Singing Darkness into Light

Between watching the depressing nightly news and worrying about the “suspicious nodule” that I apparently have on my right lung, I could not sleep at all last night. To pass the time, I decided to search for a piano recording of Gounod’s ‘Ave Maria’ that my friend Lani made for me (27 years ago).  Since I have always wanted to make a recording with her accompaniment, I thought this sleepless night would be the perfect opportunity to raise my spirits with a song.

As I love to sing, I did promise several people that I would eventually post an audio file.  However, I have about 300 old practice cassette tapes and only a few of them are marked, so I was concerned that it was going to take forever and a day to find this particular tape.
musical-disorganizationThankfully, in the middle of a dark night, luck was with me. As I listened through the 4th cassette—I actually found the recording that I wanted. I was so glad that it wasn’t forever lost, because it is the only one of its kind. We were living in Hawaii at the time and, since her living room windows were open, we could hear the birds singing in the palm trees while she was playing. The tape picked up the bird songs along with the piano accompaniment, so the music has a unique and peaceful sound. I told Lani that I was going to find a way to sing with this tape and make a recording of the combined sound. But time went by and things changed. We moved away to distant states, and the tape got buried and covered with dust.

It is almost unbelievable how much technology has changed since the late 1980s.  There was no internet access back then, and there certainly was no way to convert a cassette tape into a computer .mp3  file or a CD.  Now it is relatively easy.  At 3 a.m., I took that old cassette tape and ran the sound through an ION TAPE2PC Conversion System, which allowed me to upload the piano recording to my computer.  Then, I saved the audio file onto a CD and sang over it onto a second CD. At one point, while I was singing, I turned to ask Lani if she could pick up the tempo a little.  I had completely forgotten that the pianist was not there and the music was not live — such an interesting experience!

Now I have a piano recording made in Hawaii in 1987, combined with singing that I did last night in a Virginia basement. Yes! I watched space, time, and distance vanish right before my eyes as I was singing darkness into light. Thank you for being there and now virtually here, Lani!

About Mary Strong-Spaid

You can find me any time wandering around in my own mind gathering thoughts.
This entry was posted in Hawaii, Music, photography, Singing, Technology and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

72 Responses to Singing Darkness into Light

  1. blmaluso says:

    Just beautiful! Thank you for this little bit of loveliness in my day:-)

  2. Your cassette organization looks similar to mine. The problem for me is I have a lot of cassette tapes, but I no longer have a working cassette player. Beautiful rendition of Ave Maria. You need to stop watching the evening news. It’s not good for you. You can get all the news you want on the Internet and at filter it yourself instead of watching what news producers think is worth making you depressed and keeping you up all night.

    • I almost threw mine out. But I really don’t need it. The Tape2PC converter plays the sound through the computer, so you can find the places you want to record.
      I should have labeled all of those tapes and written down what was on each one, because it is going to take a long, long, long time to listen to each one of them. No tracks to separate one thing from another.

  3. I never watch the news – it’s all manipulative darkness. Who needs that?
    You have a beautiful voice. Gorgeous!
    And isn’t technology a wonderful thing?!

    • The 24 hour new stations have to fill the time with something, so they tend to repeat the same awful details over and over again—like brainwashing with negativity. After listening to it for a while, everything seems to be completely hopeless.
      And yes, even though technology is sometimes bothersome, overall it is a wonderful thing!

  4. Thank you for a 2.50 minute break from the darkness, that has, pervaded too much, lately.

    • Thank you!
      The darkness that seems to be spreading through the world these days, makes me sad. It appears that some people actually enjoy creating chaos. I’m a tired soul. I wish it would stop!

  5. kiwiskan says:

    Beautiful thank you

    • Thank you Maureen! I was going to ask you if you had ever gotten the rain that was so badly needed, but I just went to your website….and…it appears that you did! It’s been a very wet summer here and cooler than usual. I haven’t had to pull out the hose and water the river birch trees, like I did last summer.

  6. bmpermie says:

    What an extraordinary story.I am very impressed with your presence of mind, and techno skills in the middle of the night.

    • Truthfully, I am actually more awake at night than I am in the day. Either I am part owl…OR…I am still on Hawaiian time.
      3 a.m. in the morning in Virginia is only 9 p.m in Hawaii. That must be it….I’m living in the wrong time zone. If I could live in Hawaii, I would be perfectly normal? 🙂

  7. Barb says:

    Beautiful Mary, it sounded like you two were together again, great mix.

  8. Jason Strong says:

    Thanks for some light from Afghanistan 🙂

  9. Patty B says:

    Beautiful – amazing what technology allows us to do. I am “wow’ed” 🙂

    • Thanks! It is wonderful what we can do now. I remember the days of the typewriter and carbon paper. One mistake took a long time to fix and then it looked pretty sloppy. Now with the computer and the awesome backspace and delete key….it’s heaven!
      And the best thing of all, we can reach out and communicate with other people all around the world without even leaving the house. I love that most of all!

