Music


There was a time, not too long ago, when to have a well-rounded liberal education was considered a good thing. I grew up in such a system. My education in areas of health, careers and financial management was non-existent but I could read and speak a little in three languages, knew a little Latin and dabbled in music and poetry while studying towards maths and science A-levels. That was the point at which things started to change for me.

I was blessed with a Maths teacher who was somewhat of a genius mathematically but not very gifted as a pedagogue. He expected us all to understand instinctively what was needed to solve problems. For the A* students that was no problem but most of us struggled. For me, it fell apart with integral calculus and that, I was told, was essential for A level Chemistry. Without Maths and Chemistry my best subject, Biology, had to be dropped much against my protests and those of Mr Howard my Biology teacher. Why? Well, in those days one science A level was apparently no use to anyone when it came to University entrance so when I dug my heels in and refused to give up A level Music and have extra maths homework I was reassigned to taking English and French midway through my second term.

I suppose I had these difficulties because I was a bit of a polymath which was fine up to year twelve (sixth-form we were called then) but afterwards you had to think about University and careers. Had my Maths teacher been more imaginative I could possibly have conquered the little block I had on integral calculus; at that time I could do it mechanically but didn’t understand its application to real life problems. I would have completed my science courses as planned, but I didn’t. In such circumstances I would probably have gone on to study music therapy, which needed science and music, or psychology which fascinated me then and still does – or even both – but as it was I was left with arts subjects and no ambition.

The whole experience was demoralising and I dropped out for a while after passing those exams. What followed was two years in the retail trade, then a four year degree in teaching and a lifetime drifting through the education system in various incarnations, cover teacher, class teacher, college lecturer and peripatetic music teacher. It was a good career but it never set me alight. I spent my free time variously scribbling poetry, stories and scripts, making musical arrangements for guitar, writing songs and composing my own serious “classical” music.

So many years later, I regret nothing. I did what I had to do and followed the paths I was told to follow by my elders and betters. Now I find I am still torn by many interests; history, politics, science, the environment, animals and nature – not to mention a spiritual side I usually keep under wraps. I am content if not happy. In this life nobody can be completely happy if they are aware of the plight of others. We all experience loss, which we learn to accept, and horror at terrible events, which is perhaps harder to cope with. I have fans who listen to my music on internet radio. I sell musical arrangements and compositions worldwide. I have just published my second novel which, until last week, was selling and being read. I have four books of poetry under my belt and I am working on several projects when the cats allow me some free time.

Why do I write this now? Well, as an author, I am daunted by the importance of genre and tropes. I see specialism is not confined to the sciences now but has filtered through into the arts too. Authors are expected to use pen names when they write in different genres. This is a process that is all about selling and targeting readers. The great writers of history did not confine themselves in such an unnatural way. Shakespeare wrote tragedies and comedies. He toyed with history and the paranormal. Edgar Allen Poe dabbled with detective fiction, science fiction and poetry although he is remembered for horror. Oscar Wilde dabbled in horror, moral tales and poetry although he was best known for satire, wit, and the theatre.

Take a look at my page at Author Central if you want to see diversity:

Lisa Gabriel on Author Central

If you travel over to iTunes and look me up there you will see my music is not particularly specialised either:

Lisa Marie Gabriel on iTunes

It’s just that sometimes creative people need that bit of freedom just to BE. The selling is something we would hope, often in vain, that others with entrepreneurial abilities might do for us and in this day and age that becomes less and less likely. So please forgive the polymaths of the world, the multi-genre authors and the fusion musicians. We are not trying to deceive you, we are just who we are. I hope you all had a wonderful Easter, Ostara or whatever else you like to call it and may your God/dess bless and keep you whoever He/She is.

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There is something primal about this song, isn’t there? Gary Glitter had huge stage presence; he was right up there, in your face, glam as anything you can name in the Glam Rock era and before we found out what he was capable of he was a rock hero. The fact that he was jailed for 15 years for abusing young girls came as a surprise and shock to fans but this is an example of the power and entitlement of celebrity. Nothing much changes there it seems.

Why is this song still so evocative despite the shame of the singer? The answer lies in its raw power. It is simple, it doesn’t appeal to the intellect or the soul, it appeals to the part of us that wants to follow and be included. This is an outright shout of sheer narcissism – and how we went for it as teenagers! We all aspired to be part of the gang or even envisaged ourselves as a leader. The appeal was universal, the message empty and the numbers that came on board were phenomenal.

Where am I going with this? Well, there are some parallels and I will avoid the more obvious ones. I am really trying to behave myself here, believe it or not, but my own political convictions and experience in a country where politics is, thankfully, far less tribal and visceral won’t allow me to remain silent. Yes, I try. Yes, I fail. Every single day. I don’t know what frightens me more, the monosyllabic grunts of “cuck”, “loser”, “libtard” and “sheep”, the threats against prominent liberals, the gun waving and flag waving; or the frank corruption of a political party that would allow an emotionally fragile man and a foreign power to win an election that will primarily benefit the very mentality and behaviour that encourages these dangerous feelings of entitlement.

