Singing and composing new original songs are a priority and primary offering in my work as a song sharer. Here are some original songs to share, all written or arranged by me. I love when people bring these songs to life by singing them with their groups! If you are teaching or performing these songs in your choir or in paid workshops, consider making a donation to support the creative process and upkeep of this song library. Many artists sell their music for set prices, and many composers charge licensing fees for performance and use of songs. I offer these songs in the spirit of the gift: to choir members, colleagues, and to the prairies and evening mists from which they came. If you are finding joy and good use in these songs, especially professionally, consider contributing to their continued existence in this way. A common licensing rate for professional use is $2 per person you're teaching, per song. You can donate by clicking the button below, or avoid payment fees by directly PayPal-ing under the "send money to friends and family" option. Retroactive song use donations are so welcome! Teaching tracks to all songs are available, either through a link with the song, or upon request.
Blessed Motion, by Annie Zylstra, is a 4-part acknowledgement of Life as an unpredictable, ever-changing movement toward itself. The melody first came crouching in a rock bed next to a fast moving fork in the Trinity River, where salmon were in their first week of journeying to their spawning sites in northern California.
Crickets is a three part lullaby inspired by the opening Gary Snyder poem in David Abram's book Spell of the Sensuous. It's a song-form reminder that we live in an animate world of living sentient beings who are not just there to be experienced by us, but that actually feel and experience us as well. What would a world look like that remembered and cultivated that relationship?
As the crickets soft autumn hum is to us,
so are we to the trees,
as are they to the rocks and hills.
The Day is Bright, a call and response song by Annie Zylstra, came on a particularly lovely spring morning while walking in the golden, gorse covered early March hillsides of the Ashdown Forest in Sussex.
The day is bright / and all is well
And all is well / the birds are singing
And I am glad to be!
And all I love / and all I need
Is all around / and there is plenty
Oh glory be!
The Earth Makes of Herself, by Annie Zylstra, is a 2-4-6-8 part round great for meal or harvest blessings, or to generally celebrate the wonder of a world intelligent enough to regrow itself season after season.
The earth makes of herself,
First the seed, then the blade
and the ear, then the full grain of the year.
Generosity is a 4-part ode to the silent generosity of plants -- specifically, in their time of blossoming. Without much notice or credit, the blooming ones, in their yearly dependable successions, quietly provide food, home, beauty, and the possibility of a future for an endless count of beings. In the spirit of having useful songs in one's pocket, this is a great tune to keep around to offer as gratitude when you harvest the dear plants you love.
Bright, reaching up to the sun
Feeding all who hover over your blossoming love
All unfolding -
All the life you give in blooming, we can't even know.
This melody first wanted to be sung at the beginning of a personal ritual at the height of goldenrod time on an evening in 2019. When I sang the tune as a round, I realized I was singing the indescribable magic I'd always felt in the golden hour of the day, a song of invisible beings I'd thought I'd heard since my childhood. Now, I sing it as praise to coyote, meadowlark, barred owl, and all the ones who begin their song as golden hour turns to twilight here in Wisconsin. The round in its fullness is remnant of traditional Lithuanian Sutartines, and no doubt was shaped by my love of that song and ritual tradition. Feel free to trade in other words to the tune. I often switch the words up, or sing it wordlessly, as I first heard it.
Into a wild sky and golden eventide
I hear you calling.
This little round came to Annie in the subtle yellowing of early September whilst living in a meadow full of black caps, wild night shades, sumac, milk thistle, and goldenrod at the Possibility Alliance in northeast Missouri.
Sun wanes upon the field, goldenrod begins
Sighing trees let go of leaves, day turns to night again.
Hen of my Heart is a four-part installment in the Mushroom Opera, a highly mysterious ongoing project of Annie's. Grifola frondosa, commonly known as Maitake, or Hen of the Woods, has long been one of her favorite mushrooms. Usually when she sees one, she bursts into tears or squeals of gratitude. And they do seem truly miraculous, inconspicuously perched over their decaying oak roots, full of all the miraculous polysaccharides they are seemingly longing to share.
Hummingbird, a three-part round, arrived on a humid dusk walk by the creek at Dream Acres Farm in 2014 as a hummingbird darted in and out of the creekside path, seemingly eating the strings of fairy flies that floated all around.
Hummingbird she sings through the stillness with her wings,
And she tells you how to fly, moving swiftly through the sky.
