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Jenifer Harper

Ze zat bij ons aan de ontbijttafel. Rond de 80, met rode appelwangen, sprankelende ogen en verhalen die boekdelen spraken over haar gevoel voor humor, haar spirit, haar hunkering naar schoonheid. Wij: een groep singer-songwriters aan de start van een tweedaagse cursus in Woodbrooke, een prachtig Quaker centrum en guest house in het Engelse Birmingham. Zij: ‘Just here for a couple of days to visit some friends, darling. Nice to meet you, what’s your name? Mine is Jenifer, Jenifer Harper.

Meteen na deze korte maar krachtige ontmoeting pende ik snel enkele zinnen over haar neer in mijn notitieboekje – hét onmisbare attribuut van iedereen die het waagt zich singer-songwriter te noemen ;-). Niet wat ze ons met veel vrolijke, bijdehandse en ‘cheeky’ flair had verteld, maar eerder wat ik tussen de lijnen door had begrepen… Jenifer Harper has written a song, but she has no one to sing for, so she’s singing on her own… Ik was niet meteen van plan er iets mee te doen, en toen de workshop begon, was ik het alweer vergeten.

Tot Mo, een van mijn mede-cursisten en een fantastische zangeres, tijdens een vrije oefening naar me toekwam met een gitaar en enkele akkoorden, op zoek naar een tekst. Mijn krabbels over Jenifer schoten me terug te binnen. “Laten we dit eens proberen, voor de grap”, zei ik. Enkele uren later hadden we een song waar de groep ons bij de presentatie in de namiddag een staande ovatie voor gaf. Mooi. Maar nog veel mooier was wat er de volgende dag gebeurde.

Hi, Jenifer, are you leaving? Ik zag haar zitten aan de receptie, met haar koffertje naast de sofa.
Hi there! I am waiting for my son to come and pick me up. How are you darling, have you written any songs?
Well… yes 🙂
En ik heb het haar verteld. Dat ik een lied over haar had geschreven. Maar niet echt over haar, want ik ken haar niet. Maar toch een beetje over haar. Alleszins over iemand met haar naam.
Oh please darling, sing it for me .
En als bij wonder passeerde Mo. En Jack, een super getalenteerde multi-instrumentalist met wie Mo en ik de vorige dag hadden samengewerkt. En Jacob, een fantastische ziel en muzikant die Mo ondersteunde op de gitaar. Dott haalde haar camera boven en ‘we were rolling’… net als de tranen op Jenifers wangen.

Jenifer Harper, listening to ‘her’ song

PS: Nadien schreef Jenifer me enkele prachtige emails. We zijn nog steeds in contact 🙂

Thank you, again, and so much.  I have just arrived home in Newcastle and of course the first thing I have done is played back the recording – what wonderful souvenir, in every sense. The words are lovely and just float with such subtle music and support

To think so much came out of a conversation over breakfast.  You are a very gentle and uncannily accurate observer. There was an uncanny synchronicity in some of your images. On Saturday, while you were writing the song, both lovely red roses and free flying birds (kestrels) were central to a very happy – if exhausting –  day. I look forward to hearing more of your songs and everyone’s music.

Jenifer

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Jenifer Harper

She was sitting at our breakfast table. Around 80, with red apple cheeks, sparkling eyes and stories that spoke volumes about her sense of humor, her spirit, her craving for beauty. Us: a group of singer-songwriters at the start of a two-day course in Woodbrooke, a beautiful Quaker center and guest house in Birmingham, England. She: ‘Just here for a couple of days to visit some friends, darling. Nice to meet you, what’s your name? Mine is Jenifer, Jenifer Harper.

Immediately after this short but powerful meeting, I quickly wrote down a few sentences about her in my notebook – the indispensable attribute of everyone who dares to call herself a singer-songwriter ;-). Not what she told us with a lot of cheerful, smart and cheeky flair, but rather what I understood between the lines… Jenifer Harper has written a song, but she has no one to sing for, so she’s singing on her own… I wasn’t immediately planning on doing anything with it, and by the time our workshop started I had forgotten about it.

Until Mo, one of my fellow students and a fantastic singer, came to me with a guitar and a few chords, looking for a text. My lines about Jenifer came to mind. Let’s try this, just for fun, I said. A few hours later we had a song for which the group gave us a standing ovation at the presentation in the afternoon. Beautiful. But even more beautiful was what happened the next day.

Hi, Jenifer, are you leaving? I saw her sitting at the reception, with her suitcase next to her.
Hi there! I am waiting for my son to come and pick me up. How are you darling, have you written any songs?
Well… yes 🙂
And so I told her. That I wrote a song about her. But not really about her, because I didn’t know her. But a little bit about her anyway. At least about someone with her name.
Oh please darling, sing it for me .
And as by miracle, Mo passed by. As did Jack, an incredibly talented multi- instrumentalist, adding magic to the song with his flute, and beautiful soul and musician Jacob, who joined Mo on the guitar. Dott got her camera out and we were rolling… as were the tears on Jenifers cheeks.

Jenifer Harper, listening to ‘her’ song

PS: Afterwards Jenifer wrote several beautiful emails to me. We are still in contact 🙂

Thank you, again, and so much. I have just arrived home in Newcastle and of course the first thing I have done is played back the recording – what wonderful souvenir, in every sense. The words are lovely and just float with such subtle music and support.

To think so much came out of a conversation over breakfast. You are a very gentle and uncannily accurate observer. There was an uncanny synchronicity in some of your images. On Saturday, while you were writing the song, both lovely red roses and free flying birds (kestrels) were central to a very happy – if exhausting – day. I look forward to hearing more of your songs and everyone’s music.

Jenifer

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