Music truly has NO boundaries! I wanted to share a little project I was asked to be part of with the lovely Czech/Canadian singer/songwriter Lenka Lichtenberg (Click her name to check out her website). She approached me earlier in 2019 to collaborate on this really amazing project. She had come across poems from her late Grandmother that were written during her stay in a concentration camp!
Lenka approached various female musicians to take a poem and turn it into a song. I was one of the lucky few to be asked to take the lovely, heartbreaking, moving words and turn it into a song. This was such an honour for many reasons. This is history in my hands, and the trust from a person who I had never met face to face and had only known for a few weeks. Again, just to say what I said at the start, music has no boundaries… the fact that we didn’t know each other at all was not a concern when speaking music. I did question if I could do the beautiful poem justice! (Watch the video to hear the song to see how it turned out.)
This was one of the most difficult songs I have ever composed! (To clarify, not the lyrics.. but the music.) First, I should point out that the poem is in Czech, which I have zero background in other than my maiden name Hovorka is Czech. Lenka sent me a recording of the lyrics so that I could hear how the words flowed naturally and a translation of the poem.
Once I knew how the words were pronounced, were the nuances and accents were in the words, I had to look at the meaning and get my head, heart and soul into the words and meaning. That was an amazing and heavy project as the words are very powerful but dark and sad.
I came up with a melody that fit the theme and ora of the poem, then created a melody that allowed the words to flow with the music in a way that made sense for the language pronunciation as well as a melody that spoke the message of the song along with the words. (I should point out here I told Lenka she could certainly change were word syllables fell incase I had it wrong, and truth be told, she did move accents of the words around a bit, but for the most part I was close.) This was such an amazing collaboration for me.
After the project was finished, the Covid-19 pandemic struck. It was eerie to me to hear how this poem truly fit this current situation… Sad really to think that this pandemic gives feelings that are somewhat comparable to concentration camps. (Obviously not nearly as severe or heartbreaking, but some links for sure.)
I asked Lenka if she would mind doing a Q & A with me to share with all of you, so you could get into the song and the heads of the artists a little more. Here are the questions I asked her and her responses.
Shy-Anne: What was it like to find your grandmothers poems?
Lenka: I found the booklets in my mom’s desk, after she passed away. 2 little tender booklets, a bit falling apart. Once I began reading, almost a shock. Disbelief. It was so good! Then I recalled my mom ONCE mentioned that grandma wrote some poems. But never gave them to me to read. Mom was a writer, among other things (teacher, etc), she must have known this was good, but … did nothing with it. Mom’s and grandma’s relationship was very complicated.