In the Beginning was the Seed is a four-part round inspired by the ever mysterious and life giving magic that is a world kept alive by death and seeds.
In the beginning was the seed, was the seed
and in that seed was a dream,
sings awake, arise, begin the growing you will need
'til one day you're a seed again.
This original tune flowed in while I was living with and care giving for my mother for a year with our conservative family. Donald Trump, who most people I was around supported as a presidential candidate, was in the process of being elected, and it was so apparent that as the more beautiful world we know is possible forms, some hard, hard stuff is going to go down. Being with my family during that time made me realize how important it is to hold onto relationships even through difference and challenge, that that time with them was an amazing opportunity to build bridges between increasingly polarized ideologies in our country and world. This song asks, how do we hold each other in these times? A question I was asking a lot during that season of my life. I'm still always looking for answers!
Part 1: We've gotta hold on, hold on tight to each other.
'Cause freedom's coming in through the night.
How do we hold each other in these times?
When freedom comes she'll be coming through the night.
I can feel it coming, change is in the air.
When freedom comes she'll be coming through the night.
Part 2: The dark comes before the dawn but I won't give up, no, no, I won't give up.
Part 3: When the dark comes before the dawn, I will hold onto you.
And if freedom comes in through the night I won't give up, I won't give up.
Life Is offered a sense of closure in a process of learning to believe that our connection with the source of life and creativity is not one available for losing; our guides and muses are not in the business of abandoning us, no matter how we disregard them. It's true that much can happen if we court and feed them, but if we don't, they're not going to just take our life juices away! After months of fear that her connection with source was damaged beyond repair, the great Muse offered these words to Annie through Carolyn Griffeth, along with the message, "You cannot earn me. You can only enjoy me."
Most Beautiful Sky was originally a haiku by Jennifer Levenhagen, an artist and musician in Milwaukee. The beautiful, subtle melody came to carry the poem one evening whilst Jennifer watched the sun as it set. Annie Zylstra arranged the melody into 3 parts for Morning Glory Choir of Viroqua, WI. Thank you, Jennifer for your soulful contributions to poetry and music in the Heartland!
Must Eat offers encouragement for us to really listen and take our time as we move through this world of infinite potential paths. It invites us to stay rooted in ourselves, in here and now, and in what matters most before leaping off the ground into abstraction and flight. This song includes poetry from Joanna Newsom's song En Gallop.
Sing the Way is a 4-part answer to the question: What can we do to be of service in these times of social unraveling, cultural upheaval, and unprecedented degradation of natural systems? Overwhelm and despair can easily overtake a person wishing to remain present and engaged in the mass collective grief of this moment in human history. And there is so much we don't yet know about what the future holds. In a container of uncertainty with despair in one direction and apathy in another, what else is there do but arm ourselves with curiosity and just get down to doing what we know how to do as alively as we can? For me, it means singing our way through whatever comes and whatever is in the meantime. We make the road by walking. What we love is the question and the answer. It is all we have. Let's sing the way together!
Thank you Tree is a 2, 3, or 4 part round/zipper song collected in a beautiful basswood tree that amazingly held 8 people in its strong, brave arms hanging in hammocks. A great round for a meal blessing, gathering in song, or song to sing with little ones! Change up the words!
Thank you tree for holding me,
for holding me so I can be
Strong like you, and strong like the Other.
The original melody for Unknown came at Deer Creek in upstate New York on the day I, contrary to what I believed would happen, did not board a plane to England to study with my teachers and heal an important relationship that waited there. This long, very impatiently awaited, meticulously planned and paid for journey was snatched away by an unsolveable passport snafu, discovered while getting in the car to drive to the airport. This seemingly epic, very painful fail led to a very helpful release of many of the stories and expectations I'd been projecting onto this trip and the various people involved in it. And, as life does, opened the door to many new amazing experiences.
The Way is Clear is a 4-part blessing song for beginnings of all kinds. Put by a choir leader in North Carolina, "A song like The Way is Clear offers us beautiful harmonies with simple words in a short, almost instant gratification package." I say, an upper-level 'instant' song you'll be so glad you learned!
Willow Bend came with the huge, immeasurable blessing that is knowing willow--the amazingly resilient, beautiful, abundant, sweet smelling, diverse plant herself,--and weaving willow into vessels with eager learning hands. A song for harvesting, weaving, or just loving on this wondrous, giving plant.
Willow bend, willow grow,
never end, always know.
Jump up and live again,
You are which never ends.