Liner Notes for Walking Each Other Home

Dedication

As I welcome each listener to this CD, I am grateful for every single moment of the last 15 years. I am grateful to everyone who joined the Threshold Choir, who added our mission to their own life, who sang with me at a bedside, came to any choir gathering, who gave their time, spirit and love to this amazing work, to this reconciling human celebration.

I gratefully dedicate this CD to Ronnie Gilbert, whose voice I heard 57 years ago when I was 8 and with whom I sang at a bedside last year—experiences which have given shape, purpose and great beauty to my life—and to my Beloved Cindy Smith, who is also giving shape, purpose and great beauty to my life.

I stand in awe and deep gratitude of my life's friend Melanie DeMore. It's been a joy, a privilege and an education to work alongside you every single minute of this past decade.

My thanks to Ellen Rose, my friend and co-conspirator, are beyond words. Ellen has become my inner voice of reason, of devotion to the Threshold Choir and of epic silliness of the sacred variety. Ellen's vision, her tenacity and her love and belief in our work at bedsides has been the source of great support and joy to me.

I thank Ram Dass for the inspiration and the quote; I am grateful to the singers, the songwriters, the studio and engineer, our mixing engineer and all the Threshold Choir Board, both current and past. Each has made a contribution that brought us to where we are right now, a significant factor in how end-of-life care is coalescing in our culture and how many of us allow our ultimate death to shape and enhance our current lives.

Since March 2007, The Bishop's Ranch has shared with the Threshold Choir their singularly beautiful and community-spirited location for our yearly All Choir Gatherings. Their generous support and collaboration has made a tremendous difference in the life of the Threshold Choir. We are deeply grateful.

I celebrate every woman who is called to this work; I especially want to recognize and celebrate the gentle men who have braved the fortress of our feminine wisdom centered organization. You are ALL so courageous and so visionary to honor your true nature using your voices at bedsides. Thank you.
Kate Munger, Founder

Words from Friends

I am a huge fan of the Threshold Choir. With their newest CD, Walking Each Other Home, I  find myself coming to back to center, getting still, healing my heart, and remembering what is important. The songs are beautifully arranged and sung, and they invite anyone—no matter what level of singer—to start singing along and feeling the healing energy and love that comes through these songs. I highly recommend this CD! Karen Drucker

Comforting and embracing tunes. Brava! ►Ellen Robinson

Congratulations on your fine CD of beautiful, calm, and heartfelt singing, and deep appreciation for your ongoing, important work. ►Magen Soloman

The Threshold Choir's new recording, Walking Each Other Home, arrived in my life as a gift the other day. Deep in grief over a friend's death, these voices soothed my soul and carried me into the healing territory of sweet silence and acceptance. Thank you! ►Susan Osborn

Lyrics and Stories

  1. Kate:  I saw Ram Dass' profound, simple words on at the entrance to the labyrinth of a lovely church where I was to lead a Spring Equinox Labyrinth Singing Walk in a few days. The words immediately formed around a tune and we sang it as we walked that Labyrinth, as we have many more times since then. I have not met Ram Dass, and look to him as a wise elder and am deeply grateful to him. 
     
    Walking Each Other Home
    Lyrics: Ram Dass. Music: Kate Munger ©3/2013
    We are all just walking each other home.
    We are all just walking each other home.
    We are all just walking each other home.
    We are all just walking each other home.
     
  2. Kate:  I met a group of teenagers from war torn countries who were invited to the U.S. by the Amala Foundation for a week of safety, nature, community and fun. Their mornings began with a sacred fire circle where each kid was invited to speak, sing, pray or recite their poetry to one another in their native language. A young man from South Africa named Justice stood up and sang after he announced "This song blesses me."  I borrowed his lyrics and have been thrilled to send a recording of this song to Justice back in South Africa. The lovely solo voice you hear at the beginning is Cindy Smith's. 
     
    Singing This Song
    Kate Munger ©7/2013
    Singing this song blesses me.
    Singing with you blesses us.
    My heart is searching for your heart.
    Your heart is letting me find you.
     
  3. Kate: At that same fire circle, I experienced a healing and a drift towards forgiveness with a long forgotten friend. I use this song to encourage myself to move in the direction of forgiveness even when I can't imagine arriving at forgivingness. "We Begin Again in Love" came from a liturgy written by Rob Eller-Isaacs, a UU minister now in Minneapolis MN. 
     
    The Arc of My Life

    Kate Munger ©7/2013
    The arc of my life forgives and reconciles.
    It may not be today, and it will be done.
     
    We Begin Again in Love
    Lyrics: Rob Eller-Isaacs. Music: Kate Munger ©1/2014
    I forgive myself.
    I forgive you.
    We begin again in love.
     
