This photo of the moon rising in Nazareth was taken by nellm (the pen name of one of our community’s composers). In this post she is kindly sharing a free download of her song “New life – new beginning” and giving us some personal insight into the song. It’s another of the songs stemming from the songwriting workshop Local Voices 2015 (see also Welcome to this table and Free Agents). If you’ll be in Melbourne this September-October you can register now for Local Voices 2016.
I interviewed nellm about her song:
Is “New life – new beginning” about a story?
I thought of my Dad, as he had a very tough life. The song shows how, through tough times, Dad persisted and he pulled through. In terms of the imagery, I’m really fascinated with the moon. I could stare at the moon for hours and hours – it’s so peaceful. I thought the olive tree would be a good combination, considering our heritage and cultural background [Palestine/Israel], so the images combine my love of the moon with the olive tree growing and sprouting, a new beginning for Dad. I believe my Dad is a very brave man.
The song starts with a reversal. You expect to see the moon beaming down, but instead you see the tree beaming up.
Meaning new life sprouting, growing through, no matter what. With God you can overcome anything. Nothing can keep you down, and that’s why I thought of the olive tree; there’s no holding back, it just shoots through.
Were you thinking of the Psalms: the man who is like a tree planted by streams of water [Psalm 1]?
Yes, that’s right, although I didn’t think of imitating it directly, but my intention was for it to be similar. There are a lot of beautiful passages in the Psalms. There’s another that I like: the fruit tree that bears fruit in old age [Psalm 92].
At the end, you have an invocation to the moon. What is the moon in that invocation – is that God?
Yes, the moon is the light – like God shining on us in times when we’re scared, or worried, or even happy. I see God as a light, radiant. I think that’s my closest connection with the moon. I feel something special shining on us – like God watching us.
Tell me about composing “New life – new beginning” as your first experience of songwriting.
It’s not easy to just write songs; you have to get a thought process going. But because I put a few themes together that were important to me, it all fell into place. I didn’t do it by myself. Credit goes to Katrina, Paola and Felix and the others who helped me as well. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to produce something like this.
For the music, I wanted it to flow all the way through. I was working with Paola and Katrina, and they helped me with the chords, how it sounded, and I said, “Yep. I like this one.” I didn’t want it to be flashy and complicated, and it says what I’m trying to say.
Because the melody repeats, and there’s a gradual shift of where, in the melody, the text phrase begins, you get a dream-like feeling.
Airy. That effect appeals to me because it’s relaxing and calm. I wanted to portray something simple and calm, something easy to listen to and sing.
What’s it like getting ready to perform “New life – new beginning” for the first time?
I’m not sure how to start it, that’s a bit of a worry. I don’t know how people are going to react to it. Is it going to flow? Are people going to go, “Oh, this is crazy…”? Because it’s simple, people might say, “This is boring.” They might think this is repetitive.
If you could give the congregation some way to help them enter into the song, what might you say?
I would say that this song is God shining on us while we’re singing. The song itself becomes the moon, the presence of God, shining on us. God is present with us, bringing new life. God’s presence is with us now. God is present with us, from the start to the end.
What do you hope that the singers will experience with this song?
I hope people will enjoy it, and maybe take note of the words in there and think about it: what ‘daytime night’ means for them and so on… I hope it will encourage people not to be scared, because God’s always shining, and, no matter what, the tree’s always going to grow. It won’t be stunted. You shine through with the new life.
Download a pdf of the sheet music: New life – new beginning