Her Life is Sunshine

Sanderson Music Collaborative — Her Life is Sunshine | download mp3

Her Life is Sunshine

words and music by Alan Sanderson

arrangement by Alan, Tom, and Brian Sanderson

Her life is sunshine
And heaven is in my soul
Her laughter is cool, sweet water
My heart is full

She was her daddy’s girl
War-torn soul that I am
She was her mother’s angel
A blessed helping hand

But winter came early one year
Freezing my heart with fear
All of her pain and all of her tears
Could it be that the end was near?

But by the strength of my hand
By the strength of my faith
I’ve got to save my little girl!
By the power of love
By the power of prayer
Can I hold together my world?

Spring came early that year
And we laughed until we cried
I still thought I could save my girl
Until the morning of the day she died

Her life is sunshine
And heaven is in my soul
Her laughter is cool, sweet water

Alan Sanderson: vocals, guitars, mixing, mastering

Tom Sanderson: harmonium, strings, percussion, vocals

Brian Sanderson: piano

Scerinda Johnson: flute

Marie: vocals

Alan’s Notes

This song was written from the perspective of our grandfather, whose third child, our aunt Steffanie, died of cancer when she was a teenager. Four years ago I spent a few weeks reading about her illness in the autobiographies written by her parents, and I was struck by the tragedy of the story. I wrote a narrative account of her illness on the Medicine and Faith blog.

Around that time I was playing guitar at bedtime for my kids, and one of my sons suggested that we write a song for Aunt Steffanie. By the time he was asleep I had worked out the main guitar riff. Over the next few months I worked out the basic structure of the song, including the minor bridge and the key change. (I played an instrumental version of this song at Grandma’s graveside service last summer.) The lyrics were revised over the course of several months last year.

I absolutely love what my collaborators added. Each one of them made the song and the recording better than I could have made it alone. This song really needed to be a joint effort of cousins paying homage to their missing aunt, and of grandchildren showing love and empathy to their late grandfather.

A few weeks before she died, when she was bed-bound from painful bony metastases, Steffanie was carried outside to enjoy the sun for a couple of hours. She watched a couple of ducks playing in a tub of water and laughed as they pushed one another out of the tub and quacked at each other. Grandpa memorialized this scene in an oil painting as part of his mourning process.

The first verse of the song is a reference to that memory, and the haunting descant in the reprise was sung by my daughter, who is almost exactly the same age that Steffanie was when she died. The thought of losing my precious girl, just on the cusp of adulthood, fills my heart with sorrow and dread. Poor Grandpa!

When I decided to record this song I went back to read my old blog post about Steffanie, and realized that it needed significant revisions. You can find the updated post here.

Tom’s Notes

I find Alan’s direct, linear approach to lyrics and his willingness to explore difficult subjects like loss and pain refreshing and brave. I like the key change from verses to chorus and back. What a great idea Alan composed. I had a difficult time finding the correct approach to the keyboards and percussion – Alan was able to help me find a balance between tension and easiness, or at least the moments when each were needed. I was more fortunate that the “ooh” backing vocals seemed the right idea for the section of the song.

Brian’s Notes

I was excited to get to contribute to this project. While I did not take a large role in the creation of it, I do appreciate the story and the context as being a very important event in our family’s history. I have always wished I had the opportunity to meet my aunt Steffanie. Perhaps this song opens a glimpse into what she was like and how she affected for good those around her.

I recorded the piano on a Korg KROSS. It took at least 12 takes to get to something others might tolerate listening to. I really enjoyed working with Alan, Tom and Scerinda, who — as great examples to myself — fit in time for music between the many other cares in life.

Scerinda’s Notes

I am moved and grateful to be included in this important project for our dear Aunt Steffanie. As I recorded the flute for this project and thought about the story, it had a new element for me. It has always been a story of tragedy, but for me, a note of healing and reunion has been added to that with the death last August 6, 2020, of our grandmother, Glenna Sanderson, Steffanie’s mother. Grandpa, whose song this is, passed away on Christmas Day, 2003. The pain is over for Steffanie and our grandparents, and I am grateful that I know that.

Our brother Mark filmed a video years ago of our grandmother sitting at Steffanie’s grave and talking about her. When I watched that the first time, I was struck by the realization that our grandmother, at her elderly age, was still the mother of a 17-year-old. Steffanie is frozen in time.

Steffanie played the flute, so Alan wanted to include flute in this memory of her passing. In the past I have played a lot of flute, but in more recent years, I’ve focused on piano and composing, so Alan had to do a lot of takes and some pretty fancy editing to make my playing sound as beautiful as it does here. Thanks, Alan, for cheating and making me sound like a rock star. 🙂

The flute composition that Alan did for this song is really good. He wrote well for the flute, emphasizing the beautiful aspects of the instrument in a really nice range of notes and articulation possibilities. In particular, I love the emotion of the final flute note, a gasp as Steffanie died. The raw aspect of that note ending makes me cry.

I love the inclusion of Marie, my niece who is just the age of Steffanie. As a mother of my own teenage daughter, it’s a little too tender to think about this song without my knowledge that Steffanie and our grandparents are reunited.

I love this song of cousins and look forward to doing more work together! I’ve got a song mostly written for our grandma and need to get back and finish it up to the point that I could invite collaboration. Stay tuned for more from this group!

Info and Stats

  • Production Dates: 12/2020 – 8/2021
  • Total tracks:
    • Vocal: 14
    • Guitars and basses: 3
    • Flute: 1
    • Keyboard/synth: 5
    • Drums/percussion: 3
  • Equipment:
    • Interfaces: Tascam DP24SD, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, Behringer Xenyx 1204USB
    • Guitars and basses: Takamine G-330, Ibanez AM53, Peavy bass
    • Synthesizers: Roland FA-06, Korg KROSS
    • Microphones: DIY condenser microphone by Michael Willis, CAD GXL220 Condenser Mic (used with wrap-around PopFilter)
    • Behringer Ultra-DI DI400P
    • Student flute
  • Software:
Alan Sanderson

writing: https://medicineandfaith.com music: https://sanderson.band

One thought on “Her Life is Sunshine

  1. Thanks, Alan, Tom, and Brian. What a great experience this was for me! I find myself humming the piano and flute parts of this even days after I have heard it last.

    Liked by 1 person

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