These are the Songs that I Sing When I’m Sad

When Feeling Sad Feels Good    

There’s an unusual little show playing at the Phillips Studio in Blyth, right across the intersection from the Festival theatre.  Singer Jane Miller wants you to come and actually enjoy an evening of sad songs.

Entitled These are the Songs that I Sing When I’m Sad, the hour-long show not only offers several musical selections, but an education as well.  Miller explains why some songs are sad.

Sometimes it’s the musicality.  She points out that Adele’s sad song “Someone Like You” where Adele sings “I’ll find someone like you” there’s an extra little note in the “you” that gives the song the sad sound.

Other times, it’s the content.  Lyrics, like Adele’s break up song “I heard, that your dreams came true, I guess she gave you things, I didn’t give to you” are heartbreakingly sad.

And sometimes it is the context.  Songs are written at a time in the lyricist’s life when something sad happens.  An example would be Eric Clapton’s song “Tears in Heaven” where he sings about his four-year-old son who died falling from a window 49 stories above the ground.  When the listener knows the story behind the song, it’s incredibly sad.

Miller also talks about ways to get across the sadness – she gives Phil Collins’ song “In the Air Tonight” as an example of a sudden change in the song as a way to create emotion. To back her claim, she creates the sound of Collins’ jarring drum interruption in that song.

At the end of her performance, Miller asks the audience for their favourite sad songs, or maybe a song that helped them through a difficult time.  On opening night, there were about 25 in the audience, gathered in a circle around her.  Unfortunately, many told about the loss of a partner, a child, or a sibling.  Having recently lost my sister, I found it incredibly emotional to hear about how others listened to sad songs in their heartache.  For a while, it felt like a group grief counselling session, but with the sharing, the results were positive.

Miller is a captivating storyteller, who talks easily while chording on the piano.  She explains studies that have been done, researching what music does to us.  Then she sings and her real talent shines through.  She possesses a powerful voice with a wide range.

She also tells a story of her own – her father died suddenly when she was only 17.  Then, just seven years later, when she was only 24, her mother died suddenly.  She talks about the impact of music in her life at that time, and now.

For anyone who has experienced loss, I highly recommend this rather cathartic show.  And even if you haven’t had a loss, you will appreciate this examination of music and what it does to us.

These are the Songs that I Sing When I’m Sad continues at the Phillips Studio at the Blyth Festival until Sept. 1.  Call 519-523-9300 / 1-877-862-5984 or go to for tickets.

Photo: Jane Miller

Created by Jane Miller and Brian Quirt
Directed by Brian Quirt
Performed by Jane Miller
Produced by Nightswimming Theatre
Phillips Studio, Blyth Festival
August 28 to September 1, 2018
Reviewed by Mary Alderson


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