Laura Siersema
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Laura Siersema

Greenfield, Massachusetts, United States | SELF

Greenfield, Massachusetts, United States | SELF
Band Spoken Word Singer/Songwriter

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""Between the Cracks""

The major labels are always looking for artists who fit in neat categories, to simplify their marketing efforts. Artists know this, and try to make music that will fit. But some artists are driven to make music that falls between the cracks, that fits no musical genre very well at all. Sometimes, there are traces of various musical genres, but combined in unexpected ways. And sometimes there is no genre that can describe the music fairly. Always, these artists show a fierce originality. Some of the worst music I have ever heard is like this; the artist creates something abstract, without the slightest regard to connecting with their potential listeners. But some of the best music I have ever heard also defies categorization. Just as the English language is neither French nor German, but is derived from both, this music is a new language, but one that speaks eloquently.
For my recent Jazz Singers Spotlight, I included a song from Laura Siersema’s latest album. It was the sound of an artist who has found her voice. But ten years earlier, the Tampa Tribune said of her debut album, “Folk fans should take note as well as those who like classical and Tori Amos”. Translation: “I have no idea what to call this, but I like it.”. Tori Amos comes up because Siersma sings and plays piano; the classical reference has to do with how Siersma sings; and Siersma does include three folk songs on the album, but does not perform them in a folk manner.

Listening to this album now, and knowing where Siersema’s muse would take her, I can hear full arrangements in my head for these songs. What feels like a vaguely classical vocal here becomes a jazz vocal when paired with a full band. I applaud Siersema for letting her music take her where it needed to go. That said, the songs on this first album do stand up as they are. And the spare arrangements help to emphasize what a fine character writer Siersema is. - Oliver di Place blog (Darius)


"Talon of the Blackwater: Laura Siersema"

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker
(progdawg@hotmail.com).

A heady concoction of classical, progressive, and light jazz musics, Talon of the Blackwater is a Renaissance-ish semi-symphonic enterprise by way of Joni Mitchell and a scattering of Paul Winter's early materials…well before he transferred his world-music sentiments into the New Age. Think, then, of shades of Chuck Mangione's mellow side during his high period, minus the improv—Land of Make Believe, perhaps, taken down a few notches rhythmically, administered a pensively literate soporific. That should get you through the door.

Laura Siersema encants in a high clear voice simultaneously bright, hopeful, and wistful alongside swirling misty veils of gauze and shimmering fairylands, pastoral heavens sans the traces of canonical dogma. Sharply slanted to the spiritual, mystic Christian a la Bruce Cockburn, the composer cleaves to an experientially informed sentiment fusing existentialism and transcendence, most sharply illuminated, amid her own extremely well composed and lyricized tracks, in the trad chestnuts Wade in the Water and All My Trials. Don't, however, think of Ramsey Lewis' much-famed version of the former nor Mickey Newbury's impossibly piercing take on the latter; Siersema makes these classics completely her own, baptizing them in cool streams of a luxurious healing that indexes perfectly into the flow of reflective soma comprising this entire release.

My Eye This Flower in Julep Runs is a gorgeous Edenic center ground between foggy ballad and melisma while Along the Fenway, an epic 14:35, becomes a spacious rendering taking advantage of the wide soundstage, alternating between delicacy and emphasis for a long intro descending into poetry and the sort of manifestation Joni was heading for but never quite arrived at.

More than once, Annie Haslam's dulcet tones peek out as well. Of particular note throughout the release, above Siersema's voice, guitar, and keys, is Michael Farquharson's bass playing, brimming with imagery and gesture, but expect to hear T. Lavitz (Dixie Dregs) and Eugene Friesen (Paul Winter) in there as well, lending their undeniable talents in a mix well presented by producer-engineer Jay Hovnanian, a synth player texturing the affair with palpably melancholy airs.

Talon of Blackwater won't fit comfortably within any single genre, but that's entirely appropriate. We are now, are we not?, in another period of change and renewal, and the arts, as always, are holding the door open. Siersema's disc is one among a small group emerging to hold the new mid-ground and stabilize landscapes as the next giant step is taken.
Track List:

* Mother Mary Rose
* Talon of the Blackwater and Graces
* Go Children Slow
* Wade in the Water
* I was Once a Sailor
* This Train
* Jumping off the Big Board
* My Eye this Flower in Juleps Runs
* Who will Pass this On?
* All My Trials
* Along the Fenway
- FAME (Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange)


"LAURA SIERSEMA, Love Flows Like the Blood of a River"

She sounds like a young Judy Collins but don't expect traditional fare from
this young singer-songwriter. While she covers standards like "Shenandoah", her own material falls closer to the writing of Tori Amos.