  4. Peggy: My Threshold Choir songs came out of singing bedside for people at the end of life. The tenderness, courage, and great love for their families, friends, homes, and the land inspired me to write songs that reflected some of their life here in the mountains. It has been such a privilege to sing for those on the threshold, and for their families and loved ones. 
     
    Arms of Grace
    Peggy Nes ©2011
    Hold this family in your heart;
    Watch over all their loved ones.
    Help the children make their way,
    And hold them in the arms of grace.
     
  5. Sue: One of the many things I love about Lama is the opportunity to be in nature while expressing my essence through music. "There You Are" was composed one early morning, as I walked the land thinking about human connection and presence. It is a reminder to myself to stop and just be where I am. I am honored by the appreciation of the song by so many. It belongs to all of us. Thank you. 
     
    There You Are
    Sue Kiel ©2012
    There you are in the splendor of this moment.
    Here I am with you.
     
  6. Melanie: I wrote this song standing at the window in my friend Peg's casita, looking out over the mesa toward Lama Mountain. You know the way the sky looks in the morning, when you have that feeling that you are so awake, so alive, so there in that moment...? That's what this song's about.  
     
    In the Cool of the Morning
    Melanie DeMore ©8/2013
    In the cool of the morning sunlight,
    When the mountain calls my name,
    I can tell by the song of the whispering trees
    I will never be the same.
     
  7. Marti:  This song is dedicated to a woman named Dominique. The song appeared in my head after a session with her where she communicated on a level I can’t quite describe. We won’t know what the passage is like until we get there ourselves, but Dominique gave me a glimpse of divine grace in her presence with me during the last hours of her life. She was suffering and I was present to ease it. I feel that her heart left a message on mine, and this is the song it turned into. I sang it endlessly until she left this world for the next. To sweet ease and comfort, the Threshold Choir, and the music that helps me feel human compassion so deeply in tangible form. 
     
    Pure Grace
    Marti Mariette ©2011
    Lay down your burden, let go.
    Lay down your burden, let go.
    You are pure love now, you are pure grace.
    Lay down your burden, let go.
     
  8. Helen: I am so moved by things in life: the beautiful and the terrible. Piercing moments of tenderness and the great chasms of suffering and unbearable pain. I express what I experience through writing, and through song writing. It is how I process life and try to understand this process of living. And how I connect with others.
         The landscape of my life has had many losses, and many openings in those losses. It is what drew me to Hospice nursing and to the Threshold Choir. I fit and thrive in these places. Sitting at countless bedsides in the capacity of nurse, dear friend, daughter, caregiver, I have the opportunity over and over to meet the place where life and death rub up against each other. In those spaces I connect deeply in our shared humanity and in our vulnerability as living beings. I ask myself, “What wants to be expressed here? What is the shared experience?” and this is often the place where a song will come.
         For almost three weeks, the ocean and I attended each other’s bedsides. It was from that place that "Ocean Breath" was born. I am immeasurably grateful to the Threshold Choir for making a bridge between music and dying, and for so wholeheartedly embracing the songs I write, for giving them an audience and a home.
     
     
    Ocean Breath
    Helen Greenspan ©2009
    Ocean breath breathing me,
    Ocean breath breathing me,
    Ocean breath breathing;
    Ocean breath breathing me.
     

    Holding, releasing breathing me...

    Eternal breath breathing me...

    Respiro aire del mar...

    (round) Ocean breath breathing me...

  9. Kate: I cannot remember the inspiration of this song; all I know is that sometimes this sentiment is the only one we can honestly bring to a bedside. Laura Fannon's lovely voice is the solo at the beginning. 
     
    You Are Not Alone
    Kate Munger ©2011
    You are not alone;
    I am here beside you.
    You are not alone;
    I am here now.
     

    I am not alone; you are here beside me...

    We are not alone; we are here together....

  10. Marilyn: This song came early one morning, after a dream of holding and rocking a colicky baby. That's the picture I invite you to imagine while singing it, gently, at baby-rocking tempo. Soaked in choral music in my first 20 years followed by a 20-year gap and another 20 fooling around with spontaneous chants, I've been writing songs and rounds for over 15 years now. Yes, I'm getting up there, but I finally have something to sing about. The how-to-do-it door was opened by Kate Munger and the Threshold Choir is an inspiration. My heartfelt gratitude to both. 
     
    Rest Easy
    Marilyn Power Scott ©2009 Gesundheit Publishing
    Easy, rest easy;
    Let every trouble drift away.
    Easy, rest easy;
    Love enfolds you and holds you safe.
     
  11. Kate: Another song that just arrived. I wrote it the day before the Threshold Choir sang at Grace Cathedral in December of 2013. Every time we sing it now, I see 50 of us ringing the Labyrinth, singing in that place of Grace. 
     
