July Blog SongNotes: Lily Floeter On Dissecting a Song


Lily Floeter

Flutist | Singer Songwriter Lily Floeter is an active performer who maintains a studio in the Chicago area. Arrangements and transcriptions are available for purchase here: https://www.lilyfloeter.com/sheet-music

Lily’s vast knowledge of music, well-developed ear, and skill at transcription provided several arrangements of new song material for Jamie O’Reilly and pianist John Erickson. Among them After the Rain (originally sung by WWII crooner Vera Lynn), The Swallow, a Michael Smith song-setting of a Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral poem, and Waltz of the Years, a lovely waltz Jamie sang at the conclusion of Bloomsday Chicago. We look forward to many more collaborations.

Lily explains the distinction between her transcriber/arranger roles this way:

“Have you ever loved a dish from a restaurant so much that you’ve asked the chef for the recipe? It’s likely they won’t hand it over, leaving you to guess ingredients. My role as a transcriber is to identify all the ingredients in a song, write the directions, and hand over a recipe card. If I change the ingredients slightly, I call myself an arranger. Both transcribing and arranging give me the opportunity to dissect a song, have a tryst with it, and then recreate it. I love being the person who puts the out-of-reach music in a tangible form for other musicians.”

Jamie O’Reilly
Lily comes to the rescue

Winter of 2022 asked me to change horses and consider a fresh way to approach my audience. I’d planned a big push to fundraise and bring a performance of In Old Chicago to Dublin for the James Joyce centenary celebration of Ulysses. An urgent health situation with a close family member, and the lurking Covid reality stirred-up anxiety and made it clear to me, a trip to Ireland would have to wait.

I saw I needed to change direction. Folks needed new motivation, a reason to go out — come spring — and so did I.

I reached out to several young(er) women creatives, who like me, felt the isolation Covid provoked and sought change to their circumstances. I Zoomed with them and discussed the obstacles we faced, what alternatives we had, and we advised one another on ways to navigate and make changes.

In the meantime, I practiced creative exercises I’d developed over years as an arts coach — on myself.

In the meantime, I practiced creative exercises I’d developed over years as an arts coach — on myself. Seeking a new theme with my songs that would meet the needs of my audience, and inspire me to keep going, I considered what singers from other eras were up against: racism, sexism, poverty, addiction, war, and thought about how they used their voices to keep going.

I looked at what I and the people around me were doing to occupy ourselves: cooking, reading, writing, daydreaming, swimming, gardening, being with children, praying — and began choosing songs and poetry around the theme of resilience. What evolved was the SongBirds Series and the Tough Broads & Tender Lasses: Songs of Resilience program.

Poster art by Nia O’Reilly Amandes

I talked with my friend Judi Cogan Heikes (with whom I’d performed my Roots in the Garden series), about the period of sacrifice around World War II, when food and more was rationed, people were distant from loved ones, grew victory gardens, and turned to the radio for inspiration. Among the more inspiring personalities was British singer Vera Lynn. Her voice is immediately connected me to songs like We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover. Her back story tells of courageous actions she took performing (and driving) while bombs were falling in London!

It is Lynn’s singing of After the Rain, a lesser known song with suitable sentiment for the Tough Broads program, that personifies the idea of resilience. A Google search offered a video of her singing with an orchestra, but finding sheet music was difficult. A library in Australia offered a copy — if you were there to claim it in person. Listen to Vera sing After the Rain. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xb2CLOkQTpw

With the After the Rain tune stuck in my head, I looked for someone to transcribe it and create an arrangement for voice and piano.


Among the small group with whom I’d Zoomed was my friend and colleague Lily Floeter, whose special gift as a flutist revealed itself early in her life at gatherings with our extended musical family. When I hosted my Roots Salon, pre-pandemic, it was Lily we gave our first Roots Artist Award, and for whom I have deep respect.

Both transcribing and arranging give me the opportunity to dissect a song, have a tryst with it, and then recreate it. I love being the person who puts the out-of-reach music in a tangible form for other musicians.

Lily Floeter

Lily posts links on social media to musical arrangements she’s published and videos of creative collaborations. In addition to her talent as a flutist, she’s a singer and pianist as well, so understands the musical terrain we cover.

HEAR Lily performing her arrangement of Radiohead’s Motion Picture Soundtrack.
Recorded by her quintet, Ravenswood Winds.

Lily agreed to do a transcription of After the Rain. She worked quickly, despite caring for a baby at home. In a short time she delivered a generous Zip file complete with a full musical arrangement (with a flute solo for a future collaboration), separate parts for voice and piano, and a reference audio track — to aid my learning the song.

After the Rain‘s a crowd pleaser, and perfect fit for my SongBirds Series.

Read about the SongBirds Series.

Next up was The Swallow, a lovely song my late musical partner Michael Smith set with a Latin feel to the powerful poem Fear by Gabriela Mistral. I wanted this lullaby for a spring Mother’s Day concert. I asked Lily to reference Drume Negrita, a favorite Afro-Cuban tune that inspired Michael, somewhere in the music. Read the Blog: https://www.jamieoreilly.com/songnotes-jamie-oreilly-reimagining-theswallow2/

I don’t want them to turn my little girl into a swallow
She would fly far away, into the sky
And never fly again to my straw bed

(from The Swallow song)
Listen to The Swallow with Lily Floeter and Michael Smith’s guitar

Lily provided a musical arrangement and she recorded a flute track on Michael Smith and my original recording, of The Swallow (from Swimming Deeper). An added gift.

My June show Bloomsday Chicago, for which I was the featured vocalist, gave a surprise destination to my Roots in Ireland project, as we brought the world of old Dublin to our local Chief O’Neill’s Pub, and director JR Sullivan staged a condensed version of Ulysses. JR chose Waltz of the Years, a lovely waltz-ballad to end the show, a song previously unknown to me. Lily transcribed a recording, once again delivered the goods: sheet music for voice and piano and in several keys.

Blogging about the route on which this year’s work has taken me, its twists and turns, and the music I learned along the way, leaves me incredibly moved by my resourceful community, who inspire and get what I do. Thank you, Lily Floeter.

For transcriptions or arrangements, please email lilyfloeter@gmail.com
More about Lily https://www.lilyfloeter.com/

Lily top photo by Simon Floeter
Lily 2nd image Eric Snoza- SnoStudios Photography

Roots in the Garden Series

Jamie O’Reilly’s summer series Roots in the Garden continues in July. Friday, July 15 at St. Giles Church Courtyard, Oak Park, Il and Mid Summaer Soiree Sunday, July 17 at Tre Kronor Swedish Bistro, Chicago. Read more here: https://www.jamieoreilly.com/jamies-summer-update-songs-bloomsday/


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