Little Bonnie Inspires a New Album

Our Bonnie Lass

Last October a pretty cool thing happened. We became grandparents. Our daughter, Christa, in Nashville, seems to be a natural mom and we were thrilled to see them in mid-December. So far, and with no doubt it will continue, watching this priceless new human grow is a true joy.

Late in the fall, I started thinking about songs to play on my harp for the baby. Then she was born and christened, Bonnie Reed Stockdale (yes, really). So, immediately I knew the perfect song for our Bonnie Lass, the Scottish lullaby, “Bonnie at Morn.” Then I started to think about other lullabies I had and already played. Quickly, I realized I wanted to assemble a collection of lullabies to reflect the heritages of her parents, grandparents, and the wider world I hope she will explore. Thus, my latest album, Bonnie at Morn, was born and I’m delighted to share the finished album with you. Here is a link to a three-page document that has information about the songs and lyrics (click here).

Releasing the album has meant reworking my website amid planning for the distribution. The album is for sale and/or streaming on my website, iTunes, Spotify, and all other digital distribution platforms (or will be as soon as CDBaby finishes on their end).

A huge thank you to two of my favorite people, Carol Kappus and RoJean Loucks, for allowing me to include their original songs on the album. I’m eternally grateful for their gifts. And, of course, to my primary patron-of-the-arts-saint hubby, Rick. He wants you to know that he has rigorously tested all of these songs and they aren’t boring, but they will help you (or any handy small child) drift off into a beautiful, relaxed state.

Bonnie’s wonderful father, Luke Stockdale, is from Melbourne, Australia, so I reached out to two of my harp friends in Australia to find out about lullabies in their culture. They sent me YouTube links to two traditional pieces, one of which, “Maranoa Lullaby,” ended up on the album. The sheet music I was able to find on the song was just a simple melody line which I noodled on for quite a while before I came to, what I think, is a lovely arrangement. Additionally, one Aussie friend told me about a Melbourne jazz pianist who recorded an album of lullabies after the birth of her son. I was able to go on her website and download the sheet music for the whole album. Sometimes, technology does make the world better! Simply put, transcribing jazz piano to the lever harp is a challenge. After working through all the pieces and recording two, “Forever, and No Time at All,” the title piece from her lullaby album is also on my album. This beautifully melodic piece is perfect for the harp. Since I am covering her song, I obtained the officially required licensing, and I’ve been following her on social media. I’ll reach out to her soon to share the recording and I sincerely hope she approves.

Of course, I had several Celtic and standard lullabies already in my repertoire and they were obvious adds to the album song list. I also had a couple of other songs that I knew needed to be included. Especially, “Lullaby for Luke,” by my dear harp friend, RoJean Loucks. How could I not use that one for Bonnie’s father?! Another cherished harp friend, Carol Kappus, has a beautiful original song called, “Eventide,” which I wanted to use. They both graciously granted permission for this album. Carol also supplied my starting arrangements for “Bonnie at Morn” and “Fais Dodo.” Kristy Hewitt and Nancy Hurrell granted me permission to start with their arrangements of two important tunes, one Scottish and one French. However, I want to expand the cultural scope of the song list to make it more international. One day I realized that I had two old books of folk tunes on my shelf that I had never actually reviewed. I opened those and found three important tunes: Italian, German, and most importantly to me, a Swedish lullaby. These three simple piano arrangements were also added to the album after quite a bit of noodling. I have no Italian heritage, but Italy is a place we have spent time and love very much, so I was happy to have Italy represented on the album. There are two French tunes to honor the love that both Bonnie’s Mom and Aunt have of France. There are two tunes, one Norwegian and one Polish, I adore, and I have been playing for years. They are actually Christmas carols but fit perfectly in this set both thematically and musically. “Brahms’ Lullaby” is a classic and obviously needed to be included on the album, but it has additional meaning for me as it was one of the earliest tunes that I learned to play on my harp. I had a very simple arrangement that I spent a lot of time with while sitting in my small apartment learning to play. This new arrangement is the result of working through several versions. Annually, my most cherished gig is playing during the holiday season at the library. I usually play in the lobby right when the kids are leaving storytime. I have my small Waring harp setup and invite them to play along with me. The number one requested tune is, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” And stars are kinda my thing, so I love playing this song. “Twinkle” even makes a surprise appearance in my upcoming “grownup” album! So, for the arrangement on this album, I went a little bit crazy and created an epic compilation.

In mid-November, I thought I’d go in, do a quick recording, quick edit, and have the recording out to everyone by Thanksgiving. HA. Our extraordinary newly updated library has a full professional recording studio, so I planned to record there. I spent two mornings at the library learning the ropes so that I could go in and do my recording. Watching the media expert explain everything it seemed like the process would be no problem. HA. When we arrived, the computer wasn’t on, and we couldn’t get some of the equipment to work for us. Due to our lack of experience, a little bit later we walked out without having done any recording. Immediately, I called my recording wizard, Darren Crisp. He is a treasure. I spent about two hours with him and recorded the whole album. Letting the professional do their job so you can concentrate on your job is always the best way to go. Then I ran home and spent about 18 hours editing the songs the same way I had done for my first album. Well, times have changed, software has changed, standards have changed, and therefore this editing attempt didn’t work out. But it was time well spent. I had a chance to listen to the songs and make some decisions. Two songs didn’t make the cut and four needed to be re-recorded. Primarily because I needed to completely rework my arrangement to “Twinkle” and change my approach to “Maranoa.” I also needed to buy and learn new editing software. But first I discovered I needed a piece of hardware. Internet research is all well and good but being able to walk into a music store in Portland and have the sincerely kind man at the desk answer my questions and show me what I needed was extremely helpful. He even volunteered to be phone-up technical support if I needed it. Portlanders.

After Thanksgiving, we got home, and I went back to Darren’s for “take two”— an hour for the final recording session. Then on to “take two” of the editing extravaganza. Better but I was missing one critical step in the process. Oh so patient Darren provided a final quick tutorial and the editing commenced again. After, of course, being sidetracked to edit the Spring Folk Harp Journal and having covid, from which I’m still not recovered. Thank goodness I’m boosted! For the album, third time, I believe, has been the charm on the editing. While there is never perfect playing nor perfect editing all songs were done with love for our beautiful Bonnie Lass. I hope that she will enjoy the album for many years and be interested in hearing the stories of each one of the pieces. I’m making a little book for her that will have this story and a few more of the tales and details. I learned a new bookbinding technique last week that I’m using for her book.

I look forward to sharing with you and I hope you enjoy the album.

Last weekend (February 6, 2022), an article about the album appeared in our local paper.