Thursday, April 4, 2013

Ancient Futures Show

Last night the Sophie's Parlor collective was thrilled to cover Willard Jenkins' spot at 10 PM - Midnight,
Helen's view of Tim!
Ancient Futures. In keeping with his format, we had music from the past, and current voices who are our classics of the future. Helen and Tim were the Divas of the Night, and Kim, Lakeisha and Deb kept us on task at the engineering board. It was a night of laughter, of good music and of fun!

Here is the playlist:

  • Sophie's Theme, Pam Parker, Imagine
  • Spring Is Here, Ella Fitzgerald, Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Rodgers and Hart Songbook
  • Feelin' Good, Carmen McRae, Women Talk (Remastered)
  • A Woman's Place Is In the Groove, Ginger Smock, Ginger Smock 1946-1958 Los Angeles Studio and Demo Recordings
  • Ain't Nobody's Biz-ness If I Do, Bessie Smith, The Very Best Of
  • Lullaby Of Birdland, Sarah Vaughan, Sarah Vaughan Verve Jazz Masters
  • Honeysuckle Rose, Hazel Scott, This Is Jazz
  • Wholly Earth, Abbey Lincoln, Wholley Earth
  • Aries, Mary Lou Williams, Zodiac Suite
  • Here Comes the Sun, Nina Simone, The Very Best of Nina Simone: Sugar in My Bowl (1967-1972)
  • Here's to Life, Shirley Horn, Here's to Life
  • It Might As Well Be Spring, Cassandra Wilson & Jacky Terrasson, Rendezvous
  • La vie en rose, Melody Gardot, The Absence
  • Younger Than Springtime, Amel Larrieux, Lovely Standards
  • I'll Remember April, Grace Kelly, Mood Changes
  • A Taste Of Honey, Lizz Wright, The New Jazz Divas
  • Light Above the Trees, Keiko Matsui, The Piano
  • Grass Roots, Terri Lyne Carrington, Money Jungle: Provocative In Blue
  • Feelin' Good, Meshell Ndegeocello, Pour une âme souveraine - A Dedication to Nina Simone
  • A Change Is Gonna Come, Anat Cohen, Notes from the Village
  • Apple Blossom, Esperanza Spalding, Chamber Music Society
  • Walkin' Shoes, Jen Krupa - Leigh Pilzer Quintet, JLQ
  • Spring, Heather Rigdon, Young & Naïve
Check out the video of Melody Gardot singing La Vie en Rose!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Until The End of Time

The year is 2013. The month is February. Although we have advanced in many ways as a species, it would appear that since the beginning of recorded herstory, women worldwide have been discriminated against, faced harassment and endured unbelievable forms of violence against them.

It is evident in the bible and other holy books, laws established and cultures of all societies that violence against women is a part of the fabric of life. Understand that such violence extends to girls as well and it is gender specific.

This violence at times has not been questioned. As a matter of fact, in some cases, females are expected to submit or participate in their own violation.

The movement to end violence against women and define this gender violence as a human rights violation is recent. It has been taking shape over the past 41 years, building awareness among women and resistance by women, as well as by some men.

When we speak about violence against women worldwide, what are some of the forms it takes?
For centuries violence against women has been an accepted practice. Now there is a movement challenging it. There are organizations providing support to women, groups empowering women to act as survivors rather than victims. Changes in the law are being forced. Women are organizing to have legislation enacted which will provide the types of protections necessary. These human rights violations and gender discrimination cannot, should not, and will not continue until the end of time.

-Nkenge Toure

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sing the Truth - Powerhouse Performance

Just a few weeks ago, three of the Sophie's Parlor Divas experienced the controlled power, elegant grace, and pure joy that is bottled in a concoction called "Sing the Truth:" just over two hours of listening to Dianne Reeves, Angelique Kidjo, and Lizz Wright. They were backed by two more stars of the jazz world, Geri Allen and Teri Lyne Carrington, as well as James Genus, Munyungo Jackson, and Romero Lubambo.  The song list included these and a few more surprises: Bold Soul Sister, Both Sides Now, Heart and Soul, Talkin' about a Revolution, Endangered Species, Easy Rider, Afrika

There are really no words to express the brilliance of the evening, except perhaps "yowza!" From the beginning, as they commanded, strode and wafted onto the stage, respectively, the audience was theirs for the taking. They performed together, in duos and singly, belting out a wide selection of songs in a variety of styles, "honoring the music and spirit of great women of jazz, folk, r&b, gospel and the blues." It was the last night of the tour, unfortunately for you, but it seems that these women will not want to be apart for long. Their friendship and love for one another was palpable.

With all of that what more could be said, but what a blueprint they gave the audience and the rest of the world of music. Women can get along, women do make beautiful music together and most importantly women do Sing The Truth. Stellar, superb, transformative. For all of you I hope the tour will be revived again. - by Helen Viksnins

A clip from Jazz Fest's Sing the Truth

Rene Marie, not to be missed!