      • Patty B says:

        Me too! And this coming from the gal who never wanted to own a computer, never saw the sense of owning one….that was 15 yrs ago!! And now I am hooked – and so amazed how God has used the computer to connect His people!!

  10. Wow! You have beautiful voice and your record sounds very professional. Why we are not watching you on “America’s got Talent”. Or you are already professional Singer. It is nice of you to share your talent with your readers. Thank you.

    • I sang with the Hawaii Opera Theater and the Washington National Opera for a total of 14 years (in the chorus). I would never be able to handle something like America’s Got Talent. I get rather intimidated when I got out on a stage. Someone once said that I have a love affair with my shoes (I tend to look down). I do sing for weddings and things like that, but then I am not the focus of attention so it’s OK.

  11. jbh says:

    when i was younger (much) i sang with the barrington boys choir from barrington, rhode island– we sang another version (schubert) of ave maria– it has been an extremely sad week across the world and although i am not religious listening to this song hits the spot– i had the privilege of visiting with the vienna boys when they stayed with our choir during the late 60’s–
    Check out this video on YouTube:

    • I have sung both the Schubert and the Gounod (Ave Maria), usually at Catholic Weddings or funerals.
      As far as singing goes, the Gounod is more uplifting for me because of the vocal range (especially the high notes towards the end). It is impossible to remain depressed and have enough energy to sing up that high. It’s vocal therapy.
      As far as listening goes, both of these versions of the Ave Maria are comforting, especially in times of trouble.
      I listened to the youtube video link you attached. The Vienna Boys choir is always a joy to hear–their young voices are so clear and true.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Ok, Mary. I listened. I laughed. I cried. What a fantastic experience that was, listening to you sing with my accompaniment…from TWENTY-SEVEN years ago!!!!!! With the birds. Precious, precious memories and wonderful talking with you on the phone tonight. Thank you SO much for leading me to beauty and music and friendship and laughter, all in one phone call. What a gem you are. Happy birthday last December by the way. =:-0

    • Thanks Lani!
      And oh…by the way……MAYBE, at this point, we should start counting our birthdays in reverse every year.
      When we get back to the end of our beginning, then we can simply return to the light we are.
      Don’t you just love the way that I do math? 😉

  13. Anonymous says:

    Mary – what a gift you have! I had goosebumps and tears listening to your awesome voice singing Ave Maria with your friend Lani’s piano playing from years ago – amazing!!!!!!!! Thank you for sharing with us. For your petite stature you have been blessed with a mighty voice that stirs us all. Your title was absolutely perfect. Love your posts. i am going to share this with Eric who was so fortunate to have voice lessons from a true artist – be blessed. Pat

  14. Tiny says:

    Wonderful Mary! Your voice is so beautiful and I love that song – lifted my spirits immediately!!

  15. Topaz says:

    Wow! What a beautiful story, and you have such a lovely voice as well.

  16. diahannreyes says:

    Wow. Your voice is beautiful, Mary. and I love how you were able to grab technology from the past using today’s technology to create something new.

    • Thank you!
      I am so amazed by the things that we can do now. I remember the time before the internet, email, cell phones, CDs, Bluetooth, Skype, flat screen TVs, etc., etc. Almost unbelievable how life has changed in just a few short years. Sometimes I want to get away from all this new technology, and other times I appreciate it so much. All of us on WordPress would not have met each other without it!

  17. What an amazing thing to do and what an incredible voice you have!

  18. Wow, what an interesting thing to get up to on a sleepless night!! I have a lot of sleepless nights, and that would be great to be able do something like this, I’m sure my neighbours wouldn’t be so impressed though, and my singing voice is not like my poetry voice! 😉 You have a wonderful voice my dear, thank you for sharing a piece of yourself with us all, which I know you have mentioned before, but to hear it is quite something else!

    It’s great to get those precious cassette recordings onto the computer and sometimes improve on the sound quality too. My brother managed to convert a few 70’s family fun (recording our voices for the first time on cassette) and one of me making up on the spur of the moment my first piece of fiction. Those are so important to have, as we don’t own any other evidence of our voices.

    I can imagine how surreal that must have been singing to your friends piano music, no wonder you got lost in the moment, I hope you do some more of these! 🙂

    • Thanks Suzy!
      I am underground in my basement and my neighbors aren’t too close, so hopefully I’m not bothering anyone.
      My husband was away on travel that night, so I didn’t have to worry about waking him up!
      Sometimes my cats look at me though, and wonder why I am “howling” in the middle of the night. 🙂
      And yes….
      It is probably a good idea to transfer the tapes onto the computer…before the sound on the tapes fade away or “unravels” (breaks).
      I wish I had been more organized, because I have a lot of tapes and I don’t know what’s on them. Most of them are unmarked.
      It is so much easier to find the beginning and end of things on CD, because it is split into tracks. With a tape, you have to listen to the whole thing!

