Playing around with a cheap CD burner at the office recently, I burned as many of the Songs of the Susquehanna submissions onto a CD.
I wanted to get a feel of how many songs we might get on an average-sized disc – what I ended up with is an endless loop of songs that keep playing over my truck’s speakers. It’s hard to turn them off. They’re that good.
In fact, that may be the hardest part of this project – to get people to know just how diverse, catchy and impressive each of the submissions are.
There is a deeply emotional submission written about the death of the musician’s father during COVID restrictions and how the therapy of nature helped her deal with the grief.
“She tells such a strong, solid, story and it resonated deeply with me. She really paints a story through her music interweaving the elements of nature, family, spirituality, bereavement and loss,” relayed Andrea Niederman of Plainview, NY.
There is a song focused on the history of the Knox Mine Disaster of 1959 along the Susquehanna, where the river raged into a hole dug by miners, killing many. There is a song set to a popular TikTok melody designed to teach about watersheds. An “anthem” (as one reviewer called it) about various struggles of life and the importance of continuing to paddle forward regardless of life’s trials. There’s an ode to the old-time fanny floats, one focused on childhood hunger, a Christmas-like poem set to music and even a fun look at what it would be like to be a pirate along the Susquehanna.
In all, we have 46 originally written, river-inspired songs from 39 different musicians ranging in age from 15 to the mid-80s.
Musicians involved include Van Wagner, KJ Reimensnyder-Wagner, Johanna Kodlick, Don Shappelle, Janie Meneely, Steve Hulslander, Grace Kenny, Stu Shrawder, Steve Catania, Summer Evans, Don Krech, Thomas Jones, William Keller, Nicholas Horner, Chris Whitmer, Doug Madenford, Chris LaRose, Stan Vitzakovitch, Gary Gyekis, Larry Lawson, Paul Loomis, Hannah Bingman, Mike Lundy, Barbara Duncan, Doug Hess, Tom Knapp, Georgia Young, Jason Sherwin, William Ryan, Ricky Murphy, Todd Cummins, Laurel Sanders, Tim Walker, Terry Wild, Eric Barnhart, John Fries, James Longo, Bill Dann and Flora Eyster.
Each piece showcases a passion for our river that sticks with you well after the final note.
The Songs of the Susquehanna project was designed to give musicians an outlet after a year of decimated gigs and other outlets. You can donate money on the site that will go toward our musicians as they figure out the next steps of their careers.
It was also developed to help the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association creatively reach new audiences with a message about the threats our river and its tributaries face – and the recreational/therapeutic benefits of protecting those resources.
Some of the responses we've received about the project so far include:
The tough part, now, is deciding which of these songs make it onto the final playlist. That is where we need your help. Through Feb. 28, you can listen to all 46 songs and send us a list (in order) of your favorites. So far, we’ve had 103 different people submit feedback, but the more we have, the better the final product will be.
Those who do fill out the full form from the website and send it in will be eligible for a few random prizes from the Riverkeeper’s stash. There is also a platform to donate to the project and the musicians who made it possible.
In early March, our goal is to have the final CD available for purchase – and an online playlist of the selected songs available for download. All proceeds from this sale go to the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association’s efforts to protect and promote our river-based resources.
Considering the response we received, there are plans in the works for a fall concert (if conditions allow) featuring some of the musicians of this project. We are also planning to develop this into a yearly program … so for those with a song in their heart about our river-based resources, we’ll be accepting new entries late in 2021.
Ultimately, I hope you enjoy the submissions we received as much as I have. To steal a line from one of the choruses you’ll hear:
Take solace in the Susquehanna’s serenading song.
I know I did.
For more information, and to check out the songs, visit www.middlesusquehannariverkeeper.org/song-project.html
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John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.