Seeking Solace in Song
Summer 2020 by Charlie Dennison Photos contributed by Charlie Dennison
Musicians Live Stream to a Virtual Audience
If you look real hard you’re gonna say
What in the world is happening?
There’s death and sadness all around
But if you look real close love is found.
— Ashly Holland Fry, Montana singer-songwriter
Scrolling through Instagram a few weeks back, seeing how other musicians were approaching their live stream, I stumbled upon a songwriting challenge by Fry. She sang the words above, followed by examples of compassion she’d witnessed during the global coronavirus pandemic: “It’s a grandma sewing masks, it’s the ones without giving back/it’s a picture of a doctor head in hands/trying to save our fellow man.”
A singer-songwriter myself, I took Fry up on writing the next verse, adding my own examples of how this crisis has helped some individuals realize just how much they’ve taken for granted: “It’s a young man changing plans, learning how to be a dad/ it’s a husband and a wife making rice, remembering why they chose this life/it’s all those things that go unseen when forced to visit screen to screen.”
As senior reporter for the Lewistown News-Argus (the twice weekly newspaper “covering Central Montana like the stars”), a big part of my job right now is seeking out extraordinary kindness. No matter what our profession, it’s critical to try to spread joy as best we can. It’s important to put our energy toward positivity and celebrate the good in others.
When the virus started changing our way of life here in Montana, a friend recommended I start a live stream to lift local spirits, and it’s been more uplifting than I could have imagined. It’s something I look forward to and something that has created community. I never know who is going to join, and there are always surprises, be it the best man at my wedding, my sister and her family, old high school friends, old bandmates or community members I miss seeing on a daily basis.
My friend Chris Hildebrant and I do this together. I do a stream on my music page and he follows on his. We take requests, keep it casual and give people something else to occupy their mind.
We’re not alone in this endeavor. Fellow Lewistown musicians Casey and Jeff Sanders are also doing this every week. On their stream (called Joy Valley Hymns) they take old hymns and put a contemporary twist on them. Other musicians around the state are also streaming from home. This includes Fry, Sean Devine and his wife, Quenby Iandiorio, Tom Catmull, Mark Piskolich and many others.
There is much healing that comes from such performances, including self-healing. Playing live on Facebook or Instagram has helped shape a positive perspective and helped inspire many of us musicians to create. That was Fry’s goal when she put together her songwriting challenge, and it’s my goal with my stream. We’re all in this together, and if we can offer solace somehow through something that brings us joy, we have a responsibility to share it. As Avijeet Das once said, “Music is the true elixir of life.”
I firmly believe this elixir can get us through the worst of times. It’s music I find strengthening many of us during this pandemic. On Sunday night, as I struggled with the recent loss of my grandfather to COVID-19, I turned to Joy Valley Hymns, and as they sang, “Hope has not abandoned me,” my spirits lifted and sorrow subsided.
That’s the beauty of music; it’s a healer. We may not have a vaccine for COVID-19 at this time, but we have songs, so let’s enjoy them. I encourage you to put on your favorite music, the tunes that warm your heart. I encourage you to create, be it a song, a poem, a sketch, a painting or sewing a mask for someone you love.
Stay strong, stay healthy and stay inspired.