Jeannette Lambert

jazz vocals, poetry etc.

Melancholy in springtime and inspiration

This is always a bittersweet time of year for me, when we’re waiting breathlessly for the leaves to emerge from the trees again, and yet there is a tinge of loss in the air. You’d think I’d feel that way in autumn but with the riotous colours we get here and the crystalline blue and white winters looming ahead, it turns out, as the song says, spring really does hang me up the most. I’m not the only one. My Facebook feed fills with tributes to other people’s mothers a few weeks before Mother’s day.

A couple of years ago, while in Barcelona, a book of Catalan poems jumped out at me from the bookshelves of the artist’s studio we were staying in. I began singing some of these and this one feels most apt for how I feel today, on this anniversary of my mother’s passing.

It’s called “Springtime” appropriately enough. Our trio worked with what we had on hand, Reg with his small acoustic guitar, Michel with a few things he found in the kitchen; a bucket, a broom, some chickpeas, echoing the sounds of the city. I had some small recording gear in my suitcase and made a mic stand out of a Nike soccer shoe box. This track includes my first attempt at singing in Catalan so apologies if I mangled it.

I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic these days and in it she mentions how creativity is the ability to receive ideas that are looking for us. This reminds me of my mother’s philosophy of art as well, as she sometimes told me that ideas live longer than people. That’s why we could enter a space and pick up ideas that were waiting there. That’s definitely how I felt in Barcelona, a city so dense with inspiration and creativity. I could barely catch my breath while marveling at all there was to see and hear. This is something that motivates and interests me, how our ideas and creative projects change and morph depending on where we are in the world. Our children were inspired as well, as you can see in their drawings made during our stay.

Michel was also struck by a plethora of ideas in Barcelona and he composed a wonderful piece called les cahiers de Barcelone that we’ve released on his cd Alom Mola. It’s a collage of sounds and snippets of songs gathered in his walks. And when indoors he created illustrated scores. Here are a few of the images he created that are included in the cd booklet.

As a child I was spoiled by my father’s academic life and our occasional year long sabbaticals. Now I do what I can with summer holidays and try to give our children a taste of that freedom to travel, to explore and create. It’s a chance for all of us to break free from the routine of the school year so we have our mini-sabbaticals together, our family art residencies, in the summer. And springtime? Well, that’s just something to muddle through.

My mother, Agatha Schwager, painting out of the back of our orange VW camper, brought back after one especially inspiring sabbatical.

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