    Life Grace Trust
    Kate Munger ©01/12/2012
    I live my life in a river of grace.
    I trust this river will carry me home.
     
  12. Penelope: “Dear One” came about when I was thinking about the silent words that go through my mind when preparing to sing at a bedside. I realized that, no matter who I was singing for, I always carried the same invocation in my heart: “Dear One, Thank you for your love. Thank you for all you have done. Thank you for all you have given. Now it’s your time to rest.”
         I have been deeply touched by the ways people have responded to and used this song. At a Dances of Universal Peace retreat, I taught 'Dear One' to a group of people who expressed interest in the work of the Threshold Choir. I then asked one of the men if he would sit in the center of our small circle and allow us to sing it to him. As we did, he began sobbing and seemed to be experiencing a profound catharsis. When the tears subsided, he explained that he been serving as the full-time caregiver for his elderly mother for several years. The song helped him feel as though his actions had been recognized. Several people have told me about singing “Dear One” over and over to beloved pets who were dying or undergoing euthanasia. They said it helped them give voice to their feelings about having to let go of these faithful companions. I feel so grateful that this song is making its way out into the world! 

     
    Dear One
    Penelope Salinger ©2008
    Dear One, thank you for your love.
    Dear One, thank you for all you have done.
    Dear One, thank you for all you have given.
    Now it's your time to rest.
     
  13. Kate: Estelle joined the Threshold Choir on the day she receive a final diagnosis. She used her 18 months singing with us to spread as much joy and comfort as she could.  Her husband Paul said, "Estelle would love to have her song included with your CD, which would be just one more piece of her life that continues on."  We are terribly grateful to her family for allowing us to honor Estelle here, in this way. 
     
    I Am Whole 
    Estelle Kinsella ©2011
    Hold me, heal me, guide me, I am... whole.
     
  14. Irene: I've been singing since I was a little girl and have been an active member of the Marin Threshold Choir for about 10 years. I've had some heartwarming experiences singing at the bedsides of some amazing people that I will always cherish. The inspiration for "In the Quiet" came to me in the wee hours of the morning at a time when I was very busy working on a variety of other projects. I tried to hush my mind-chatter so I could get back to sleep, but found that impossible until I put the melody for "In the Quiet" down on paper. When Kate Munger heard the song a few weeks later and added the harmony, the song took on a life of its own and hearing others sing it now warms my heart. 
     
    In the Quiet
    Irene Favreau ©2010
    In the quiet of this moment,
    I am at peace, all is well.
     
  15. Annie: I have sung weekly at multiple bedsides for almost four years now. Those experiences have honed my ability to choose appropriate songs in the moment, and have provided inspiration to compose songs of my own to offer. The process can be complex as I wrestle both with what I want to convey and consider my own presumptions about what a person would find beneficial near the end of life as we know it. Ultimately, I can’t help but voice what I could imagine wanting, were our positions reversed. In the midst of whittling through the complexity, often it’s the simple, universal themes that are revealed, and often, the most fitting. May Peace Be With You came from that place. Most importantly, it says what I truly wish for all people for whom we sing, and for ourselves: peace, love, and grace—now and always. I am honored that this song is included in the third Threshold Choir recording, and deeply grateful that my life is so significantly and beautifully affected by service related to the Threshold Choir and Pikes Peak Threshold Singers. 
     
    May Peace Be With You
    Annie Garretson ©2012
    May peace be with you.
    Peace be with you now.
    May peace be with you always.
    Peace be with you, now and always.
     
  16. Walking Each Other Home (Reprise)
    Lyrics: Ram Dass. Music: Kate Munger ©3/2013
     

About the Cover Photo

As I was starting the Threshold Choir in the year 2000, I found the card of this photo. Much of the detail you see on the cover was not present in the card AND yet I loved the imagery of the gateway to the setting or rising sun (who knows?). I also loved the shimmer on the stones leading to the gateway. That added tremendous meaning to the picture for me. I probably sent that card to special folks 25 times. Then in 2008 a photographer was sent from the San Francisco Chronicle to take photos of the SF Threshold Choir.  It was Robert Vente, THAT photographer. We made a lovely connection and he has been very generous in letting us use his image. I love the photo, the card, the story and the way Kathryn (Pogo Design) has lovingly treated it.

Credits

Recorded May 20 - 22 at Jay Butler's Two Willow Studio, Forest Knolls CA
Produced by Kate Munger and Melanie DeMore
Recorded by Don Dickinson
Mixed and Mastered by Dave Moulton, Groton MA
Graphics by Pogo Design, PogoDesign.com
Photography by Robert Vente, VentePhoto.com
Singers: Annie Garretson, Cindy Smith, Ellen Rose, Helen Greenspan, Kate Munger, Laura Fannon, Mary Busby, Melanie DeMore, Sherrin Loyd