Lantern in a Poet's Garden, The Shepherdstown Chronicle

 

‘Lantern in a Poet’s Garden’ sure to please

Musician/composer Terry Tucker shines more than light on the poet’s garden. On her latest CD, she pro- vides a triumphant renaissance for poems penned by two prominent Jefferson County residents more than a century ago with songs that alternately tug at the heart’s strings and inspire one’s own spirited romp in the woods. “Lantern in a Poet’s Garden” is classical music spun with words that dazzle, and it is nothing short of brilliant.

A long time resident of Shepherdstown, Terry began the project nearly a decade ago, when a friend gave her copies of poems by Danske Bedinger Dandridge. Terry recalls being so captivated by Danske’s words that she stayed up all night composing the music to seven of the poems. It was a gut-wrenching experi- ence, Terry remembers: “Sobbing as I played music that just kept flowing from my heart.” Years later, after reading the poems of Daniel Bedinger Lucas, Danske’s cousin, Terry composed music for two of
his works, also included on the CD. She went back to
Danske’s poetry and decided on the final two songs for the album which was released a few weeks ago.

The Bedinger kin had deep roots in Jefferson County. Both were prolific poets. Daniel, born in 1836, was
a lawyer who served, at different times, as a judge
and state legislator. Danske was born in 1854 and spent the first four years of her life in Copenhagen. Her father, Henry Bedinger III, a native of Jefferson County (then Virginia), was serving as U.S. ambassa- dor to Denmark. Despite her private schooling in other states, Rosebrake, a historic estate just south of Shep- herdstown, was home for most of her life. She was an avid gardener and diarist and published two books of poetry during her lifetime.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that the music in “Lantern in a Poet’s Garden” is classical, and the voice is folk. Classical folk — it’s about the only similarity among the 11 songs, written in nine different keys, and just about as many major as minor voices. Terry plays
the piano on all 11 songs, and 9 other local musi- cians perform on different cuts. Here a flute, there an African drum, a trombone, French horn, trumpet and strings — violin, cello, bass. Terry also sings all the songs, joined on many by Ardyth Gilbertson. The two women have been singing together a long time. In this CD, their harmony soars pitch-perfect to new heights, seeming, over and over again, to rise to the urgency or fantasy of the words.

In “Sympathy,” for instance, Terry solos into a falsetto higher than her usual alto, portraying the poet stoically reflecting her sadness. The softer-voiced mezzo-sopra- no, Ardyth, joins in almost as a lithesome echo when the first two stanzas are repeated. It’s as if Ardyth IS the other person in the poem, understanding and sup- portive. The voices glide beautifully together, poignant and resolute.

The women team up again in “The Fairy Camp,” a whimsical song that zooms along at tongue-twisting speed. In “The Stream and I,” Ardyth’s voice comes in briefly and at no more than a whisper – again, a bril- liant contrast, perfectly suited to the mood of the poem where the “stream and I” are, perhaps, one entity. Ar- dyth takes the lead on “Dreams”, and Terry takes the low road, back to alto territory. Her background notes add a subtle richness to one of Danske’s more upbeat poems.

Terry solos in “Folly-Land,” a reminiscence of a carefree childhood and prodding to return there (with, perhaps, her lover by her side). “The Struggle,” by contrast, is an anguished cry for death in no uncertain terms: “Body, I pray you, let me go!” Again, Terry solos from the heart, this time with a beautiful falsetto that cries for relief as much as the poet’s message. It is, perhaps, the strongest song on the album because the composer/singer has followed the poet into meta- physical territory.

“My Heart is in the Mountains” is a perfect ending for the album. The poem by Daniel Bedinger Lucas is cel- ebratory. Terry adds her own tribute to the mountains by composing the music to the finale in a major key, away from the sadness and heaviness of some of the earlier poems. The album over all is a journey into the soul of Danske Dandridge. It could be a journey into the soul of Terry Tucker as well. —by Judy Jenner

From the hundreds of poems by these prolific writers, Terry chose those that spoke to her in a most intimate way. Early on, she realized a common bond with Dan- ske — a love of nature that goes beyond the garden and into the woods of fairies and sunlight mystically streaming patterns around great-limbed trees. A native of Webster County, W. Va., Terry similarly spun her own childhood dreams amid the gardens, the moun- tains and the woods. She studied classical music at Wesleyan College in Buckhannon and has traveled

far and wide for a variety of musical experiences, as a lyricist, composer, and performer. At home with just about any genre of music, Terry most often is called a “folkie.” Although her first passion was classical music, it is the folk music of Appalachia “that’s in my blood,” she says with pride. 

