is involved in your musical expression.

The European tradition of music is only one sound. All other cultures and traditions deserve equal attention.

Any combination of people and instruments can make music together.

There are no “unmusical” people, only those with no musical experience.

Music improvisation is a unique and positive way to build skills for life-expression.

In improvisation, as in life, we must be responsible for the vibrations we send one another.”

While Darling’s musical manifesto clearly posses the potential of raising the hackles of legions of dedicated musicians and purists on every rung on the musical ladder, from self-taught folk masters to classical virtuosi — not to mention those who heal with sound and who have labored deeply to carry good musical intentions into the outer world in creations of genuine integrity — Fanale has clearly trusted the credo at its word and gone ahead to choreograph what looks to be a unique venue for her special skills and concerns.

From the doubter’s point of view, perhaps the most simplistic analogy would be the case of the inveterate “shower singer,” a closet opera diva or Broadway belter who manages to cast caution to the winds and allows him or herself the uninhibited indulgence of vocal self-abandonment. The individual in question may or may not be reckoned to be achieving a “pretty” — much less CD-worthy — sound or performance, but, as believers will hasten to remind us, this is only the view from the outside; the inside story may be completely at odds with the concerns of such critics.

For them, the intent and the feeling are the alpha and omega of the matter or, to stand Duke Ellington’s criteria slightly on its head, “If it feels good, it is good.”

“I wish I had gone to music school,” Fanale admits, “but I came from a medical background, so it just happened that I went into nursing. Later on, I went into music therapy; I have two masters’ degrees, one from Yale in nursing and one from Wesleyan in music therapy.”

While Fanale feels she is able to “play anything” stylistically, when asked what she would be performing on in the forthcoming format, she said, “I would be performing on a tenor Native American flute. I would eventually like to go back to doing some drumming, but I will be performing on a piano in the concert and I may be performing on what’s called a ‘Hapi drum.’ It’s a cylindrical metal drum with openings that are slats and I many times will vocalize with that. It’s very, very wonderful, very magical.”

Asked if she would be the sole performer, Fanale offered, “Well, for most of it. I have a friend who will be coming in on a couple of songs and doing two vocals with me. I’ll be reading the poetry of Rumi and Hafiz, and maybe a few other poets who were influenced by them and then playing whatever comes from my heart, from inside of me, a musical response to it.”

At length, Fanale obliges my curiosity by sharing a small sample of her presentation with me over the telephone, opening a volume of poems by Rumi (Jala ad-Din Muhammad Rumi), a 13th-century Persian theologian and Sufi mystic. She read aloud a poem titled “Troubled?”

Then stay with me
For I am not

A thousand naked amorous ones
Dwell in ancient caves beneath my eyelids

Here’s a pick:
My whole body is an emerald that begs,
“Take me,”

Write all that worries you on a piece of
parchment —
Offer it to God
Even from the distance of a millennium
I can ream the flame in my heart
Into your life
And turn all that frightens you
Into holy incense ash

A lifelong lover of the mysteriously mischievous Rumi, I was delighted and moved by the unpretentious reading of his affectionate ode of final consolation. Then, Fanale told me, “I’m putting you on speaker phone so you can hear while I play.”

A few frail — not quite in tune – piano notes tried the atmosphere, perhaps the dabblings of a youngster who has yet to undergo the rigors of formal training. Then, with gently growing confidence, other notes appeared in the airspace, hesitant, humble, confining themselves to the safety of D Major, never straying too far afield. Gradually, the music morphed itself into a patient, almost sentimental thread of melody faintly redolent of the nostalgic ballads of, perhaps, a fledgling Stephen Foster. Yet music warmly felt, without guile, and of gentle, benign spirit.

Was it truly the sonic equivalent of Rumi, of a mystical poem called ‘Troubled?’ and its fatherly embrace? In the end, does it matter?

It is enough that it is so for a woman named Rosie and that she is willing to risk her outreaching heart with any who wish to hear its fragile, still-exploring song.

An author and composer, columnist Joseph Marcello of Northfield focuses on music and theater. He can be reached at josephmarcello@verizon.net.

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