Simple arrangements with piano, acoustice guitar, light percussion and vocals cradle each song. Every original song seems like a collection of short stories, with vivid images strung together with Siersema's airy soprano as narrator.

Her lyrics are refreshingly creative and free of cliches. Interspersed with the songs are short spoken word pieces that sometime serve as an
introduction to the upcoming song.
Thankfully, they are short which make for better repeated listening.

The highlight of this CD is a hauntingly beautiful version of "Five Hundred Miles", sung over a rolling piano and cello. Eugene Friesen's cello is wonderful here, especially
the stunning solo in the middle of the song.

There's an intimacy to the productions of this release, as if she's sitting in the room with you. This is a fine second CD from this New England based singer-songwriter.
__JA


- Sing Out! Vol. 47 #3


"Singer Finds Her Inner Voice"

Thursday July 24, 2003

By ADAM ORTH
Recorder Staff

GREENFIELD — The phrase came to her in a dream 20 years ago: “Love flows like the blood, of a river.”
These words have a significance — in part because of who said them — that Laura Siersema may never reveal. No matter. It’s enough to know that, after years of searching, she has found both the voice and the courage to sing them.
Indeed, they form the lyrical backbone for the title song of her second CD: “Love Flows Like the Blood of a River.” Recently released at TurningStone Coffeehouse, an intimate performance space on Greenfield’s Main Street, the CD arrives at a time when Siersema has all-but made her peace with the creative forces that drive her.
A person committed to plumbing the depths of her unconscious, Siersema taps its creative energy with poetry, songwriting, and piano playing. Her crystal-clear voice and skill at the keyboard entice the listener into a journey both reflective and emotional.
It wasn’t always that way.
Raised in Amherst County, Va., Siersema was one of four siblings born to parents who performed in a folk music group called the Hon-o-lees.
Naturally, she was singing, playing ukulele, guitar and piano at an early age. She and a friend would be called out on stage during events headlined by her parents, such as Hootenanny Night at the Lion’s Club. Then, at 11, her father’s job was transferred to western Florida. The family followed and, somehow, Siersema lost the courage for music. She became a cheerleader, the good student.
“I think, in ways I don’t really know, leaving Virginia was very hard for me,” she said. “It just went way inside.”
Unbroken was her interest in piano, a musical thread created with lessons from her mother. She took a year of classical piano lessons. But, other needs called. After graduating from high school she went to college to become a doctor.
“It was doing was what was expected of me, because I did so well in school,” said Siersema. “It was a desire, in many ways, to please my parents. To give them something of obvious worth.”
She was in her second year at the University of Florida, in a zoology class, when Siersema realized she could not make herself truly like being a doctor. She called her parents.
“I remember crying when I told them I couldn’t do it,” she said. “I knew I would never be what they imagined I could be.”
Siersema dropped her pre-med studies and instead became a nurse. She moved to New York City. The seeds of change had been sown, however. She’d written her first lyrics on a napkin in nursing class. In New York, she had a piano in her apartment. She started learning about different types of singing. She met the first of two therapists whose help would prove pivotal. She continued to capture her dreams in a journal.
In all, she would spend seven years in nursing, either in hospice or in psychiatrics. Nursing did not trouble her — it just wasn’t enough.
“Just because you’re good at something does not mean that is who your crucial self is,” she said. “It was the best way I had, at the time, of surviving.”
One day, Siersema’s lack of fulfillment built up enough for her to set her sights on the Berklee School of Music. It took a while, but one day she dumped her nursing books into her apartment’s incinerator. They dropped seven floors. She left for Boston.
Siersema continued to do nursing in the summers to pay the bills while in school. But the main thing was the music. It was at Berklee that she found her voice: as a songwriter, a poet and a singer.
Her singing voice, says Siersema, was the most deeply buried of her creative energies. Professional singing lessons helped it emerge, yet offering it up publicly continues to tax her courage.
“To discover the full range of my voice was an entirely phenomenal and necessary experience,” she said. “It’s the most vulnerable thing I can do, sing.”
It was at Berklee that Siersema made her first attempt to build a song from the phrase “Love flows like the blood, of a river.” It didn’t work. She felt forced by the deadline of completing school work. She wasn’t yet adept at plumbing her unconscious.
“I think true creativity comes from the unconscious. I don’t think it’s something you are deliberate about except in that discipline of waiting for things to appear,” she said.
“I could never think of the poems that I’ve written,” she added.

