Jun 262013
 
"Reaching for the Light" CD cover

See that lovely cover photo? My wonderful niece Adrianna Marie Giles did that for me. I’m a lucky auntie!

Watch out folks… here comes the deluge. 🙂 I have a whole new collection of things to post that have been in the works for a year.

First, there are 15 new tracks, all featuring Heather Prusse (who is amazing). They’re available on a CD titled “Reaching for the Light.” An accompaniment track CD is also available. The super-high-quality digital downloads are available for purchase here. (For any of you who prefer it, they’re also available on iTunes–I hope that will make it easier for those of you on iPads/iPods/iWhatevers who have been having trouble with the downloads.)

The CD and all the high-quality tracks are available immediately. I’ll be posting the scores and free MP3s a couple at a time over the next month or two, since the work involved in adding them all at once makes me want to head for the hills and live like a hermit.

Listen:

Because You Prayed for Me

Miracles

The two songs I have posted today are “Because You Prayed for Me,” a medium-voice solo with violin obbligato; and an updated arrangement of “Miracles” with flute obbligato. The Personal Composer scores are available for both selections should you wish to transpose or resize the music. Free 128Kbps MP3 downloads of each are available for personal use.
The loooong story that follows below is what prompted “Because You Prayed for Me.” If you’re interested, read on. If not, go enjoy the music and this beautiful Wednesday. (Well, it’s beautiful here, and I hope it’s beautiful wherever you are!)
The story:
Waldo Canyon Fire evacuation

Looks scary, doesn’t it? That’s because it was. See the 390th car back on the left? Yeah, that’s me.

In June of 2012, we were chased out of our home and sent running for cover (along with 32,000+ other Colorado Springs residents) as a raging wildfire roared into the lovely neighborhoods just west of us. Low humidity, record high temperatures, and high winds blowing in precisely the wrong direction combined to create the perfect storm.

Perfect for the fire, that is. Not so much for the rest of us.

The Waldo Canyon Fire would become the most destructive in state history. It would go on to claim 346 homes, two people’s lives, and leave roughly 29 sq. miles of charred forests and decimated neighborhoods in its wake.

It was terrifying.

Waldo Canyon Fire

Seeing a friend’s house in a shot like this was a bit of a shock, to say the least.

As the fire crept toward civilization, we watched the news and social media, anxious for every bit of information we could get. Each passing day was full of smoke and statistics, evacuation notices and dire warnings, but each day was also full of well-wishers–friends, family, strangers from far and wide–who stopped by on Twitter or Facebook to say, “I’m praying for you.” (My favorite was a fellow denizen of a BYU sports message board who found it a bit odd to pray for us by our screen names, but did it anyway. She assured us that God knew precisely who she was talking about. I believe that. 🙂 )
A lost and confused visitor.

What do you do when your habitat is on fire? Visit my back yard, of course.

I can’t tell you how grateful the simple phrase “I’m praying for you” made me feel.

When the evacuations were lifted and we drove the 10 hours home from my parents’ house, the song “Because You Prayed for Me” started formulating itself in my head, and by the time we got home, it was a full-blown lyric. A few changes, an appropriate melody and… voila! it should have been done.

But it wasn’t done. It just wasn’t right. Or perhaps it just wasn’t the right time. I tweaked it and worked on it and worried over it for months, and it still wasn’t right. Then, before even a year had passed since the Waldo Canyon Fire had descended on us like a voracious dragon…

Black Forest Fire

It’s always amazing how beautiful pictures like this can be–in a horrible sort of way.

…another wildfire erupted in the nearby community of Black Forest. If the first fire was a dragon, this fire was two. Or three. Or twenty. It’s appetite eclipsed the previous fire by far, destroying over 500 homes, claiming two lives, and prompting the evacuation of roughly 38,000 people in a very short space of time.

This time the fire started in an inhabited area. Again the humidity was low, the winds were high and therefore this drove of dragons could pick and choose its breakfast, lunch and dinner. Which it did.

Again we watched the news and worried, and again the messages of love and hope poured in from all over the country and around the world: “We’re praying for you.”

Black Forest Fire

The courage and skill of the firefighters was a wonder and a blessing. They’re rock stars around here.

The weather forecast was grim: thunder and dry lightning with very little hope of rain.