For a long time I didn't know who Rene Marie was. I didn't know that she'd been singing all her life. Nor did I know that her career didn't really begin until she left her marriage at the urging of her son. She was 40.

What I did know was that every time I heard a song by her, I liked her more. Learning that she was going to be at the Hamilton last week was a no brainer. The show couldn't have been better. It was a mixture of old and new material, standards and originals. It exemplified the risk taking that has marked her career.

She began the set with raunchy version of the title tune of her latest release, Black Lace Freudian Slip. It got everyone clapping and displayed the talents of her rhythm section Kevin Bale, piano, Elias Bailey, bass and Quentin Baxter on drums. She got the audience singing along to Just My Imagination part of her Imagination Medley.  And she thrilled the audience with her version of Skylark.

The highlights of the evening were two new originals: Blessings, a song inspired by her late brother Claude and This Is Not a Protest Song, which she wrote about homelessness. (It can be purchased on her website and all proceeds go directly to National Coalition for the Homeless.) Both songs showcased her talent as a composer.

She concluded with the patriotic medley from her release Voice of My Beautiful Country. If you wanted to sing along to your grandma's version of America the Beautiful or Lift Every Voice and Sing, you would be disappointed. With new instrumentation, it was possible to hear them in a new way. This portion of the program was highlighted by solos by Quentin Baxter and Kevin Bale.

I can't say enough about the talent of these musicians. Returning for an encore, a song about where the time had gone and the hope that we would all meet again. If you haven't seen her, please do. It's a gift that you can give to yourself. Until you catch her live, here is a video of her below. - By Deb Morris

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Art in Motion: Mickalene Thomas

Visual Art is my home. I enjoy looking at bright colors, the evidence of texture and
the visual story of an artist through their work. Mickalene Thomas is an artist whose color and texture takes you on a resplendent journey and an intricate and intimate view of African American womanhood.  In the exhibition 30 Americans at the Corcoran Gallery of Art; I discovered a number of pieces from Ms. Thomas, who happens to share my hometown, Camden, New Jersey. The city of Camden is not in peak condition currently but it can lay claim to a many a creative soul and Mickalene Thomas is one of them.

Thomas' work is informed by the study of art history, landscapes, portraiture and such classic artists as Manet, Matisse and Bearden. She incorporates acrylic, rhinestones, enamel and Swarkofski crystals to capture and reflect the beauty of women while revealing their complexity as well. Her work must be experienced. Justice is not served to view her work online. This offering is just to expose you to her if you have not yet had the privilege. She is represented by Lehmann Maupin in New York and Susanne Vielmetter in LA. Her most recent show was in NY at the Brooklyn Art Museum (BAM). Keep an eye out for this extraordinary artist. Take a look at her discussing her studio and her process.

by Kimberly C. Gaines

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Winter, Women & Wellness

Karen Culpepper, Herbalist
As a woman who is always on her own journey for wholistic health, Diva of the Day, Andrea Thompson (AT) recently sat down with Herbalist and Massage Therapist Karen Culpepper (KC) for a chat on Women's Health and how to treat ourselves during this time of winter. What you see below is a result of it, please enjoy, comment, post and retweet it.  

Do you feel more women are moving away from traditionally allopathic medicine? If so why? (AT)

(KC)-As an herbalist with a concentration in women’s health, my answer is a biased yes...slowly but surely.  The awareness that the our current medical system is falling apart is becoming more apparent. I chose a field (or did the field choose me) that is not necessarily conventional in this day and age.  Don’t get me wrong, herbs are mainstream, as evidenced by the topics on shows like Dr. Oz, in mainstream magazines and in blog articles.   People are aware of herbs, they just may not know how to use them properly.  By properly I mean, are you using the correct part, at the proper dose and is this herb energetically the correct herb for you?  For example, during one of my recent lectures I did a call and response.  I said I will say a disease process, you say what herb you would use.  So I said cold and flu, the majority said echinacea.   I said so did you all know echinacea is on the “at risk” plant list, along with goldenseal, which is usually a popular combination for cold and flu.  (Audience was shocked). 

Why should women care about the seasons? What natural parallels can be drawn from that? (AT)

(KC)-Growing up in biracial (or should that be bicultural) household (my father is African American and my mother is Chinese), the seasons profoundly influenced my life on a variety of levels.  Both my father and maternal grandfather were avid gardeners and what came to my awareness as a child was that gardening had a rhythm to it.  During the winter my father planned out his garden.  During the spring my brother and I were responsible for little seedlings that my father germinated, which were eventually transplanted into their section in the garden.  The summer was busy with weeding, flying pollinating beings and harvesting a list of vegetables for dinner.  Fall was a time to wind down and prepare for the next growing season, full of canning and pickling with my grandmother.  Throughout all of the seasons, I was fascinated watching my nai nai (grandmother) prepare healthy food in alignment with each season.  Our food literally went from the ground to the plate.  As I got older I created themes for each season, based on my father’s gardening ritual.  Winter was a time to reflect & retreat, spring was about birth & new beginnings, summer was growth & relationships and autumn was about letting go and preparation.  