“Turn us into ashes
and sycamore in bold stroke and mentor of your fire
so that I can sing across days fitful and plain like you would
my letters to the dead and ranting.”
— Poem that starts “Love Flows Like the Blood of a River.”

Free-association writing opened the door to Siersema’s unconscious. She discovered its power at Berklee and got in the habit of picking a word or phrase — sometimes by pointing at a newspaper — and then seeing where it took her.
“Our culture doesn’t promote that way of doing things, or even that process, that slow, untimed process,” she said.
Siersema keeps these fragments, waiting for them to come together into a finished work. Her graduation from Berklee was about two years distant before she captured the phrase that would become the first lyric of her CD’s title song.
She remembers waking up in bed, reaching for the paper. It was dark, yet there was enough light to see. She still has that original paper. The words on it are all-but identical to the lyrics in their final form.
“It was really exciting, because I hadn’t written like that for a long time,” Siersema said.
Here is that first verse:

“He stretched the strings of his guitar
drove his demons kicking
against the walls of a closing March
indifferent to his heart —

love flows like the blood of a river.”

Siersema met her partner, George Touloumtzis, during her first year in Boston. She started playing coffeehouses. She was also building material for her first CD, “when I left loss.” She performed with a vocal ensemble and began doing solo work in churches. She took on students and started teaching voice and piano. One of them, Emma, was clearly an artist. “I knew she would have a difficult time because of that,” Siersema said.
It was Emma who provided the second verse.

“Emma you look angelic and you’re watching me
It’s not so hard —
when you’re used to shells and poppy seeds
picking them apart —

love flows like the blood of the river.”

Siersema looks for beautiful sounds, both in her songwriting and in her music, and lets that guide her creativity. It was the second lyric that alerted Siersema to her emerging song.
“When I realized I could say ‘love flows like the blood of the river’ with either, that’s when I realized I could put it together,” she said. “It’s not something to be thought about until after the finish.”
Siersema listened to the song, and let it direct her where to go next. “It seemed what I had was a man speaking and a story about a woman,” she said. “I had two expressions that I was making into one. Both from a musical point of view and maybe from a male/female point of view.”
Here is her third verse:

“His hand reached out and touched her hip
as the traffic died in the distance
the heater hissed and the blanket worn
from footsteps overhead
we slam the doors and we curse the other, we try too hard —

love flows like the blood of a river.”

Siersema, who released her first CD in 1999, started recording for her second CD, “Love Flows Like the Blood of a River,” in 2000. It wasn’t released until early 2003.
She co-produced it with Doug Hammer of Dreamworld Studios in Lynn. Steve Wilkes plays percussion and Eugene Friesen plays cello.
There are several original songs and poems on this CD, including one written by Siersema’s mother. There are also several remakes of traditional songs, like “Green Sleeves,” “O Sinner Man,” and “Shenandoah.”
It’s this reworking of traditional songs that interests Siersema these days. She hopes to put together a third CD by taking such songs, which resonate deeply with her, and altering them.
“That has been the coolest experience,” she said. “I never would have guessed I would be so driven.”
But, meanwhile, she must sell her second CD. Siersema, who moved to Greenfield in September, ordered 1,000 of them. “It came to my home in late February,” she said. “It arrived in 10 boxes, in the snow.”
Her CD party at the TurningStone Coffeehouse was attended by a small group of enthusiastic family and friends. She’s sent about 200 CDs to different venues in hopes of getting it reviewed or aired. WUMB in Boston, which she calls “The Boston station,” is playing her songs and so is at least one station in Worcester. A review of her CD, in “Sing Out!” magazine, is set to hit newsstands Aug. 8.
The CD is on sale at TurningStone, at Boswell’s Books in Shelburne Falls, at Amazon.com, and on her Web site — www.laurasiersema.com. Her Web site also has music files of her songs, including “Love Flows Like the Blood of a River.”
She’s also looking for local venues to perform. She played Cafe Koko and is among the performers in the July and August lineup for The Station, at the Greenfield Energy Park.
“What I do is solitary, but the message is meant for everyone or anyone and the only way I can have people hear it is to sing it myself,” she said. “I guess that’s one of my main questions now. Where do I go to be heard?”
Here is the fifth, and final, verse of the title song:

“Whatever you might have been looking for’s
in the shadow of the Tobin Bridge.

love flows like the blood of a river.”

