Last month we heard singer/songwriter Sara Thomsen sing in the basement of a Unitarian Church in Manhattan. Mary Ann had met her in March at the Womanspeak Conference in Mobile, Alabama, where she was the featured singer. She is clearly at home in front of large crowds and intimate gatherings.
We were both struck by the beauty of her alto voice, the themes of freedom and justice in many of her songs, and the ways she managed to involve us in her circle of creativity by getting us to sing along with her. There is a deeply spiritual quality to her humor and humility and her openness to the manifold mysteries of the Spirit and human beings.
By Breath is Thomsen's third solo work, and it is a jewel shining with brightness and good will. She won the Minnesota Folk Festival's New Folk Songwriting Contest for "Irene Marguerite," an autobiographical tribute to her great aunt. Listening to this heartfelt song, we felt challenged to harvest our own memories, especially of those people who have inspired us or changed us.
We hear a lot of talk these days about unity consciousness and the need for us to tear down the walls that separate us from others. Sara has created one of the most melodic and edifying songs about unity we have ever experienced. It's called "By Breath." All you have to do is to slow down, listen with your full presence, and your heart will open fully. Follow the links in the right column to see the lyrics and the music video of this masterpiece.
Like Joan Baez and Pete Seeger (she sings his "My Name is Lisa Kalvelage"), Sara is deeply concerned about the many kinds of peace that we all seek and desire. She is not hesitant to express her political and social commitments. Check out "Deep Peace," "Keepin' the Peace," and "Freedom Song," which was started on September 11, 2001. She also expresses her spirituality freely. We love her prayer song "What Shall I Give?" "Teach us how to give we pray / Offering our work and pray / . . . May the cup of blessing you give / Fill us and teach us how to live."
These ballads reveal that we are all relations, as Native Americans keep trying to remind us. Yes, "By breath, by blood / by body, by spirit / We all are one."