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This Preview story by Nicole Plett was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on October 14, 1998. All rights reserved.

Healing Sounds of Music

Losing a loved one -- in body or in spirit -- can be a devastating experience. Recovery, or perhaps simply learning to live with the pain, can take many different forms.

For Lolly Barton, the pain of a daughter's suicidal impulses presented such a life crisis. In response, Barton turned to art and creativity as her path out of the maze of fear. Now Barton's work is being performed to encourage other families to use creativity in dealing with adversity.

Barton's original composition "My Daughter's Words: A Musical Dialogue Between a Mother and Child," is a powerful and musically rich work that encompasses poetry, music, and song, with ensemble elements of jazz, blues, bossa nova, and gospel.

A free performance of "My Daughter's Words" will be presented by Laurie Altman and his jazz ensemble and the a cappella singing group Jersey Transit, on Friday, October 16, at 7:30 p.m. at Nassau Presbyterian Church. Jazz singer Jackie Jones is soloist and Liz Fillo narrates the text and poetry. Through a grant from the J. Seward Johnson Sr. Charitable Trusts, the concert is co-sponsored by the Family Wellness Resource Center at Trinity Counseling Service and the Arts Council of Princeton.

Barton's work was triggered by painful personal experience. "I was hurting deeply for fear of my daughter's life and wanted to express those feelings musically in some permanent way," she says. "I went to Laurie Altman, my friend and teacher, and asked if he would help me. And so he did, gently guiding me through a process and always respecting what I wanted to say and do. It evolved slowly, naturally, wonderfully, and then it was time to stop -- enough."

As Barton completed the meditation and creation of her life's experience, Altman told her he thought the work should be performed. "Through its honesty `My Daughter's Words' touches a deep chord in audiences and speaks to everyone," he says. The piece concludes on a note of hope, as does Barton's story. Her daughter, now 28, lives and works in New York.

"My mother told me many years ago, and more than once, that I was so lucky because I would always have my music to help me, no matter what," Barton recalls. "And that is true. I've always played the piano by ear, and often into the night where my music would float into space and be gone forever."

Carol Johnson of Trinity Counseling describes "My Daughter's Words" as a poignant example of how people might use their inner resources, expressed through poetry and music, to articulate their feelings during a time of crisis. Whereas Lolly Barton composed the work as her own personal response to crisis, she incorporated into it poems that her daughter had written, over years, during her own personal struggle.

Anne Reeves of the Arts Council of Princeton says her organization believes in the arts as a force to promote well-being and to bind its participants in a shared sense of community. "Everyone -- adults and children -- who attend classes at the Arts Council find that they are captured by a creative process that releases their artistic gifts and increases their self esteem." A newly renovated, expanded, and "re-imagined" Arts Council will be opening within the next year 18 months, she says, "to serve all who continue to seek channels of self-expression through the exploration of the arts."

-- Nicole Plett

My Daughter's Words, Trinity Counseling, Nassau Presbyterian Church, 61 Nassau Street, 609-924-0060. "My Daughter's Words: A Musical Dialogue Between a Mother and Child." Free with reservation. Friday, October 16, 7:30 p.m.

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