You can reach Adam Orth at:
aorth@recorder.com
or (413) 772-0261 Ext. 265



- The Greenfield Recorder (A & E feature)


"LAURA SIERSEMA, when I left loss"

Suzie Siegel
Friday, November 5, 1999
http://tampatrib.com

Laura Siersema sings and plays piano with strength and precision on “when I left loss”. Her delicate phrasing details struggles, opportunities lost, loneliness. Her voice is wistful and ethereal, sad and soothing.

In this old house lies tucked away/all the memories long forgotten now/all the blues and greens and laughter/all the dreams that I ran after/and must have missed, she sings on “This Old House”.

Prose poems break up the tracks. Most songs are original, but her version of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” will stay in your mind like pressed petals.

Siersema, a graduate of Berklee College of Music, works as a classical vocalist and accompanist. Perhaps that’s what gives this CD a certain formality. She sings with such control on songs such as “All the Pretty Little Horses”.

Folk fans should take note, as well as those who like classical music—and Tori Amos.



- The Tampa Tribune


"Laura Siersema’s “loss” is our gain"

Friday, April 20, 2001
Sandy Tomcho

Almost 20 years in the making, singer/songwriter Laura Siersema’s life work is now available on the CD “when I left loss”.

“My soul needed to do it. I’ve had to be protective of my voice because I never got nurtured for it and I was never really ready,” said Siersema, who performs in concert Sunday at Bodles in Chester. “It was my time to bring it to the world; I hope people can be still for a moment and realize that silence is not weird—it is where you find the richness of meaning in life.”

“This CD is an example of what happens when you go inside and listen to your interior voice.”

Born in Farmville and raised in Amherst County, Va., Siersema grew up listening to her parents perform in their own folk-music group, the Hon-o-lees. Her father played upright bass and the saxophone and her mom played the piano.

”That’s where I learned”, Siersema said. “I was singing and playing the piano, ukulele and guitar when I was small. I played the guitar with a girlfriend of mine—we were sort of a duet.”

Before Siersema began junior high, her parents decide to move to Florida. Siersema wouldn’t sing again until college.

“There were probably a lot of reasons why I didn’t sing, but I think it was more because I was self-conscious, because I didn’t know anybody,” Siersema said. “For me, it was unknown territory, and I was petrified.”

She attended the University of Florida with the intentions of becoming a nurse. However, her priorities eventually shifted.

“I wrote my first lyrics on a napkin during a class at UF and began writing phrases in my journal and decided to go back to school to study classical voice,” Siersema said. “I needed to work through what scared me.”

While attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she eventually settled, siersema discovered that she also could write poetry. Some of her poems have been published, while others are used as transitions on the CD.

“The album was written over years of time; some of the poetry on the CD is from ’91 and ’92,” Siersema said. “I use them as introductions to songs because there are a lot of emotional threads in both the music and the poetry that link the two together. It’s another way of looking into the interior.

And she’s been looking into the interior for quite some time.

Siersema wrote “January 17th”, her first song, in 1984. Other songs from the CD were simply phrases from the past, compiled ideas at the moment batched together.

“Whatever is in my body, I remember. Sometimes a phrase will just crop up, but mostly I hear ideas at my keyboard or when I’m on the bus—I’ll write things down in my pad,” Siersema said. “Writing is much less self-conscious for me. I can tell when things are meant to be lyrics and when they’re not.”

Her voice sounds angelic, and a majority of the 20 songs are accompanied by only a piano. Songs focus on love, loss and life, and the CD is more an intimate conversation with listeners than a performance.

“When I perform, it’s a flowing experience rather than a foot-stomping one. It’s very contemplative.”



- The Times Herald-Record


"LiveWire: Laura Siersema's "Talon of the Blackwater""

Thursday April 02, 2009, 9:04 AM
By Donnie Moorhouse

When you listen to Laura Siersema's new release "Talon of the Blackwater," it is almost impossible to imagine that this talented local songwriter once felt uncomfortable with her own voice.

