Annie Gallup—Did You Hear the Red-Winged Blackbird?

2024, Gallway Bay Music


For 30 years, singer-songwriter, novelist and poet Bob Jensen has been a successful booking agent at his PEI-based company, Jensen Music International. His recent focus has been on his poetry and collaborations with other artists. 

Jensen's poems are typically accessible. In notes about his poems he writes, "Sometimes when I read poetry, I have no idea what the poet is talking about. When I write I want people to know exactly what I’m saying and why I am saying it, and very few of my poems are what I might describe as cryptic. To me poetry should be an arrow straight to the heart.” And who better than Annie Gallup to set these poems to music? Her own work springs from poetic lyrics, sung and spoken to her impeccable sense of rhythm and melody. Her work is always arranged with loving care and performed with nuanced musicianship. By setting these straight to the heart arrows to music, Gallup helps us more easily connect to the power of Jenson’s poetry. Piano reverberates as if in a cathedral and heavenly harmonies greet the ear in the first track "For The Million Candles Burning," while the lyrics pack references to modern tragedy and biblical destruction on “the last night of the world.” Prayers go unanswered; "And from his poet’s grave/ The prophet marvels at the shame/ For the million candles burning/ For the help that never came.” 

"Who But Daniel," about a dream of a laughing baby boy who never arrives, entwines joy and sorrow with loss and connection as only a poetic song can. “I saw him in a dream/ so many years ago/ Laughter beyond measure/ from that small aortic flow… “For the hopeful place that we had set/ For one as yet to come/ Would be taken from our table/ Before the morning sun.” “A Heavy Millstone,” is a different kind of straight shot, using stark and unflinching language to condemn the pervasive complicity that covered up the sexual abuse of children by priests. Jenson and Gallup are also effective exploring things that sustain and inspire. The clip-clopping banjo driven rhythm (an echo of "Ghost Riders in the Sky”?) of "Run For Me" is absolutely perfect for this poem celebrating the heart thrill and hope embodied in horses running free.

"The Poet's Advice to His Younger Self" is the kind of song you may want to send to yourself at various times in your life.

“Go forth into that morning/ And ride towards the sun/ And climb your a hundred apple trees/ Before the day is done.” Jensen penned "Into the Peaceful Night” as a rebuttal to Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle," inspired by his father's peaceful and dignified passing. Unlike the other songs in this collection, this one is presented with only Gallup's layered vocals, but like the other songs in this collection it is beautifully phrased, emotionally accessible and beautifully sung. Did You Hear the Red-Winged Blackbird? is a serendipitous collaboration, for Gallup, finding words for her music and for Jensen, hearing his words faithfully inhabited and made into music. The serendipity extends to anyone who takes a moment to let these beautiful poems be sung into their soul. —Michael Devlin

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