Refuge for a Soul
Voices of a Different Dream's Refuge for a Soul represents eighteen years of a fertile artistic collaboration between two inspiring performer-poets, Ellen Mason and Susan Windle, and one masterfully expressive singer, Annie Geheb. The CD, the poetry ensemble's third recording, includes some of Voices' earliest creations as well their most recent work. Beginning with the plaintive poem-song "From the St. Lawrence River," three resonant voices invite listeners into an intimate encounter with the natural world and with the human souls that, in our deepest longing, share this world. The invitation to the journey continues with the group's namesake poem, "A Different Dream," one of Susan's signature poems (often performed but first recorded for this CD), and "Here" a newer piece, both for solo spoken voice. The next two pieces-Ellen's "How to Start Writing" and Susan's " A Word" represent the poets' collaborative classroom work through school residencies with young poetry writers. With "How a Meadow Happens" the two poems evolve into an improvisational 'conversation" between the two poets. The invitation is thus extended to people of all ages to come through the doorways of language into the natural world and the deepest parts of self. "Voice of Another Woman" and "Fear," are two poems that call for the full empowerment of women in the transformation of the world. They were both recorded in 1995 for the group's audio cassette Unimagined Possibilities. Rearranged and re-recorded for Refuge, these pieces have remained a vital part of Voices', deeply feminist repertoire. Annie's cover of the Ysaye Barnwell song "Prayer" pays homage to the a capella group Sweet Honey in the Rock that has long inspired all three of the Voices' women. "Prayer" provides spiritual support for the challenges of witnessing transforming from the inside out the most painful parts of American culture, as Susan does in "The News" and "Firepower" and Ellen in "Shape of My Intention." In "Storm in the Desert" Ellen explores the cost to the soul of habitual American warfare and singer Annie gets into the conversation with her powerful rendition of the classic Motown tune "War (What is it Good For?)." Susan wrote "Between the Doors" during the heart-rending build-up to the Iraq war; the poem quickly found it's music through Annie's voice, creating the spoken and sung duet that is the second part of the piece. Together they offer the weaving of their voices as a prayer for the third way. 'Peace Poem' continues that prayer, celebrating the sweetness of our common humanity and aiming toward a culture where all life can thrive. With Patrick Doyle's "Kindle My Heart," Annie extends the sweetness, asking through the song's simply melody, to be lit by love. And Ellen's "Peace " arranged here for three spoken voices, offers a prescription for how to do the work of social transformation: "If you dare to listen/ to the smallest cries of the tiniest being...." The commitment to total engagement in the fullness of life resounds in Susan's "Ode to Yes" and is carried forward in the four pieces that are the climax of Refuge for a Soul. Ellen's poem "Mysteries of Conception" opens us wider to new life than we thought possible, and Susan's "Ocean's Psalm" destroys any preconceptions we may have had about who we truly are. And in the CD's title piece, another improvised "conversation" between the two poets and their poems, we are invited together into the wildest places of our souls and redeemed by the changes we experience there. Annie's rendition of Jeremy Geffen's 'Mystery' praises the magnificence of the natural world that surrounds and includes us. Finally, Ellen's lovely "Blossom's of Light," arranged for three cascading voices, are the words that send us back to our work and lives renewed by the radiance we have absorbed on our journey through the sights, sounds and songs of this "Refuge for a Soul." Individual Biographies: Annie Geheb has been performing in Philadelphia area coffeehouses, festivals, bars, churches and concert stages for over 30 years. She sang as a chorister and soloist with Anna Crusis Women's Choir for nine of those years. She has developed a broad range of musical styles, including folk, blues, country and gospel. By trade, she is a special education teacher who works as a support person for children with social and emotional needs. She feels that acapella singing gives her the greatest freedom to show what is in her heart. The experience of working closely with Ellen and Susan has opened her to create music inspired by the flow and feeling of poetry. This unique collaboration has strengthened and expanded her expressiveness and the power with which she can evoke meaning through music. Ellen Ford Mason wrote her first poem to thank her great-grandmother for a handmade quilt. She has performed her poetry for over thirty years in many venues: at arts festivals, coffee houses, bookstores and schools, as well as in a church in Ireland and at the non-governmental Beijing Women's Conference in 1995. Early on, she decided to memorize her poems in order to keep eye contact with her audience and loves to see a poem take up residence and transform someone from the inside. She is the co-author, along with Voices member Susan Windle, of a poetry collection entitled Already Near You: Poetry in Concert. In addition to writing and performing, she teaches adults how to listen to each other with open hearts and clear minds and teaches poetry in the schools. She loves collaborating with Susan Windle to develop and deliver poetry lessons that help students love literacy and express what is in their hearts. Along with calligrapher Myra Diaz, Ellen has created a series of painted scarves that allow people to wear her poems. Susan Windle is a poet, performer, group leader and teaching artist. She is the founder of the ensemble Voices of a Different Dream, a trio of women with whom she has been performing, recording, publishing and teaching since 1991. Theirs is a unique and evolving blend of original poetry and a capella song. A lover of collaboration in many forms, she has created and performed with composer Andrea Clearfield and jazz musicians Warren Oree and Sherry Wilson Butler. With visual artists Sara Steele and Alana Lea she has created fine art poem-prints, intimate, meditative settings of her poems with the artists' images. She has published three books of poetry: Already Near You (with Voices of a Different Dream partner Ellen Ford Mason), Between the Doors and Love Letters. With Voices she has made two recordings of poetry and song, Unimagined Possibilities and You Know My Name. Voices' third recording, Refuge for a Soul, is nearing the end of production. Susan's work and the work of her ensemble have been heard in concert halls, cultural centers, churches, synagogues, art galleries, coffee houses, street festivals and peace gatherings throughout the Delaware Valley and beyond. Both Susan and Ellen are on the roster of the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts as teaching artists. They work in Philadelphia area schools bringing poetry to children of all ages.