"I have always felt particularly vulnerable about singing, that continues to this day," said Siersema. "It was many years of studying voice, auditioning, before I ever felt a sense of freedom and connectedness to my own voice."

While the Greenfield resident's voice gives "Talon of the Blackwater," its beauty, her writing is what gives it depth.

"It's (the record) everything I can say about the journey, condensed," she said. "With each of the albums, it was my life as I knew it up to that point."

At first glance, the talent is obvious but it just may be Siersema's work ethic that makes her stand out in a crowded folk field.

"I worked intensely for a period of 13 months on this material alone," she said. "I did not go into studio along the way. I wrote the majority of it first, then went to record it. The creative process was much more concentrated an experience, and the tools with which I worked were becoming increasingly focused and sharp."

Siersema is not unaccustomed to hearing comparisons to Joni Mitchell when people are first introduced to her art.

"I've heard that from a number of different people," she said. "'Hejira' is my favorite album ever and her adaptation of 'Slouching Towards Bethlehem' is one of my favorite songs. Though I did not come to know her work until later, I consider her one of my heroines. She is a poet too. The volume of her work is just amazing."

Siersema is working on putting together her performing schedule and has lined up an afternoon showcase at Borders Books and Music in Keene, NH on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. Her full schedule, along with the brilliant "Talon of the Blackwater," is available at laurasiersema.com. - by The Republican Entertainment Desk


"Laura Siersema: Talon of the Blackwater"

Style: Jazz/Folk/Art-Rock/New Age

Inspired by church singers and jazz greats like guitarist Pat Metheny, Laura Siersema brings the power of her crystalline voice and compositional skills to bear on her third release. Fluid, poetic vocals ride high in the mix. The performances are mainly the product of Siersema and Jay Hovnanian (producer/engineer/synthesizers), but are augmented by T. Lavitz (Dixie Dregs) and other skilled players.

The understated accompaniments are at times brilliant. Siersema takes the traditional spiritual "Wade in the Water" and makes it her own with a ghostly arrangement reminiscent of Daniel Lanois's work. "My Eye This Flower in Julep Runs"brings to mind Mahavishnu Orchestra's "Smile of the Beyond" vocal section, an indication of the timbre and clarity of Siersema's voice (and the album in general). The excellent 14-minute closer "Along the Fenway" features cellist Eugene Friesen (Paul Winter Consort) and is strikingly beautiful.

The pace of these compositions is primarily slow and deliberate, and tunes like "Who Will Pass This On" veer toward lounge music. But the stream-of-consciousness quality of Siersema's lyrics trumps this album's minor shortcomings.

By Rick Tvedt
Winter/Spring 2009 - Progression: The Quarterly Journal of Progressive Music


"Plunging into Black Water"

Laura Siersema's musical production business is called "Vault of the Valley Music", which seems an apt description given the 13 months she spent locked away in her attic studio writing songs for her latest recording, "Talon of the Blackwater."

Siersema, who lives on Abbott Street in Greenfield, will be performing songs from her third recording--which she says is a departure from her earlier works--at New Salem's 1794 Meetinghouse on June 28 at 4 p.m.

A singer-songwriter who's basically shy and who has always performed alone, accompanying her high, wispy voice on keyboard, Siersema has turned out a more packaged--some would say "produced"--recording this time, with percussion, bass and cello accompanying arrangements inspired by a fusion of jazz, new-age and other genres.

All of the songs on "Talon of the Blackwater"--with the exception of two traditional spirituals, "Wade in the Water" and "All My Trials", plus "This Train"--were written by Siersema, who was taught from about 5 years old to play ukulele, piano and guitar by parents who performed folk music around much of the South. Siersema, who received some formal piano training, remembers accompanying a singer friend at state competitions and somehow, uncharacteristically, she got involved in hight school cheerleading.

But as for any singing of her own, "I was horribly, horribly shy, in a wounded way, so there was a lot to take care of."

When she went off to the University of Florida to study nursing, Siersema's discovery of an available grand piano there was like rediscovering an old friend and she'd play for hours at a time.

"I kind of re-met the thing that really loves to play," said Siersema, who at around the same time began writing free verse and tried writing songs--lyrics scribbled onto paper napkins--that she'd tuck away.

"It was something I knew I was going to do at some time; I just didn't know how or in what way, " she recalls.

