Share Me Some Shoulder – Live (@GigSpace; Ottawa 2012)
The catalyst for Share Me Some Shoulder came from a place that had little do with the songwriting process when it began.
I am a high school teacher in Ottawa, Canada. For the length of my career I’ve been conflicted by the messaging that is so much a part of our Remembrance Day assemblies. Said bluntly, these assemblies function on the premise of blind patriotism; an understanding of history that precludes the nay sayer, that holds a truth that is without critique. These assemblies are dogmatic rather than reflective. These assemblies remind me that I work in an institution whose purpose is described as citizenship, but is very much a process in producing the next brick in the wall.
I entered the Remembrance Day assembly of 2011 with the this tangent in mind. I wanted to write a song that captured my critique of an institutional commitment to blind patriotism.
And while my notes began with this tack, one image took my attention and my songwriting in a new direction.
The photograph showed a father and daughter hugging. The father was a soldier. The daughter seemingly the same age as my daughter. The photo was taken from a distance and did not include detail. However, the body language in this hug was unmistakable: neither wanted to let go because they understood that this might be the last moment they shared.
Empathy has a serendipitous quality as one navigates parenthood. It is an understanding that comes at birth and only grows. It is a feeling, an attachment that one can only have as a parent. It is a shared quality between parents. And this photo had that effect on me. I imagined, almost immediately, hugging my daughter for the last time as I embarked on a journey, not of my own design, but my responsibility nonetheless. I imagined how the definition of duty must change in that moment. How staying alive becomes an imperative like never before. A selfless act now, fulfilling the unspoken duty to your child to be there. To be here. The powerlessness of not being able to fulfill that commitment.
This became the song that I needed to write. It was a concept that needed a voice, and a notion that, while not entirely germane to the original intent, was more important to write.
After all, I understood something that I hadn’t understood until now.
In December 2012 I released Streetcar Curtsy 0002 at Ottawa’s GigSpace. The venue includes a 46-seat listening room with a grand piano. With an acoustically perfect setting and a beautiful instrument I had to take advantage even if it meant baring vulnerability and playing an instrument that is not totally under my control.
Playing Share Me Some Shoulder to an audience was a departure from the safety of my previous performances.
Recorded using house microphones, the recording is subject to the room. And while my sustain foot is heavy, the piano resounds with the power the song requires.