I don’t know what dismays me more; a group of people buying into the myth of a self-made man who was made by his father’s enormous wealth, a series of investment opportunities and regular appearances on Reality TV or the fact that for the ordinary working class men and women he claims to represent there will never be a chance of becoming a star or rising out of poverty. Why do I think this? Because the days of the early twentieth century when anyone could be successful by virtue of talent and hard work are now long gone. To succeed requires celebrity, to gain celebrity means to be born into it, or wealth, for they are one and the same.

The perversion of Christian values into something utterly monstrous is a theme I will leave for another day, besides, John Pavlovitz does it so well. At the end of the day what we are faced with is a very real defeat for the working masses. They wanted to be in his gang, but they will never get to be leader – however much all the insults and foot stomping chants make them feel empowered, however much they may hate other tribes in society they feel have unjustly excluded them in the past. Leadership? Leader of the Gang, yeah? That is the provenance of the rich and entitled and nothing will be changed by any number of rousing choruses. Who are the “losers” now?


The words of I Vow To Thee, My Country sung so beautifully by Katherine Jenkins were written by Cecil Spring Rice in 1908 and define an era when the world was a very different place. It was a world that was very class conscious, where Empires ruled and where innocence existed alongside a great sense of adventure. There was still much to discover, enormous scientific discoveries had been made or were on the verge of being made, The Titanic had yet to be built, let alone sink, and the ravages of World War were as yet unthinkable. When Gustav Holst wrote the music to Jupiter from the Planets Suite the melody for “I vow to thee, my country” was forever set.

Now here I nail my colours firmly to the mast as a person of a certain age, brought up in a forces family during the twilight years of the British Empire and being made to sing this song in a primary school choir. It is a beautiful tune and a beautiful but, for many, an undoubtedly dated lyric. I learned to play Holst’s melody on recorder, melodica and piano by ear, note by painful note. It brought tears to my eyes but not before it had brought tears to others and I thought it was absolutely wonderful. To this day I believe it gives Jerusalem a run for its money as an English National Anthem but it is considered flawed and therefore rejected.

I am not a fan of nationalism. In an era when we need to act local but think global the last thing we need is national fervour any more than we need proselytizing religions fighting it out for supremacy in the Middle East or anywhere else. What the world needs is less “us and them” and more freedom and working together. This beautiful song has even been called heresy by those who hate jingoist philosophies but on the anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War I wanted to think of those words as a poet and look for a different meaning. I truly believe that Cecil Spring Rice’s words have been taken purely at face value for a long time yet beneath them lies something universal and very spiritual. So for better, for worse, here is my take on what could have been an English National Anthem but for it being considered too patriotic.

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;

This has been labelled by one churchman as heresy, but it refers to all earthly things. In the Christian tradition and understanding that means rendering unto Caesar all things that are Caesar’s. Earthly things are material, not spiritual. It says that my love should be entire and whole and perfect and if love is less than those things it cannot be love can it?

The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

Oh my, think of those words in the context of the First World War? It never ceases to amaze me how many wonderful and talented young lives were cut short in the carnage born out of a conglomeration of diplomatic mistakes and proud rulers. This was indeed a powerful call to service and a call that most young men would have responded to without question. I think of this poem in a different context though, remember it was written during peace time? I think of it as saying love is not love if it only exists in easy circumstances. This could be just as easily extrapolated to a marriage, a deep friendship, living donation of transplant organs, a hero risking his or her life to save the innocent. It is about being prepared to sacrifice everything to achieve something better. That is a concept much bandied about by those who do not truly look to the greater good, but when sacrifice is truly made in the name of life, not power and certainly not to inflict death, then that is a form of profound love.

The second verse is rarely if ever sung. I certainly cannot remember singing it and this may be because of the military references. Pretending it doesn’t exist is not the answer though. An attempt at understanding it might be better even if we choose not to sing those words.

I heard my country calling, away across the sea,
Across the waste of waters she calls and calls to me.

Only someone who has been an expat can truly understand that profound feeling of homesickness. I knew it as a child. There is something magical about the land of our birth wherever that may be and however flawed our homeland might be. Like salmon we are all programmed with the homing instinct. It is in our very genes.

Her sword is girded at her side, her helmet on her head,
And round her feet are lying the dying and the dead.
I hear the noise of battle, the thunder of her guns,
I haste to thee my mother, a son among thy sons.

There is little doubt that these lines are an appeal to youth to protect their country as they would a mother. That may not be a fashionable statement, but it is one soldiers of all nations will be able to relate to.