Siersema was a psychiatric nurse and then a hospice nurse for about seven years in New York City, sometimes singing at open mics at Folk City or other venues. She wrote her "first really good song after getting mugged one night" and began to feel that songwriting and performing was what she was meant to do.

"It was always in my life--it just took time to be ready to come out and do it."

Finally, she set off in 1987 for Boston's Berklee College of Music.

"It was always just so close, but it was the hardest thing to come to," she said. "That was my leap forward."

While studying songwriting at Berklee, Siersema had a major breakthrough studying voice with a teacher from New England Conservatory of Music.

"It was essentially like therapy for me, a breaking down of all the physical habits and tensions that had asserted themselves as a way of protecting myself," she recalls.

With a voice and a vocal style that's a little reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, Siersema began singing around the Boston folk music circuit a few years after graduating Berklee in 1990, and by 1998, had opened for Johhn Gorka, Cheryl Wheeler and other singers.

Siersema moved to Greenfield in 2002 and the following year issued her second CD, "Love Flows Like the Blood of a River," which left her with the seeds of what she would turn to in "Talon of the Blackwater." Around that time, she also was approached at the Waltham church where she played piano, by Jay Hovnanian, who liked what he heard enough that he wanted to produce her next album.

Having a producer to arrange backup musicians was enough of a departure for the solo performer, but the immensity of the 13-month writing period was something different in itself.

The line "Talon of the Blackwater" came from a prose poem she'd written in reaction to a National Geographic photo in 1990. But, the "black water" image came to her while recalling a dream one night while she was cloistered away writing. In her dream, black water rushed out from a pipe next door, from the building that used to be a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

"It was pouring into our backyard," she remembers. "The symbolism of that for me, what it means for my own story, was spoken in the lyrics of the song."

"Somebody pulled the hair right out of my head
something so small
'bout a quarter-size
not me that's pointing a knife
admit that you're wrong not to matter--
Don't you remember anything
denting the car, the machete
stealing bread and meat under your jacket...
Hurling shotgun shells at a wedding party
brother half-cocked at the pulpit
nausea always skimming just beneath
what's cheated you
it's all coming up--"

With collected images dredged up and fragments of words she'd collected, Siersema found herself in the middle of the 13-month period "writing like mad. It was incredible. I would stay up late; it was such an imperative that I work on that and complete it."

Almost always beginning with imagery that developed into a lyric, with music composed at the piano later, Siersema says her inspiration for free-flow writing are images that are "vital" and an important part of the Jungian psychotherapy she's done.

"This is what I come up with; this is what comes up through me," she explains. "I believe we have so much violence in this world, there's so much tacit violence, and we're surrounded by it in very, very subtle ways."

The lyrics flow with driven by what a friend calls "the language of dream." She adds, "If the imagery can truly connect you to the unconsciousness, this is where I believe I go as an artist. I consider it divine."

A father in front of Green Fields Market on Halloween night grabbing his daughter by the wrist and kissing her face melds in the lyrics of "Along the Fenway" with another real experience--Siersema walked along a Commonwealth Avenue underpass in Boston one day as a couple of kids stole someone's wallet in front of her.

"What relates is the emotional content," says Siersema, who had known "Along the Fenway" would be the title of a song, but wasn't sure what it would be until the "emotional content" of those two witnessed experiences gelled together for her.

What the song relates is the emotional content of feeling the mixed message that children wrestle with, between love and violence. "This is my own journey," Siersema says, as she tries to explain the pain and redemption that flows through her songs as much as the piano-driven rhythms and melodies. "I think we begin with a certain experience and we essentially revisit it the rest of our lives. I have had a good deal of sadness but in doing this, I'm meeting the sadness and holding it there until something comes of it. It's a spiritual connection to the universal experience."

the practical dilemma for Siersema of enlisting a pool of talented musicians for the recording--including cellist Eugene Friesen of the Grammy Award-winning Paul Winter Consort--means that she's had to round up musicians to perform with as she takes the material on the road.

After posting notices seeking a percussionist, fretless bass player and other musicians at Berklee, she began in January auditioning prospective collaborators and finding a wealth of talent to help get around conflicting schedules.

At New Salem, she'll be joined by African-inspired percussionist Steve Leicach and bass player Wim Auer, both based in Brattleboro, Vt., as well as Boston-based cellist Ayumi Hashimoto--who's classically trained yet play with a rock band in Japan.

