Luminous Moments: Singing an Elder’s Lifesong

This is a very exciting time in the Lifesongs calendar.  For the last several months, we have all – elders, youth, artists, and community members – been wholeheartedly engaged in sharing our lives and stories with one another, and in creating songs (and even dances!) together.  On May 7th, as part of the Academy’s Festival of Learning, we had the opportunity to share these songs with the wider community at the Lensic.

As we prepared for I Saw The Mystery: Lifesongs in Concert, we reflected upon the year that has been: the heart-opening conversations, the personal discoveries, the insights that we have shared as a community, and the songs that have been so lovingly created. Our Luminous Moments.

I was honored to perform a song called The Long Winter at the 2015 Lifesongs concert at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, and to record it on our brand new Lifesongs CD, Love is Here: Songs and Poems from the Heart. The Long Winter was collaboratively written by an elder in hospice named Lillian Siegel with Lifesongs composer Grisha Krivchenia. Lillian was 101 when she wrote this song with Grisha, and she discussed “the long winter” of her life with him, which became the central theme of her song.

Lillian loves Jazz music. She knew the Gershwins when she was growing up in New York City. Together Lillian and Grisha wrote a jazz ballad that epitomizes a certain time, space, and sensibility. I remember being very nervous on the long country ride to her home in Glorieta, on my way to premiere her Lifesong for her at her bedside. My nervousness faded when I met Lillian, her daughter Stephanie, and their cats. Lillian was so full of life. She reminded me of the salty east coasters from my home. I sang Lillian’s song to her, accompanied by Grisha’s masterful piano performance. She loved it. And she was so full of opinions. Final text changes were made right there. I felt blessed to witness a tiny piece of their intimate, collaborative process. Her daughter thanked us repeatedly as we left. I thought of that day, and of Lillian’s smile, when I was singing her song at the Lensic, and later when I was recording it in the studio.

I hope you will enjoy listening to The Long Winter!

I have sung in many contexts over the years- for celebrations of life including weddings, funerals, and birthdays- but the experience of performing a Lifesong stands out. Singing words and notes that have been carefully crafted through relationship and exchange over the course of months- words and melodies that have deep meaning for an elder- makes the act of performing profound. Here the song I sing is an artistic expression of a person’s life, a life worthy of respect, love, and gratitude. Singing it requires care. A Lifesong is full of meaning and transformation for the elders, families, artists, performers, and audiences involved, and it lives beyond the process and the performance in video and audio recordings, in written music and words, in future performances and retellings of the stories behind the song, and in memories. It’s rare to be able to function as an artist in this way- to be a part of a process that celebrates the lives of our elders, a process that creates connection between the generations through intimate collaboration, and lifts up elders’ voices in original music shared in community.

Thank you for joining us for I Saw The Mystery: Lifesongs in Concert to witness the performance of 10 new pieces that were created in similar collaborations this season at the Lensic Performing Arts Center this past Saturday. In my opinion, this celebration of the human journey was unlike any other creative performance one can experience. The works from the concert spanned musical styles, sentiments, subject matter, and were performed by more than 100 members of our community across generations and backgrounds. If you joined us at the concert, you were one of the first to get a copy of our new CD, Love is Here: Songs and Poems from the Heart. Lillian’s song, The Long Winter, is one of many original Lifesongs on the CD. We feel so fortunate to be able to share this work with you and are offering this CD as a premium for donation.

If you are looking for other ways to be involved in this meaningful work, we are offering three workshops over the next few weeks, each providing different experiences and insights into creating communities of care.
They are:

The Lifesongs Process

Creating Your Lifesong

Community Story Gathering Workshop

I invite you to be a part of our community of care.
For more information on how to become involved with Lifesongs, or to order your copy of Love is Here: Songs and Poems from the Heart, please email us at, or call (505) 995-1860.

Alysha Shaw
Lifesongs Program Coordinator