A poem penned by Sandy Hook resident Joe Hemingway will be taking flight in song, thanks to a collaboration with a former school friend and songwriter hundreds of miles away in the rolling mountains of Vermont. The musical encounter also inspired a second song and a growing social network of fans.
Mr Hemingway first approached The Newtown Bee excited to pay respects to Mary L. Collins, and to discuss the possibility of using their creative output to raise funds for the very village that served as their collective muse.
“On the nine-month anniversary of 12/14, I wrote a poem, about ‘The Hook,’ about where we have been, where we are, and where we are going to be,” Mr Hemingway said. “It sounded more like a song to me than any poem I had written before, so I asked an old friend, Mary Collins, if she would be interested in putting it to music.”
Picking up the conversation via e-mail, Ms Collins recalled how “Joe and I were classmates at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, Vt., and between us, attended most of the Catholic grade schools in Burlington.”
He said after 12/14, Ms Collins had been very supportive as both the Hemingway family and his community began their healing journey.
“When she was trying to put my words to music she was inspired to write [her own] song,” Mr Hemingway said. “We [were planning on] putting the two songs together on a Facebook page or a website, or maybe even a CD, and using them to raise money for various 12/14-related causes.”
A Song Emerges
Ms Collins said her “Song For Newtown” emerged after spending a lot of time corresponding with Mr Hemingway, reading his poem, and “after thinking about the whole range of emotions any of us might experience in similar circumstances.
“It just came to me this way,” she added.
“As a mother, and a friend to many who have suffered loss of a loved one, I was deeply affected by the tragedy, yet felt, like many of us, as though I had little ability to do much that could lend support or help with the healing,” Ms Collins said. “As it turned out, ‘Song For Newtown’ kind of wrote itself. And I thank Joe for inspiring the entire event and work.”
A few days ago, Ms Collins said the song based on Mr Hemingway’s poem was percolating in draft three of the writing phase, but she sent along her song so Mr Hemingway and the community could “have something to listen to and reflect on.”
The Vermonter said she was not happy with the earlier versions of her adaptation of Mr Hemingway’s verse, and is promising a finished product soon.
“I felt it best not to force it. It’s too important a message,” she said. “There’s no easy way to remedy the hurt of the loss of a loved one — least of all any of our dear ones who have died in a tragic and senseless way.”
“Song for Newtown” is written and performed by Ms Collins, with background vocals by Lizzy Mandell, guitar and piano by Kristina Stykos, and cello by Patrick Ross. It was mixed and mastered by Kristina Stykos at Pepperbox Studios, Chelsea, Vt.
To preview the song and learn more about fundraising efforts, visit www.facebook.com/songfornewtown. To listen to the son, visit www.soundcloud.com/mary-l-collins/song-for-newtown.