Going from a career as a soloist, and from her long-term solitary experience of composing intensely intimate songs, to exploring the musical possibilities as part of an ensemble is "phenomenal," Siersema says.

"I find it incredibly freeing in a sense, because all I could hear are the sounds, as if I were lost in it," says Siersema, who hopes to lose herself in the music experience and let the songs flow as they will.

On the Web: www.LauraSiersema.com

By Senior reporter Richie Davis
June 18, 2009








" - The Recorder (Feature story) June 18, 2009; Daily Hampshire Gazette June 25, 2009


"Review: "When I Left Loss""

By HolBrook, (with permission)


During this spring's Jamaica Plain Open Studios, I had the pleasure of having Laura perform live at my recording studio. It's always interesting to discover what someone you heard live sounds like on an album (and vice versa). Throughout "when I left loss," Laura Siersema sets the stage for an intimate conversation with her listener. Her beautiful, smooth alto, pleasant vibrato, and rolling, romantic piano playing underscore the carefully considered stories she sings to her audience. Most of the 20 selections on "when I left loss" are accompanied only by piano; however, this album feels not at all underproduced. The whole disc creates a lovely mood of contemplation. The uncluttered arrangements leave the listener plenty of room to appreciate Siersema's considerable skills as a wordsmith and lyricist, as well as a pianist and arranger. Short, spoken poems introduce many of the selections. Her voice is sincere and warm. She's not performing; she's talking to a friend.

"when I left loss" was produced by Doug Hammer and Ms. Siersema. Doug recorded and mixed all the tracks at Dreamworld Studios in Somerville, MA, and did well to keep the mixes open and let Laura's softly commanding voice enrapture us from center stage. My only recording/production nit-pick is that the piano tones are often dwarfed by the richness of Laura's voice. Perhaps one of our generous readers has a nine-foot bosendorffer languishing in their drawing room that they would like to donate to Laura's next recording?

There is a song here for anyone who has felt the moment of clarity after a good cry. If you are so unfortunate as to have never experienced any of life's pain, you may find it difficult to appreciate the curative power of "Dr. Laura's" melody prescription. That's OK, go out, get jilted, dumped, sick, whatever--Laura will wait. She's like the lovely, talented aunt you never had, who wheeled her piano into your hospital room to sing for you when you had a broken arm, and ended up curing the entire ward. They make movies about music like this. But there's no need to wait until disaster strikes to fire up "when I left loss." I imagine a cross-country driving trip would serve as a delightful backdrop for listening to these songs.

Her subject matter is drawn from that rich mine of life, love and loss, although, as the album title suggests, the overall mood is one of the spirit's triumph over the void of loss and darkness. She seamlessly blends traditional songs and arrangements with her original compositions; her style is sometimes more jazz, sometimes more traditional, and sometimes a bit theatrical, but always lulling, graceful and sincere.

During this season of holiday craziness, give yourself a present and pick up a copy of "when I left loss". It just may cure your holiday blues. - Jamaica Plain Arts News


Discography

"Talon of the Blackwater" (2009), produced by Jay Hovnanian and mastered by Jeff Lipton, features Michael Farquharson, fretless bass (MCA artist/Juno nominee), T Lavitz, jazz piano/keyboards (Grammy nominee of the Dixie Dregs), Eugene Friesen, cello (Grammy winning Paul Winter Consort) , Nate Comp, guitars (Josh Logan Band), Alastair Moock (additional vocals), Bruce LeBlanc, Nick Falk, drums, and Marcelo Woloski, percussion (Maeve Gilchrist Group).

"Love Flows Like the Blood of a River" (2003) Featuring Eugene Friesen, cello (Grammy winner, Paul Winter Consort) and Steve Wilkes, percussion (Blue Man Group). Produced by Doug Hammer and Laura Siersema.

"When I Left Loss" (1999) Produced by Doug Hammer with Laura Siersema vocals/keyboards

All three albums are available for sale on iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon, and CD Baby, among other online and retail outlets, as well as on her website.

The first two albums contain her unique combinations of prose poems and songs.