Now what follows are the lines that to this day bring tears to my eyes. Cecil Spring Rice extrapolates those feelings of love, sacrifice, loyalty, family and bravery to a whole different level. This is a spiritual level and no doubt he made it in the context of Christian belief but I don’t think it excludes any other belief, including humanism or atheism.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;

In other words, the country of our birth or affiliation is not the most important thing in the world. That is a country within the mind, the heart, the soul; a country that has no boundaries; a country that not everyone knows, but those who do love it will love it more than anything else.

We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;

This country Spring Rice speaks of is not defined by power, by the might of armies or the pomp and ceremony of royalty and government. Her fortress is a faithful heart, not a nuclear deterrent; her pride is suffering, not the defeat of others. These lines are telling us that deep within the human spirit is the greatest country of all and that often the human spirit cannot be defeated.

And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

And one by one we will all learn to realise that there is more than one village, one town, one country, one race, one species because in fact we are all one. We are one because our lives and the impact of our thoughts and actions impinge on the entire globe, its weather systems, its flora and fauna. This new country of ours, the country of the mind and heart that seems so sadly distant at times, is within our grasp and our own making and one by one, soul by soul, this is what all right thinking men and women will come to see. The ways of this country are not those of conquest, they do not involve the domination of one race or religion over others; they are the ways of gentleness and above all they are the paths to peace if only we open our hearts to all.

In some two years of using Radio Airplay (formerly Jango) I have noticed one overwhelming trait that I think artists SHOULD be aware of. Now, as someone of fairly advanced years for a recording artist my main focus tends to be on building a following for my songs and hoping that someone prettier will eventually go through the appropriate channels and record them commercially. As a composer with a catholic taste, there is no way anyone could accuse me of recording the same song 15 times on one CD as pop stars do. Every single one is different and for that reason targeting is an ongoing mystery that I am only just getting to understand. Then in comes the Spring Break or the Summer Vacay – or Christmas.

Now, why should that be a problem? Having gotten used to pop scores in the range between 80 and 95 on a fairly regular basis, I will suddenly see my popscore plummet below 55 during vacation periods. This is becoming such a regular feature for me, that I am starting to wonder if other Radio Airplay users see similar? The songs are the same, the geo targets are the same (although they do sometimes go a little screwy!)  More worrying is that even profiling for age has relatively little effect on the plunge.

The other issue is that popscore plunges in vacation times EVEN WHEN NEW FANS INCREASE FAST. Yes, I am telling this correctly, you may get twice as many new fans in the week as usual and still get a drastically lower pop score. Now that leads me to consider two possibilities; either there are simply more kids – huge numbers of them – on Radio Airplay signing up and voting for other more mainstream bands OR kids cruising the site and DOWN VOTING older looking performers. The worrying thing is profiling kids OUT by using premium targeting has no effect, so I believe they may be using parental accounts to do this down voting.

I don’t think this is a trend we need to worry about, as it restricts itself to those times of year when teens and kids are off school, but I do think that artists who notice a sudden plunge in pop score need to be aware of the demographic that may be causing it….

Persimew also writes as Photahsiamirabel and profiles Radio Airplay as a useful resource for independent musicians in this article:

Flying To Meet The Sunrise (album) and St Francis Prayer (single) are her most popular CDs.

This page shows you how to play the chords for One by Metallica and links to sheet music and TAB books from Metallica and various other online resources. It takes quite some time to put the graphics together for a page like this, but I hope beginners will enjoy it. There is a promise of more to come with some more advanced technical workouts too.

When I was little, my Dad signed up to the World Record Club. Remember it? You could choose a couple of LPs a month or get the recommended one? Well, he built up quite a collection of wonderful recordings of classical music from the greatest composers, and Mum meanwhile introduced us to Mulligan, Coltrane and Parker…

This was quite sophisticated stuff for a seven year old to be absorbing, but one of my favourites became Vaughan Williams – via a recording of the Tallis Fantasia – wasn’t that on A Child’s Christmas In Wales? Anyway it led me on to exploring more Vaughan Williams, and this page was the result Vaughan William’s songs became a dissertation, then a book…. I have even sold a couple, thanks to the wonders of the internet! OK – time to fix the car. 🙂

I had a wonderful time with this page, just checking out the videos from contenders for The World’s Fastest Guitar Player I have to say I got more than a little distracted going through the Shawn Lane videos – you could learn a LOT from this guy….

Meanwhile, if cute pig pictures are more your style, you might enjoy Tadpole’s Cute Cartoon Pigs some of these are quite bizarre -others are just very sweet!

I really have a lot of work cut out with updating pages and also writing an individual bio for each. I made a start this evening with A Song For St Francis I hope more people are going to find this page, because I would like them to hear the song.

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