So to answer your question, rhythm is about being in alignment with nature throughout the seasons with your eating, living and being.  In fact, let me take the seasons concept to a deeper level.  As women, at some point in our lives, we have all of the seasons within us through our menstrual cycles.  The moon is the ruler of the menstrual cycle or, as I refer to it, the moon cycle.  Ideally, the menstrual cycle is in sync with the moon.  During the dark moon is when a woman bleeds and during the full moon is when a woman ovulates.  When a woman begins to  bleed, they enter the season of winter, a time of stillness and focused intention.  What would you like to manifest this month?  From there your move into spring energy, a time of action and replenishing your body with nutrients and minerals as you prepare for ovulation/full moon energy.  The week following ovulation is summer and peak time of fertility.  Your body/soil is fertile (literally and figuratively) for new beginnings to take place.  And finally, the final week is fall or a time to ground the energy and tend to self through self care rituals such as journaling or a massage.  

In this society do you feel women are encouraged to be their own health stewards? Why or why not? (AT)

(KC)-Unfortunately, I don’t feel like our medical system, or our school systems for that matter, allow anyone (men or women) to be their own health stewards.  I am blown away by people who do not question their doctors, demand more time with their doctors or walk away without a level of clarity about their diagnosis.  Our healthcare system is not a helpcare or a wellcare system that takes a holistic approach to wellness by addressing the whole person: mentally, physically, emotionally, diet, past experiences, spirituality, stressors, movement and childhood diseases and vaccines, in addition to a system by system approach to wellness.  In the amount of time allotted, a doctor gets a glimpse into current symptoms, makes a diagnosis, writes a prescription and sends the patient on their way.  

About a year ago a friend gave me a heads up that his sister was diagnosed with breast cancer and that she would give me a call to consult with me.  Naturally, I said absolutely anytime she wants to chat, I will make myself available.  One week later I called him because his sister crossed my mind and I wanted to follow up because I had not heard from her.  He said wow I just got to the hospital because she just had her mastectomy.  Please understand this concept: when you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  So if you go see a surgeon, they make their living by doing surgery.  Within a week of an initial diagnosis of stage zero breast cancer, she had her breast removed.  I respect her decision AND I am not sure if she thoroughly researched her diagnosis.  Did she create time  to get a second opinion?  Was she even encouraged to get a second opinion?  Please get that we, as women, are often the souls of our households and communities.  Seek to understand.  Research your diagnosis for your own knowledge and for the sake of your health.  Research your medications and the side effects. Make an informed decision about your health and wellbeing.

In leiu of the current outbreak of Influenza, what daily practices can women institute to work on their immune systems? (AT)

(KC)-First, ladies please make informed decisions for yourself and your families concerning the flu vaccine.  In a nutshell, I would suggest the following as daily practices women can institute to work on their immune systems: 
  • Adequate sleep
  • Fresh air
  • Gentle movement, 
  • Use fresh herbs daily(garlic, onions, astragalus, oregano...just think of your spice cabinet as your medicine cabinet)
  • Cook for yourself and your family
  • Gut support in the form of fermented foods (kombucha, pickled veggies, kimchi, miso)
  • Drink herbal tea daily (nettles, holy basil and dandelion root are my favorites right now)
  • Eliminate all people places and things that do not hold you to your higher self (translation: minimize stress)
  • Avoid foods out of season and I cannot stress this enough
  • Avoid cold drinks
My favorite preventatives include: cod liver oil (fish oil in spring and summer, cod liver oil in fall and winter), homemade fire cider (organic apple cider vinegar with  fresh garlic, fresh horseradish, cayenne and lemon), homemade elderberry syrup and this year I intuitively added vitamin D.

Can you share with our audience one thing you do to keep your own health up, as a woman? (AT)

(KC)-My secret is actually self care, which includes ritual.  I try my best to begin my day with stillness by honoring my ancestors, meditating and designing my intentions for the day.  I eat small meals often and stay hydrated throughout the day.  When I need time to myself, I take it in the form of a massage or warm bath full of flowers and herbs.  I love cooking so I have been on this soup kick with organic meat, onions, garlic, beans, carrots, celery and kale or whatever moves me at the store.  It is just so soothing and grounding for me.  I naturally don’t watch a lot of tv so I spend wintertime quiet and still.  I am somewhat of a recluse and I think that is because it takes a lot of energy to hold space for women.  I am very solution oriented and because I have the honor of spending up to 2 hours with a client during an initial consultation, very deep and intimate subjects can come up from libido issues and digestive concerns to molestation and abuse.  I often unplug around 9pm.  I do not answer my phone after a certain hour and I do not use the computer too late into the evening.  My daughter and husband also keep me grounded so I enjoy my time with them. Sometimes my husband and I just sit in our little listening room and get lost in a jazz album.  This is winter for me.   