 

Good News Paper

Here Comes the Sun and Her Name Is Terry Tucker

What better way to acquaint you with a Shepherdstown’s songwriter and musician than to be inspired by the sounds of her newest CD release. Terry Tucker has set to music eleven poems by two Civil War–era residents of the Shepherdstown region, Danske Dandridge and her cousin Daniel Bedinger Lucas. Lantern in a Poet’s Garden will be introduced at a CD release party on October 9, 2010, at the home of Cheryl Mansley, producer of Riverhouse Concerts. The atmosphere of the poems and music that Tucker has so artfully written is at times deep and sad, while alternately playful and impetuous. Checking Tucker’s Web site www. treehouseband.net will supply all the poetry so listeners may fully appreciate the interplay of content and melody. Dandridge, a noted poet, historian and nature lover, lived at Rose Brake in the heart of Shepherdstown and is buried at Elmwood Cemetery. Her cousin Lucas lived at Rion Hall near Charles Town and was a lawyer and poet who fought in the Civil War. On the recording, Tucker’s piano and vocals are accompanied by singer Ardyth Gilbertson, cello and bass player Ralph Gordon, flutist Betty Jo Rockwell, French horn player Brian Ellsworth, trombonist Cam Millar, drummer Kelly Cornelius, guitarist Todd Coyle, and trumpet player Greg Small. The CD was recorded, mastered, and remixed locally. Terry Tucker, a versatile musicmaker and songster, exudes warmth, humor, and an abiding love of her craft. It runs in her veins and has sustained her from the early years growing up in Webster Springs, W.Va. Her parents crooned in the car when they took trips; young Tucker stood on her dad’s feet while they danced together in the house; the family sang hymns in church; and she made her own entertainment by making up and singing songs. Tucker began piano lessons at age seven and even before, would pretend the windowsill was a piano as she fingered Hayden’s Toy Symphony. She fondly remembers the LPs she heard while growing up but also listened to rhythm and blues and pop on the radio. She, of course, played in the high school band. When it came time to go to college, Tucker chose classical music as her major at West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon. The first LP she purchased for herself was Respighi’s Ancient Dances and Airs for Lute and she credits her continuing love of Renaissance music to that period of her life. Tucker also loved writing music and, prior to any formal training, she wrote songs for children as well as traditional adult pieces. But after graduation from college, Tucker’s songwriting career began in earnest. She has always used staff paper to record notes by hand as they are conceived. “I just let them come—when or why I don’t know,” she explained. Computer software for composing is a very new convenience that has only recently crept into her life. Years ago, the West Virginia native had a friend in D.C. who wanted to travel to England, and suddenly, the singer/songwriter was on her way across the ocean. Tucker and two friends, Erika Eigen and Freya Hogue, ultimately formed a trio called Sunforest. They were discovered and were soon recording with Decca Records. Sunforest made an album, performed in London and Turin, Italy, and were one of the first “girl groups” who arranged their own work and played their own instruments. They were regulars at The Marquee, a club on Oxford Street in London. The impoverished artist days ended when Stanley Kubrick, director of the 1971 film, A Clockwork Orange, heard songs from their album The Sounds of Sunforest. He asked Tucker’s manager for permission to use her Renaissance composition, “Overture to the Sun,” in his movie soundtrack. In addition, he selected “I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper,” a ragtime piece by friend and fellow bandmate Eigen. The Sunforest album is now a collector’s item in England and a CD