Massachusetts Cultural Council (Williamsburg, Deerfield and Greenfield) grants for performance 2004

NERFA Informal Showcase Performer 2001

ASCAPlus Awards yearly since 1999

Vault of the Valley Music
27 Abbott Street
Greenfield, MA 01301
#413-772-8830
www.laurasiersema.com

Photos

Bio

"Experimental, serene and surreal..." Sarah Craig, Caffe Lena

"Her voice beckons mercilessly to the physical world like the bodiless spirit that haunts the mansion on a faraway hill. Wanderers beware."
Independent Song Writer's Magazine (Pick of the Month)

"Fiercely original." Oliver di Place blog

"Dreamy, visionary, cutting edge." Holly Popple, Herndon Festival

"While the voice gives "Talon of the Blackwater" its beauty, her writing is what gives it depth." The Republican

"Siersema brings the power of her crystalline voice and compositional skills to bear on her third release...the understated accompaniments are at times brilliant. Siersema takes the traditional spiritual "Wade in the Water" and makes it her own, a ghostly arrangement reminiscent of Daniel Lanois's work. The excellent 14-minute closer "Along the Fenway" features cellist Eugene Friesen (Paul Winter Consort) and is strikingly beautiful." Progression Magazine

"Enthralling and complex music with world-class musicians..." Greenfield Recorder

"...a heady concoction of classical, progressive, and light jazz musics, a Renaissance-ish semi-symphonic enterprise by way of Joni Mitchell...liken it to Chuck Mangione's mellow side during his high period, minus the improv." Mark S. Tucker, FAME

"Folk fans should take note, as well as those that like classical music, and Tori Amos." Tampa Tribune

"She sounds like a young Judy Collins, but don't expect traditional fare from this singer/songwriter..." Sing Out!

"Laura is an acoustic craftsman, a wordsmith...with the soul and lyrics of a true poet..." Indie-Music Reviews

"Siersema has power in her words, her piano and voice mix together beautifully."
Mish Mash Indie Music Reviews

"I heard a voice floating a cappella from the stage, I had to stop what I was doing and just listen." Mt. Wachusett Folk Cafe

"...they should make movies out of music like this." Holbrook, Jamaica Plain Arts News

Featured on WAMC Albany, "Performance Place" June 2009 and November 2010
Featured on WMNR Fine Arts Radio October 2009
Interview WGBH Boston March 2009
Heard on radio stations online around the world

"My Eye This Flower in Julep Runs", semi-finalist in UK Songwriting Contest October 2009

Born and raised in Virginia, I grew up around music. From the time I was little, I was playing ukelele, guitar and piano, performing, and hearing music live. My parents sang with the Hon-o-lees, their own folk music group.

I didn't know music was my life's purpose until I went away to college. During classes at University of Florida I wrote lyrics on napkins and in-between classes stole away to the auditorium to play the piano for hours. I even played piano for my nursing class graduation, which felt like the most natural thing in the world.

After graduating as an RN and a year's worth of obligatory "med/surg" experience, I left Gainesville to work in a summer sports camp in the Berkshires. That fall I moved to New York City--14th Street and 7th Avenue--where I lived for 7 years, working as a nurse, first on a psychiatric unit at St. Vincent's Hospital, then in hospice at Cabrini Medical Center.

In fits and starts I made it out to open mikes, or sat in at the piano at a local bar. I wrote my first really good song after getting mugged. Standing next to the bar inside a dimly lit Folk City one night, awaiting my turn to play, an epiphany came and lingered for a moment: "This is where I belong." Music was a low simmering desire that seemed to take forever to establish itself in real life. I bought a piano, gave lessons, accompanied New York Women's Chorus for a few years... and took my first classical voice lessons with Natalie Burgess the year before going away to school.

In 1987, after throwing my nursing books down the incinerator just outside my apartment door and getting the piano into a Uhaul, I moved to Boston with my two precious cats to attend Berklee College of Music for songwriting. It was there I discovered I was a poet.

It was also that first summer that I met my partner in life, George Touloumtzis.

Despite performing when I was a kid, I had become petrified as a teenager--my voice, in all its forms, had gone into hiding. Knowing I had to recover her somehow, through my very body, I began studying voice while also at Berklee. Luckily, John LaBella, a New England Conservatory grad, was a genius for teaching. We worked together for 7 years. He taught in the bel canto tradition--here I experienced for the first time the full range of my voice, with all its blessings and vulnerabilities--a coloratura soprano to a soprano belt. I sang with his ensemble, New England Vocal Arts Ensemble, got church jobs and did a lot of auditions. Later I studied briefly with Phyllis Curtin.

During this time, a second and third epiphany came--each while I was in a church choir. One Sunday, when singing as a ringer (paid substitute) with the choir at