The Quiet Room Connection

Loving donation from Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, for my bedside harp patients at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital, during the pandemic of 2020

In April of 2020, many CTMs were considered "non-essential" and were not allowed to continue bringing bedside harp therapy to patients due to the CoVID-19 pandemic. I received this donation of CD recordings of some of the waltzes that I play at the bedside, from the original artists, to be distributed to my hospital and hospice patients in my absence. 

"The Quiet Room" by Jay Ungar and Molly Mason

The Ashokan Center Music and Dance Camps have been led by Jay Ungar and Molly Mason since 1981. They have a calendar full of camps to attend, and the Ashokan Center is a beautiful independent music and nature non-profit.  You can find information here about how to support their work. 

On November 28th, there will be Giving Tuesday Gratitude Hour Livestream at noon. (There is no cost to enjoy.)

Thanksgiving, 2023

We issue annual grants starting around Thanksgiving each year until the end of the calendar year.  Proceeds earned through Ep(ode) are donated to various eligible 501(c)(3) charities each year. The last few years' recipients have included the NSBTM (National Standards Board for Therapeutic Musicians), the Historical Harp Society (in honor of Ann Heymann's Lifetime Achievement Awards), Deborah Henson-Conant's "The Golden Cage" Musical (two grants), and Christina Tourin's Angel Harps project, "Harp Soul Rising," among others.

This year, the first grant of the year has gone to the Ashokan Center, in honor of Jay Ungar and Molly Mason. There's a wonderful story here:

In November, Carol and I attended a concert at The Kate, which was an extraordinary experience. Ruth Ungar-Merenda (Jay Ungar's daughter) and Mike Merenda of The Mammals performed with Sarah Lee Guthrie (daughter of Arlo and granddaughter of Woody). The concert was exceptional, and the weight of both their impressive family heritages was not lost on us. Even beyond their incredible folk music pedigrees: they've been asked by Pete Seeger's family to compose tunes for some lyrics held in his archives. What an amazing honor. The stories and the songs were memorable.

Many know how much I love to play some of Jay Ungar's and Molly Mason's waltzes from Bill Matheson's The Waltz Books. I have especially fond wedding anniversary memories of skating to the Mountain House Waltz in hand knit sweaters and enjoying hot cocoa by the fire with my husband at the Mohonk Mountain House resort's huge stone skating rink in New Paltz, NY. I also play some "mikeandruthy" songs at the bedside. Last week, I played "When My Story Ends," for a family of a hospice patient I enjoyed visiting, who has since passed. "Beautiful One" is another favorite.

Right before the pandemic, in 2020, I was helping our local symphony host two incredible master musicians, Cagatay Akyol and Bulent Evcil. Bulent is a prodigy of Sir James Galway, and knew Jay Ungar's Ashokan Farewell through that connection, via James Galway's flute performance of the theme for Ken Burn's Civil War series on PBS. What a joy it was to hear Bulent and Cagatay play their master-class version, flute and harp duet, of a piece I play often at the bedside for patients. (They even dedicated it to me at their Harvard concert, wow...) At the end of their tour in New England, I waved goodbye to the pair for their plane trip home to Ankara -- when I got home, I received the notification that the health department would not allow "non-essential" personnel in nursing facilites. I would not be able to attend my usual hospice patients for bedside harp therapy because of this rapidly spreading virus. Within a day, hospital privileges were also suspended. Luckily, our Turkish friends had safely made it home, wearing masks, before borders were closed due to the deadly pandemic, which would soon cause devastation around our world.

During this stressful and isolated time, Jay and Molly played Facebook Live concerts every Wednesday night, which they named "The Quiet Room." It's been an uplifting tradition they've created and maintained each week, throughout the pandemic. It still continues each Wednesday. For years, their Quiet Room  CD was been one that I would recommend to others looking for uplifting music; a number of the waltzes in that collection I often play for patients as slow airs at the bedside. I used to purchase these CDs and leave copies for some of my hospice patients at facilities, where the staff could help them play the music whenever they wanted, in players by their bedside. 

The day that my first CoVID19-quarantined hospice patient passed away, a nursing staff member met me at a back door to receive a Quiet Room CD. The nurse was able to play it for her throughout the day, until she passed. It was distressing, as we began to understand that patients would be passing away without their family members -- that loved ones would need to be denied visitation for health and safety reasons. They would never see their family again. Some of us arranged for iPad to iPad therapeutic music visits, when there was staff available to assist on the quarantined end. Some family members would eventually be allowed to visit through closed windows, just for the reassurance of a glimpse or a blown kiss. Soon we would come to understand that even funerals would need to be put on hold. What a comfort it was to know that this hospice patient, whom I had played my harp for each week for more than a year throughout her decline, at least got to listen to music she enjoyed during her final hours. 

During the pandemic, Jay and Molly donated a case of their CDs for me to distribute to my patients. It was such an extraordinary gift of love. Patients as well as staff at Yale NH Health hospitals (like Lawrence & Memorial and Westerly Hospitals) were given the gift of music during such a lonely and stressful time.

This year, Ruth and Mike Merenda's concert with Sarah Lee Guthrie reminded me of many wonderful, heartwarming memories. With Thanksgiving around the corner, the first small grant of the year went to the Ashokan Center, in honor of the lifetime gift of music shared by Jay Ungar and Molly Mason.