‘Lullabies of Love’ CD, a Collaboration of Artists Who Care, Will Support ‘One Home Many Hopes’
BY SEAN SMITH
SPECIAL TO THE BIR
The biggest ideas often have the simplest beginnings. For Newton resident Lindsay O’Donovan, the inspiration for a major combination music project and fundraising initiative came from the act of quietly humming a tune for a sleepy little girl named Lovie who lay cradled in her arms.
That tune – which O’Donovan literally made up on the spot – will be included on a newly issued CD, sales of which will benefit One Home Many Hopes (OHMH), the home for orphaned and abandoned girls in Kenya where O’Donovan met Lovie last year while volunteering. The CD, “Lullabies for Love,” will include previously released tracks by such artists as Solas, Mick Moloney, Karan Casey, Altan, Liz Carroll, Susan McKeown & Johnny Cunningham, Navan, Skara Brae, Heidi Talbot & Cherish the Ladies, Seamus Egan, Sheila Falls & Keith Murphy and Aoife Clancy. Other contributors to the album include Dougie MacLean, Alasdair Fraser, Natalie Haas, Lissa Schneckenburger, John Doyle, Christy O’Leary, Eamon Murray, Sean Graham, Chico Huff and Lindsay’s daughters Aoife and Fionnuala O’Donovan.
Two tracks were written and recorded especially for the album: the aforementioned O’Donovan composition “Lullaby for Lovie” – featuring O’Donovan accompanied by Shannon Heaton, Hanneke Cassel, and Ariel Friedman – and “One Home” by Noel Paul Stookey, part of the legendary 1960s trio Peter, Paul and Mary.
Lindsay, Aoife, and Fionnuala O’Donovan will be joined by Clancy, Heaton, Falls, Cassel and several other of the album’s contributors at a CD release concert on May 15 at 4:30 p.m. in Harvard Square’s Club Passim. All proceeds from the event will go to One Home Many Hopes.
The experience of putting together the CD (produced by O’Donovan’s husband Brian, host of WGBH’s “A Celtic Sojourn”) and concert has been a rewarding one for O’Donovan, not only from a musical standpoint but because it has helped deepen the strong connection to One Home Many Hopes that she forged during the month she spent there.
“I’ve just been overwhelmed by this show of love and support for the children,” says O’Donovan. “It’s wonderful how one group of friends -- the people I know through music – has reached out to another group of friends, including Lovie.
“What I found in Kenya was truly a home, made up of girls who came from challenging circumstances but who are loved and cared for, encouraged and educated in ways that belied the immense -- some would say, insurmountable -- odds. And now everyone at One Home Many Hopes knows there are many, many people out there in the world who care about them.”
OHMH provides not only shelter and care for the girls, but also gives them an education and – perhaps most importantly – the support and motivation to be agents of change in their community and help end the cycle of poverty and desperation. When O’Donovan heard about the organization and its mission, she was determined to bring them a gift that had enriched her family’s life and hoped would do the same for the 32 girls at OHMH: music. “It seems like a small thing, and perhaps in the great scheme, it is,” she told Boston Irish Reporter prior to her departure. “But if one kid thinks someone loves them enough to sing and dance with them, talk with them, listen to them, they can carry that with them – and maybe it will help empower that child to help others.”
With support from the All Newton Music School and other donations, O’Donovan made the trek to Kenya, bringing along 25 recorders given by the school and a Yamaha keyboard purchased by her four children. She used the instruments to teach the girls simple tunes and songs, but found she had more students to reckon with than she thought.
“I was struck by the interest on the part of the adult staff in wanting to learn music,” she says, “so I spent time teaching them piano and guitar with the hopes that they could pass it along to the kids. Having been trained as a pianist, but not a piano teacher, this was a baptism by fire for me. But somehow everything worked, and by the time I left, the children and staff alike were playing ‘Jingle Bells,’ ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and other songs.”
When Cassel -- known equally for her verve and spirit as well as her prize-winning fiddle-playing -- joined her for the last week of her visit, “things really took off,” says O’Donovan.
“I’ll never forget the look on the faces of two toddlers, Jamilla and Junior, as they stood in the doorway watching in amazement as Hanneke played a tune on the fiddle, never having heard this sound before in their lives.”
Another highlight was an evening of set dancing, with O’Donovan accompanying Cassel as she played fiddle and called the dances. “Our friends Diane, Sarah and Ian were leading the girls, who counted out ‘1, 2, 3, 4! Back, 2, 3, 4!’ with wide smiles as they danced the figures.”
O’Donovan enjoyed working and playing with all the children at OMHM, but wound up spending time with three particular girls, all around the age of 5, Reheema, Riziki -- and Lovie. “They kind of ran the place, because even though they were small they had big personalities,” says O’Donovan with a smile.
One evening, riding the OHMH bus back home after a trip to town, O’Donovan found herself with Lovie on her lap, both of them tired from the day’s activities. “She started to doze, and I just began humming to help her fall asleep -- it felt like the most natural thing in the world. I don’t know where the tune came from, but it stayed in my head and started to expand. When I got up in the morning I wrote the notes down on a scrap of paper, and there it was: ‘Lullaby for Lovie.’”
After an emotional farewell to her friends at OHMH and her return home, one night O’Donovan played her new composition for her husband, and the idea to compile a benefit album of lullabies -- “Lullabies for Love” -- was born. They began contacting singers and musicians they’d come to know over the years and asked them to donate tracks from their recordings.
“The response was amazing,” says O’Donovan. “Aoife Clancy said, ‘If it has anything to do with helping children, I’m in.’”
Tracks on the CD include “Queen Maeve’s Slumber” (Sheila Falls and Keith Murphy), “When Juniper Sleeps” (Seamus Egan), “Gartan Mother’s Lullaby” (Aoife Clancy), “John of Dreams” (Mick Moloney), “Cradle Song” (Aoife O’Donovan, Jed Wilson, Jake Silver and Lissa Schneckenburger) and “Seothin Seo Ho” (Navan).
For those who cannot attend the one-and-a-half-hour CD release concert (OHMH founder Thomas Keown plans to be there, and Anthony Mulongo, who first established the orphanage, also hopes to attend), O’Donovan notes that the event will be streamed live via the Internet on Concert Window [concertwindow.com].
“People can have a ‘lullaby party’ -- invite some friends over, make some hot chocolate, or perhaps a hot toddy, curl up and watch the show, and donate,” she says.
In addition, following the concert Tommy Doyle’s Irish Pub & Restaurant in Harvard Square (96 Winthrop St.) will host an open reception with cash bar, offering an opportunity to meet the performers as well as representatives from the orphanage.
O’Donovan says the CD not only represents a means to help others, but also provides an opportunity to truly appreciate the lullaby as a piece of music with its own special virtues. “There’s a kind of a misperception about lullabies. People tend to view them as geared for children. But they’re good for all of us: They help us slow down and reflect, they put us in a calm, peaceful frame of mind, and they help us sleep. And in today’s world, isn’t peace and relaxation something we need?”
To reserve tickets for the May 15 show, which are $40 apiece, go to passim.org and click on the calendar of events, or call 617-492-7679.
For information about One Home Many Hopes, and the “Lullabies for Love” CD, see ohmh.org