We prayed for it anyway. And on the third day of the fire, in the mid-afternoon, it came. Torrential rain, directly over the burning forest, giving the valiant firefighters the upper hand at last.

Let those call it coincidence who will; we who lived it know better.

It was a direct and unmistakable answer to prayer, sent from a loving Heavenly Father, as people near and far lifted up their voices together and asked for what they needed.

Thank you!

It feels so good to get to be grateful.

Now, finally, the song feels right.

This song was started by one fire, and finished by another. It doesn’t speak of literal fires, but has to do with the figurative “trials by fire” that each of us passes through in life, not once but many times.

This song is my way of saying thanks to the many people who offer prayers for others during these fiery trials. It’s my way of acknowledging the amazing and sometimes under-valued blessing of knowing that someone is praying for you.

Jun 222013
 

A fellow musician and (even better) a fellow Colorado resident has posted a series of articles with some good observations and advice on entering music in the LDS Church’s Annual Music Submission. If this is something you’ve done in the past, or considered doing in the future, this series of articles by Nathan Howe will interest you:

Let the Parade of Losers begin!
Next on Parade: Baptism
The Parade Comes to a Close
Series Summary: Best Practices for the Annual Church Music Submissions

Official information for submissions is found here.

Nathan has some great music available for download on his site as well.

Enjoy!

Jun 162013
 
Growing up is never an easy thing. Just ask anyone who’s done it. (Lets me out… most of the time… 😉 ) Childhood insecurities turn into teenage insecurities, and often those insecurities follow us right into adulthood. Remember those awful PhysEd classes in grade school? the ones where they chose two captains and let them take turns torturing the less athletic students by picking classmates for their baseball teams? Know who was the last one chosen every time? Yesiree. I couldn’t hit a baseball to save my life. (Actually, it was a blessing to be chosen last, because that meant you were often too far down the order to have to take a turn at bat. And you got to play right field.)

I remember watching Danny Ainge at a church youth activity. Baseball. Again. He stepped up to the plate, and the entire outfield (a couple of 16-year-old boys and the entire Beehive class) moved back 20 yards. And he hit it over our heads, out of the park. (To be fair, he did eventually play for Toronto in the majors, so it really wasn’t our fault.)

For the wimpy kid who was always chosen last, that was simply awe-inspiring. What I would have given to hit the ball out of the park… or to simply hit the ball.

Yep, the old man was young, once upon a time. And is it any wonder I was always chosen last?  Seriously. What kind of batter wears an Easter basket on her head?

Yep, the old man was young, once upon a time. And is it any wonder I was always chosen last? Seriously. What kind of batter wears an Easter basket on her head?

Let me tell you about something my dad said to me when I was a child. I guess, to be honest, I had better first admit that I don’t remember many things my dad taught me. Perhaps because I didn’t pay a lot of attention, and, well… I was a kid. In one ear and out the other. You know how it goes.

My dad was taking something apart under the hood of one of our cars. He had tools scattered far and wide, he was covered in grease (car engine compartments were a lot more accessible in those days, and a lot greasier), and an assortment of mysterious-looking, grease-covered parts littered the driveway. I wandered over to watch. I can still remember the smell of the grease–it has a definite smell.

When he noticed he had an audience, he thought he’d impress me by asking, “Well, think you could put this back together?”

Being the analytical kid I was (and a little perturbed at his disorganization), I answered, “Sure. I’d just put the parts neatly in order and keep them that way, and then put them back the way they came out.” Yes, there was an implied criticism in that comment. Something along the lines of, “How do you expect to ever even FIND all the pieces IN THIS MESS????” Being the tactful child I was, I didn’t say that part out loud. Being the transparent child I was (and still am) it was undoubtedly written all over my face, which probably made it worse.

Little did either of us know that in that moment, my future hung in the balance. If my dad had become defensive, if he had told me I didn’t know the first thing about fixing cars, and yelled at me to clear off and play with my Barbies or something… well, it would have been quite understandable, but my life might have been radically different.

Instead, he looked me in the eye and said, “You know, I believe you could. I believe you could do anything you put your mind to.”

That may have been the wisest thing my dad ever said, not because it was true , but because it could be true. Because it was possible. Because it was going to be true if I believed it.

