Thursday, June 25, 2020

Music That Helps

In these days of pandemic, how one deals with the inevitable loss of a loved one is often painful for all sides.  In many hospitals and hospices throughout the world, visitors (until recently) have not been allowed into the room: now, at most, only one person can come in at a time and only if you are healthy.  In 2018, vibraphonist, composer, and educator Chris Dingman was able to create music for his father as the elder Dingman lay in his home hospice bed. The father had such a hard time sleeping when in the ICU and, subsequently, in an inpatient hospice center but was able to rally enough to go home for the final seven weeks of his life.  His son turned to the one part of his life that would help, music, and began improvising phrases and forms to help calm his father's nerves, to regulate his breathing, to take his thoughts in a different direction. The vibraphonist recorded these evening sessions onto CDs that his father could play when the son was away.  Other than the disks made for the father, Chris Dingman kept the music private for several years. When I spoke to him earlier this year, he was planning on making the music, now called "Peace",  available to hospitals and hospices with an eye towards in-facilities performances.  Since the pandemic struck the US, he has conducted on-line performances and video chats.  The album is available as a download or a five-disk set through and a percentage of the sales will go to the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, an organization that provides mental health services for the African American community.

"Peace"lives up to its name. The gentle melodies, the deliberate pace of the music, the swirling sound of the vibes in your ears, has a calming effect. If you just listen, you will slow down. Don't multi-task, don't read, cook, clean, chat with friends, just sit and listen. You may fall asleep; don't worry, that's fine. If you get bored, it's because you're not paying attention. The song titles came from the elder Mr. Dingman with occasional help from his son. The titles have stories and emotions involved; perhaps, you'll give them names as well.

Whatever you do with this truly exquisite music, know that is a labor of love, a conversation with a loved one, once private but now shared with a world in need of peace. And, for a good cause!

For more information, go to  Click on the Bandcamp link above to go directly to the album page. You, too, can make a donation to the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation by clicking on the link in the opening paragraph.

Here is the opening track:

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