  19. Dilip says:

    To be able to sing is a great virtue. Beautiful indeed and thanks for sharing.

  20. Oh Mary, I got you. =) So glad you found what you were looking for. I’d never heard this version w/ the birds. Huh, hadn’t even thought of it set against nature.

    Just in case you missed this one, mine is the second piece in the group post I compiled. You will see why my eyes lit up when I read Gounod. =)

    Email me if you’re interested in guest authoring.
    My username (one word) at gmail.


    • You have never heard this version with the birds, because I am the only one who has this piano accompaniment. My friend Lani recorded this music for me 27 years ago, while we were both living in Hawaii (she is an excellent pianist).
      It was a beautiful Hawaiian day, so her living room window was open while she was playing. There were a lot of birds singing in the trees nearby. Because I was standing close to the window, my tape recorder picked up the sound of her piano playing AND the sound of the birds outside.
      That is why I was searching for this particular tape. This piano accompaniment of the Gounod “Ave Maria” (complete with birds in the background) is very special to me and one of a kind.
      I read the story that you wrote about your mom. It is very beautiful. She was willing to take what little she had to buy you a beautiful experience. It was money well-spent. You remembered!

      • Just precious that you were able to capture all that made it beautiful and meaningful – and recover it when you wanted/needed to. =) And thanks for the kind word on the special place this piece has in my experience, Mary.

        • I think it is wonderful the way that a particular piece of music or song can bring back memories. You wrote that your mom—“imagined I had more discernment in music than I did as a ten-year-old.” Truth is, you had more discernment than you realized! The way that you reacted to your mom’s favorite song a few years later, proves that you did and do understand the deeper meaning within the music. Your love for each other will always be linked to that melody!

          • You’re really something, Mary. How profoundly thoughtful of you to see my emotional connection to the piece as proof of discernment. And your closing line said it all. Thank you so dearly for this special gift tonight. You’ve been a valued reader (hence the invitation as guest over on AHJ. =) )


  21. robert87004 says:

    Photography, writing and now singing. I bet you paint too. You have an excellent mix of disciplines, I think. 🙂

    • Thank you for the compliment.
      Actually, no….when I paint, it looks like a preschooler has been hard at work. And I wear more paint than I get on the page. My mom was very good with oil paints and I wish I had inherited her talent for painting and illustration. I alway wanted to write a children’s book, but I can’t draw the images that I see in my mind, and make them look the way I want!

  22. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful! Loved the extra touch of the birds singing in the background! 🙂

  23. What an unexpected and utterly amazing find on your post, Mary. You have an absolutely beautiful voice. I now know where I can go when I’m having a troubled day – right back here to listen once again. Thank you so much for sharing your gift of song with us!

    • Thank you so much for the compliment, Stacy.
      I have been singing since I can remember. When I was little, I used to stand in front of the big window fan in my house and sing into it. I loved the way the spinning blade of the fan could take one sound and immediately split it into many. Singing is like writing on air — and the most interesting thing of all — the air actually does vibrate in response. I used to tell my mom that, when I was singing, I was talking to the “Voice of the One Who Lives in the Air.”
      It would have been easier to understand if I had just said that I was praying. Thought vibration (sound) placed into words (with intention) is powerful. That’s my opinion, anyway. 😉

  24. Genie says:

    Oh my God! You sing like an angel, Mary.

  25. djmrakiey says:

    wow … I’m speechless….beautiful !!!! thank you for sharing.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Oh Mary this is beautiful. You sing like an Angel. Genius of you to do such a wonderful creation. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I could listen to this all day long. Yes we are back in Japan. From Hawaii we went to Guam back to Japan and then to Korea and now we are in Japan,

  27. Thanks for the lovely compliment!
    World travelers, you both are! As a result of all this traveling, you will have many great stories to tell when you return home.

  28. A common refrain for me too…I fully support retaining your cassette tapes! These are precious. But yes, organization…and more music, less mass-media news.

  29. Dina says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful music with us, Mary. I know you are very good singer, this was a great treat! 🙂

  30. vkalinkaneo says:


  31. Pingback: Pears in a Bowl | Visual Fling

  32. LucyJartz says:

    I just heard your “Ave Maria” accompanied by piano and birdsong from Hawaii. I loved this piece of music playing while I painted. God bless you, Mary! Thank you!

    I used to be an upstairs singer (at a very small venue), but a great grief in life took the joy away, but now it is rekindled as a downstairs voice.

    “It is important to note, that just because you are not Pavarotti, does not mean that you should never sing. Music indeed, is one of the tools used to impart the graces of God and a channel through which the human soul can experience, as near as is humanly possible, the richness of Heaven on earth.”

    I also feel this way about painting.

  33. that sounds like a priceless orchestra Mary. Down here, every time i try to record birdsongs (that are so rare) man-made sounds subdue their sweet songs! 😉

  34. 50djohnson says:

    Anytime you can capture the aloha Spirit…I say go for it… it’s priceless!

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