version, along with the Warner Brothers’ movie CD soundtrack, remains available online and in music stores. The adventure in England was to last for 15 years and is a time that Tucker describes as critically forming her both professionally and personally. She delights in going back to visit British friends whenever possible. But the community of friends, and the extreme generosity of one particular patron of the arts, finally gave way to homesickness for family and Appalachian music. Although she played Carter family songs on the autoharp to remind her of home, Tucker decided to return to the United States and to Shepherdstown where her mother had relocated when she was in college. Life in the small town reminded her of how much she had missed “loud Americans who think nothing of yelling up and down the street to neighbors in greeting or voicing a question.” With the exception of a five-year stretch in Seattle checking out the music scene, Tucker has remained very much a local girl. Her brother Tom hosts a radio talk show on Martinsburg’s WRNR and her “one and only,” Bernard DeMartini, is an accountant at Shepherd University. Being part of the community is essential to Terry Tucker. She is a member of the Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church where she sings with the Psalm Singers and enjoyed the accompaniment of Barbara King, long-time church organist who passed away in February 2010. Tucker’s recent classical piece called “Gratias, Amen: Overture to a Kindred Spirit” for choir, brass, piano, and organ was written and performed in King’s memory. There will be a CD of the memorial performance that will include spoken tributes to the late pianist and organist. Tucker is also a member of Shepherdstown’s Hicks with Sticks Border Morris, a dance team that was formed in April 1998. This summer she is teaching music through an Arts and Huminities Alliance grant to children at Shepherdstown Elementary School’s Rise and Shine program and at Ranson Elementary School’s Energy Express. Her band, Treehouse, was formed in 2001 when leader Tucker on keyboard and co-ounder Ardyth Gilbertson on percussion joined with Butch Sanders on conga drums. They have since added Matt Robinson on guitar and John Quintanilla on bass. All band members sing while Tucker is the primary songwriter. Their signature sound is Latino and Indie rock. Treehouse has played at the Shepherdstown Street Fest, West Virginia Wine and Art Festival, Country Roads Folk Festival, Mountain Stage New Song Festival, Peace in the Valley Gathering, and at several local venues including the Opera House, Riverhouse Concert Series, Blue Moon, and Mecklenburg Inn. Their CD Treehouse, as well as Terry Tucker’s Comin’ Home and Ancient Ayres and Carols for Christmas by Gilbertson and Tucker, can be found on their Web site www.treehouseband. net and on www.cdbaby.com. A fitting way to end this story is to share a bit of Terry Tucker’s philosophy by which she lives daily. From the many plants, herbs, and vegetables growing on the back porch and garden beyond, to the rain barrel waiting to catch whatever available precipitation falls from the sky, she is in harmony with the world. “I believe that when we all practice respect for Mother Earth and all her life forms, we will have peace and prosperity the world over…and that includes leaving her as she is as much as possible,” reflects Tucker. Her list “Practical Ways to Live More Mindfully with Mother Earth” is offered lovingly on her Web site where she stresses simple, back-to-basics ideas for sensible living. So the next time you see her in town, at a concert or just dancing in the street, hum a little “Here Comes the Sun” from the Beatles’ collection. It is an apt serenade to this Shepherdstown treasure. Wendy Mopsik, Shepherdstown resident and grandmother of nine, stayed cool and mostly calm this summer by listening to local musicians, doing yoga, and practicing mindfulness.

