Part 3: A Band Emerges


The Hush Harbor Devotional Gathering at the New York City Bahá’í Centre was one of the most enjoyable musical gatherings I ever attended. It was described as an “African/African-American-inspired free-flowing devotional”. There was no program, no set readings, only total freedom for every participant to sing, chant, pray and play in whatever way their heart desired. Every month, the meeting kicked off with a drum circle, led by the gathering’s two dedicated hosts, Kenneth and Lloyd, and from then until noon or beyond, the building would vibrate with spontaneous harmony, rhythm and melody in multiple languages.

Naturally, Hush Harbor attracted musicians from around the region, and one Sunday morning, two such visitors were Ian Rafalak and Adam Siegel, a bassist and saxophonist up from Philadelphia.

The musical contributions that morning at Hush Harbor were pure bliss. Ian’s multi-layered basslines seemed to rise up from beneath our feet and Adam’s melodies fluttered around the room like a wordless prayer. After the meeting, we hung out briefly and talked music but it was when we met for the second time a few months later at the 2007 Northeast Bahá’í Youth Conference that something clicked.

I had travelled up to Connecticut with Diane who was assisting with the conference and we were planning to sing a few songs together. Kelly was there too, managing the sound. Adam was also there, as was Ian along with his brother Jason, a mandolin-and-bass-playing music therapist who had travelled up from Pittsburgh.

I can’t remember exactly how it happened but what I do remember is the exhilaration I felt while sitting in a room somewhere at the conference with Adam, Ian, Jason and Diane, showing them the chords of my new devotional songs, and hearing them join in as if they’d been playing those songs for years. Ian had an instinctive sense of how to use his bass to simultaneously support and enhance a song structure; Jason’s mandolin added a unique sparkle to the harmony; and Adam’s improvised melodies seemed like a third voice singing alongside me and Diane.

We played together several times that weekend in Connecticut and it was clear that, somehow, we needed to go down to Kelly’s studio in DC and make an album together. The question was simply when?

Not long after that conference, I moved back to Ireland but I brought with me a determination to return to America someday and record an album of devotional songs with Kelly, Diane, Ian, Jason and Adam.

I’ve just posted some videos of Ian, Jason and Adam over on the Album Release Facebook Event. These three remarkable musicians contributed so much talent, support and good vibes to Year of the Nightingale.


Ian Rafalak (bass), Jason Rafalak (mandolin & bass), Adam Siegel (saxophone)


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