New Video, Inspite of You by Melanie Ida Chopko

Here's present for you as you do your own New Years rituals, not just as an individual but as a citizen too.

I started writing In Spite of You after the 2017 inauguration of DJT. I just needed something to sing to myself after listening to the news, and often still do.

That year I was profoundly moved by an interview I saw with one of the founders of Otpor!, an activist group that used theater and the arts to cultivate a social movement in Serbia. Within just two years, the movement overthrew dictator Slobodan Milošević and held a democratic election.

Reflecting on why they won, I just loved what Srdja Popović said: "Their hatred, their propaganda, their language, smelled like death. And we won because we loved life more. We decided to love life, and you cannot beat life."

The title is inspired by Apesar de Você, from Brasilian artist/activist Chico Buarque. Despite being written about military dictatorship (noticing a theme here?) the song is infused with joy, power, and conviction.

Singing out to the forces within us and around us that are immutable, invincible.

Tiny but mighty choir!  Jesse Sachs, Jason Leith, Kele Nitoto, Briget Boyle & Mandy Paige Bayless.

Tiny but mighty choir! Jesse Sachs, Jason Leith, Kele Nitoto, Briget Boyle & Mandy Paige Bayless.

Humongous thanks my beloved vocalists friends who came along for the ride for my first choral arrangement: Briget Boyle, Jesse Sachs, Jason Leith, Kele Nitoto, & Mandy Paige Bayless.

And a deep bow of gratitude to all the people who contributed to the emergence of this recording at different parts along the way: Rachel Efron, Moorea Dickason, David Sturdevant, Kyle Lemle, Paris Cole, Briget & Mandy again.

new music video: below the weather & the waves by Melanie Ida Chopko

below the weather & the waves

I'm proud to share this new video, made for the NPR Tiny Desk Contest (hence the desk marooned on the beach) It's a dialogue between myself and the ocean, the centered around a Zen-ish teaching: "During difficulty, see the place that has no difficulty." I find this teaching so profound, for both my inner life and how I engage with making a more just and beautiful world. When I orient toward the "quiet constant truth," something different is possible.

(My favorite part is how the sun sets over the course of the take, the light changing from warm to cool. If you like it, please share it with your meditation friends, and leave a comment to let me know what you think!)

Special thanks to Jason Simmons, Manon Rudant and Juan-Carlos Foust and so many others for making this one with me. I'm also in the midst of making a full band arrangement of the song, gorgeous in piano, arco bass and guitar. It's just plain beautiful.

Pale Blue Dot - Reflections for the new year by Melanie Ida Chopko

This year I've thought a lot about stories, the stories I tell myself about my own life and the larger world I witness around me. And I know more than ever that the extent to which I am exposed to the horrors of the world is the extent to which I need to seek out its beauty. 

I'm wary of blotting out 2017 completely, with all of its loss and explicit displays of hate. For when I zoom into my - to our - grief and anger, it always quietly reveals a central pearl of love, the pearl of giving a damn. For so many years I didn't know how to slow down enough to respect that pearl, care for it, instead of whack-a-moling my emotions away. But when I do, there's space. Alot of it.

So, at the very beginning of this year, I'm thinking a lot about the profound practice of zooming in and out, both into the dignity of our experience, and out to the wholeness of it. I recently was so moved by Carl Sagan's reflections on a photograph of Earth, "The Pale Blue Dot" monologue from Cosmos.

That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines...every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child...

Every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. 
- Carl Sagan, Cosmos

Somehow acknowledging all of it, respecting the wholeness of all its brokenness and beauty, I'm less drowned by it. Somehow there is the new spaciousness to do the work I need to do in this time.  

I don't any better way to hold vast, varied truth than through honoring the basics - sleep, meditation, real food, connection & empty-space-outbreath/play. May our New Year's intentions hold these as well.

Also, news to me - some most stunning contributions of humanity yet happened this year - read about 99 of them


PS. In the Dark was fantastic, and I'll get some video to you soon. And, what a year to celebrate in my music-as-a-force-for-good department, below! You can read more about all of these and the goofs/splats/dreams behind the scenes, here.

Thursday, January 25th
- House Concert (stand by just a liiittle bit longer for deets!)
Friday, January 26th - Private Show
Singing Outside the Shower: 21st Century Folk Repertoire
January 10th - February 14th @ The Freight