The Sound of Sunforest, Acme Gramophone/Lion

 

The Sound of Sunforest, Bruce Eder Rovi, Acme Gramophone/Lion, 2008

Sometimes it seems like there must have been something in the water (or the air) in England during 1969 that brought all of these folk musicians to the fore in rock music -- the two acoustic musicians from Methuselah break away to form the Amazing Blondel; Prelude starts their career; Mary Hopkin gives Apple Records its biggest non-Beatles hit (i.e., "Those Were the Days"); and, getting back to the subject at hand, Sunforest, a previously unknown folk-based trio (Terry Tucker, Erika Eigen, Freya Hogue) gets signed to Decca Records and cuts this album for the company's Nova imprint. And this is one strange album, to be sure, with wildly varying sounds and styles across its 15 tracks, from the lush harmony singing on "Be Like Me" to the lapses into novelty and children's songs on "Lady Next Door" and "Peppermint Store." When Sound of Sunforest is folky, it's mostly in a distinctly pop vein, but there's also a defiantly progressive current running through this entire album, as well -- the winds and reeds on the opening "Overture to the Sun" declare that this is no folk revival record, and the keyboard cadenza on "Be Like Me" carries the main body of the album into realms of classical-style exploration that most folk albums avoided. A small orchestra plays the opening bars of "And I Was Blue" behind the ethereal harmonies of the trio, before the core rock trio (Herbie Flowers, Big Jim Sullivan, et al.) takes over with a leaner folk-rock sound. And the trio lets their hair down for some plain lighthearted fun on "Lighthouse Keeper," a folk-cum-music hall number complete with kazoo that wouldn't have been out of place in the repertory of Spanky & Our Gang. Strangest of all in "Magician in the Mountain," an odd, jazz-tinged piece that would be the highlight of the record -- where Herbie Flowers and company get into a decided funk groove -- if it were only representative of the record. Instead, it isn't like anything else here, which doesn't detract from its value but limits one's ability to recommend the album, based on its presence. Needless to say, an album with so many diverse sounds wasn't going to get anywhere in 1969 without a hit single to draw people in, and Sound of Sunforest didn't have that. But it is a beautiful and entertaining artifact of its period as a production tour de force by the trio and producer Vic Smith (aka Vic Coppersmith-Heaven) -- and it might be the most daring psychedelic-cum-progressive record to show up on Decca this side of the Moody Blues' Days of Future Passed (another album that was outside of any stylistic category at the time of its release) Ah, those were, indeed, the days....

The Hagerstown Herald Mail

Shepherdstown Musician Sets Poems to Music  
Terry Tucker's interest in Danske Bedinger Dandridge's poems led to 'Lantern in a Poet's Garden'. Shepherdstown musician Terry Tucker, who wrote a song for director Stanley Kubrick's 1972 violent and futuristic film A Clockwork Orange, has released a new CD that puts to music the words of two late-19th- century poets.

Tucker became interested in the poetry of Danske Bedinger Dandridge, (1854-1914) and her poet cousin, Daniel Bedinger Lucas, both Jefferson County, WV natives.  Danske ('little Dane') was born in Denmark where her father, Henry Bedinger was the U.S. ambassador. Dandridge eventually owned Rose Brake, an antebellum brick home outside Shepherdstown.

Tucker's interest in Dandridge's poems led to Lantern in a Poet's Garden, her new CD released in October.  Nine of the album's songs are poems by Dandridge and two by her cousin. "Like the poems, some of the music on the album is dark, some mystical, some playful and whimsical," Tucker said. "It's classical  and folk, mostly on piano, cello and bass."

Of the nine Dandridge poems on the album, "Wings" is the shortest and most poignant. "Shall we know in the Hereafter all the reasons that are hid?  Does the butterfly remember what the caterpillar did?  How he waited, toiled and suffered to become the chrysalid."

Terry's career as a songwriter, musician and performer got its start in London in the late 1960s, when she wrote and performed with two friends, Erika Eigen and Freya Hogue. The three met earlier in Washington, D.C.  "We became a band," said Tucker, who grew up in Webster Springs, W.Va. The group performed around London and occasionally in Europe for about three years.

They cut an album titled The Sound of Sunforest, taken from the band's name, Sunforest.  Twice profiled in a glossy British music magazine, Record Collector, the album is a collector's item, Tucker said.

"Overture to the Sun", an instrumental on the album penned by Tucker and "I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper," a song by Erika Eigen came to Kubrick's attention when he heard it. "He called our manager and asked if he could use both pieces in A Clockwork Orange," she said. Tucker said she still receives royalties from the music, "but they only come in in dribs and drabs."

After Sunforest split up, Tucker remained in London and continued to write music, some for the BBC World Service radio and television teaching programs. She returned to the United States and settled in Shepherdstown, then Seattle for about five years, where she taught elementary school music and performed again with Hogue.  "We hosted a weekly folk music show," and played some festivals." she said.

She came back to West Virginia and Shepherdstown. In 2006, she and fellow musician Ardyth Gilbertson produced a Christmas album titled Ancient Ayers & Carols for Christmas. She continues to perform in the area and gives private piano lessons.

The Sound of Sunforest, Record Collector magazine