I believed it. Somehow, the awkward little girl, who was always chosen last because she couldn’t hit a baseball to save her life, believed it. Maybe because it was so spontaneous, so un-premeditated on my dad’s part, I believed it. And down the road, when my piano wanted tuning and I had no money, but I did have a crescent wrench… I can do that. When I needed black formal shoes in a hurry and had only brown ones and a permanent ink marker… I can do that. When I needed a song on a particular topic but had only staff paper and a sharpie… I can do that. I’ve spent my life making things out of other things, or out of nothing at all, improvising at every turn, and every time I meet a challenge, the smell of automotive grease comes wafting in unbidden, and I hear those words again:

“I believe you could. I believe you could do anything you put your mind to.”

Childhood insecurities… teenage insecurities… some have come and gone. Some have hung around to throw me curve balls. That vote of confidence, in the middle of a mess on the driveway, has been my go-to bat. When I manage to hit something out of the park, that’s the one I’m swinging.

Happy Father’s Day, dad.

Jun 142013
 

You know, I’m not much of a performer myself, and one of the things that makes songwriting so rewarding for me is listening to other people perform my songs. So many beautiful interpretations are posted to YouTube, that I thought today I’d share the wealth.

First up is this lovely cover of “Be Still, My Soul,” by Hayden Clark. Hayden was brought to my attention by Chad Neth, (who also recorded and mixed the track) so I actually know a little bit about Hayden.
Hayden was born in Seattle in 1995 to his parents Matt and Jodie Clark. In 1997 his family moved to League City, TX so his mother could be near MD Anderson Cancer center for treatments. Hayden loves fishing, spending time in the outdoors, and music. He has a huge contagious smile and enjoys spending time with friends. He sings Tenor in the Clear Springs High School Choir and for his ward and stake in League City, TX.

Of this hymn, Hayden says, “I really love this song because it reminds me that I’m never alone because the Lord’s always fighting for me.”

Next is this choral rendition of “Jezu mój krasny” (Beautiful Savior), conducted by Piotr Sikora, and performed by the Wyższobramski Chór Kameralny from Cieszyn (Poland). This was posted on my old YouTube page, but for those of you who may have missed it, it’s well worth listening to this beautiful interpretation. (And ahhhh…. those gorgeous acoustics!)
Here’s one of my favorites–a rendition of the piano duet “My Heavenly Father Loves Me” that is just… charming! (I can’t think of a better word.) Well done!
Last of all, here’s a recording of “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” sung by Jenny Smith. The video mistakenly attributes the arrangement to her as well… nope, it’s still mine ;), though she does add some chords on the piano under the a cappella section. This is one beautiful voice.
So there you have it–a four-course YouTube feast. Eat hearty!
Jun 072013
 
Daniel DeFord Imp Extraordinaire

My son the philosopher.

A long time ago, when my son Daniel was four or five years old, in a fit of temper he looked at his older sister and said, “Amy, GET A LIFE!!!.” Then he added the statement that has become a regular part of the DeFord Family Lexicon:

“I have a life, but it’s stupid.”

So… I updated this pretty little website. I put all my streamed audio on Soundclick, using their Flash-based players so I wouldn’t have to sell my soul to pay for bandwidth. (Soundclick costs me a pretty penny, but only a pretty penny… not a pretty bazillion dollars.) I finished it all up and…

***drum roll***

It would appear that Adobe has simply stopped providing Flash to all mobile devices. (You computer gurus out there, yeah, you knew that. It’s what I get for not playing “Keeping Up With the Internet Roulette” in my rare free moments.)

So until I change all the players to something non-Flash-based, any of you using newer (Android 4+) mobile devices or iPads/iPhones/iWhatevers will find that the streaming audio may be uncooperative. Until I get the players changed out, here’s a workaround if streaming doesn’t work for you: use the links under the “Free MP3s” tab. Click, right-click or control+click the link to save the file to your device, listen away, then delete the file when you’re finished or keep it if you want it.

Comfy chair. Which I need.

This. I need this.

In the meantime, I will be subbing in new player code that is accessible without Flash. I will be doing this for approximately 180 pages. I will sleep when I can no longer see straight, propped up in front of my keyboard, and I will end up permanently bent into the shape of a computer chair.

I had nothing else to do anyway. “I have a life… but it’s stupid.” 😉