Karen Culpepper, CEO/Creatress of Embracing Rhythm, a clinical women’s health and therapeutic massage practice. A fierce advocate for women’s health and wellness, Karen assists women that suffer with PMS, PCOS, infertility, uterine fibroids. She formulates custom blended herbal recommendations and makes effective dietary and lifestyle recommendations so that women heal themselves naturally. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

In the Parlor with Literature, Poetry & Prose: Adrienne Rich

Over the years, I had the privilege of meeting and hearing the poet Adrienne Rich. Her work was and is very important to me. So when she died last year, like many others, I felt that her death was a personal loss. She was a writer of tremendous integrity.

For those of you who don’t know Rich’s work, she was an outspoken artist who championed the equality for all people. More than that, she was equal in her opposition to the ways in which American political culture devalued the citizens of this country while carrying on policies that imperiled people around the globe. In turning down the National Medal of the Arts from President Bill Clinton, she said that art was “incompatible with the cynical politics of this Administration.” She went on to write in her letter declining the award to then NEA chair, Jane Alexander, “The radical disparities of wealth and power in America are widening at a devastating rate. A President cannot meaningfully honor certain token artists while the people at large are so dishonored.”

In more than 25 books of poetry and essays, she courageously challenged the depictions of women, wrote frankly about sexuality, championed the work of other writers, and urged her readers not to be boxed in to a view of the world seen only through the prism of popular media.

Although she produced a large body of work, it is not uncommon when an author dies that there is a resurgence of interest in their work. So it was with great joy that a collection of her work Later Poems: Selected and New 1971-2012 was published at the end of last year. This collection selected by Rich includes work from 12 volumes of poetry from Diving into the Wreck in 1971 to Tonight No Poetry Will Serve, as well as 10 new poems. It is a wonderful addition to any library providing readers with an extensive sampling of the work of one of America’s finest poets.

Here is Rich reading "What Kind of Times Are These."
by Deb Morris

Forty Years Later - Are We Taking Care of Ourselves?

Chris Williamson -
pioneer in women's music

In 1972 when Sophie's Parlor launched its groundbreaking presence in radio, the second wave of feminism was in full flower. Women were working towards the goals of equal pay, equal roles and fair rights in family life, and reproductive rights, to name a few. Nearly half of all mothers were stay-at-home moms and didn't have the educational experience to obtain professional occupations. 

Today, many of the goals of the feminist movement have been achieved (although their defense still continues!). However, it's no secret that stress has become a factor in the lives of everyone, and as the above studies show, especially in the lives of women. A recent study shows that stress about balancing work and family is greater for the working mother than any other category.

As a public service to those working mothers, this inaugural blog offers some suggestions to combat these stressors:
Alignment Sequence for All Ages!
  • My mantra for this year is "Go deep, get light." This means taking time each day for meditation, stillness, contemplation, prayer. As I go deeper, I get lighter: enlightened, inspired, and possibly drop some pounds as I am reorienting my own focus towards self-care. I use an app on my iphone to track my meditation each day.
  • After meditation, move! If the gym or yoga studio isn't your favorite scene, your movement doesn't have to be overtly strenuous. Gentle or slow movement has the benefit of releasing sore or stiff muscles, increasing calm breathing, and encouraging slowing down overall. Brigit Viksnins (full disclosure: my sister!) has developed a series of movements called the Alignment Sequence in which you move every part of your body to both loosen up and strengthen.
  • Nourish yourself with excellent nutrition! Return to the way your grandmother and great-grandmother ate. I recommend visiting Monica Corrado's website for her articles about cooking, nutrition, and the traditional basics. The satisfaction of eating a bowl of pre-soaked oatmeal slathered in real butter, fresh blueberries and full-fat yogurt compared to the fast food feel of dry cereal flakes with watery skim milk!
Stay tuned for more lifestyle blog postings! Let's take GOOD care of ourselves.

- Diva of the Day Helen

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year: Under Construction

Happy New Year, welcome to 2013! We trust you had a safe and exciting opening to yet another beautiful year to exist on this planet! In this New Year Sophie's Parlor is undergoing renovations. Please bear with us while we rearrange, paint, polish and expand. There is much more to come and we are looking forward to having you over soon to see our new digs. The current look is just a curtain to what is moving and shaking on the inside.

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