In one version of the story it is your birthday. You are turning 16. Your Dad hands you the end of a ball of string and says, “your Mom and I thought you were ready. You have earned this.” You follow the string. It is wound around most everything in the house. And the yard. It takes almost ten minutes to get to the end. It is tied to a 00018 Martin guitar. You recognize it right off the bat. It is your teacher's guitar. It is a galaxy away from anything you have earned. You pick it up and are surprised to see, there on the side, a sizable hole. Dad says "Sorry about the hole... Dave got into a fight at the Alley Cat and hit someone with it, but he said we can get it fixed and it won't change the sound." Won't change the sound, you are thinking... really?

there’s a hole in the master plan
things keep falling in
we stand around the edges

In one version of the story you are in your sixties. You are holding on to the idea that music can change the world. That it really is the common language of possibility and transformation in a world full of wonder, beauty, magic, and some incredibly debilitating realities. A backward slide. Maybe the heart only beats because of music. Maybe a heart stops beating, and some music dies. Maybe a heart stops beating and the music insists on sticking around. Expanding. Maybe music is the way the mourners survive. However it works, the heart stopped beating. The months turned into an accelerated free-fall. One day there was a phone call from Dennis. "When you are ready, let's try writing some songs together. Let's see what happens." Every few weeks, the same call. One day you give it a go. And the chimney fills with birds.

I hear your guitar playing, sometimes when I dream
white bird across the water
guitar pick in the morning on the cover of the bed
oh it’s hard being married to the dead

In one version of the story you are 4 billion years old. One day there is a phone call from Dennis. "When you are ready, let's try writing some songs together. Let's see what happens." You give it a go. The chimney fills with birds. You write some words, he plays some chords and you both start singing at once, in harmony, before you have said even a single word out loud. It happens over, and over. For months. For two years. Still. You know this is about something bigger than either of you. And you smile and say, thank you. Four billion years, and one way or another, it was all leading to this moment. You are supposed to write a proper list of all you have done as a singer, a songwriter, composer, a musician. Stars in the sticker book. But some very fine people have died. Some are dying. And there's a 00018 Martin guitar in the living room that needs playing, and a song is trying to find you. You are holding on to the idea that music can change the world. For now, you are living, and really... if someone doesn't know the story, the best thing would be... come give a listen.

do you remember, Mesopotamia ?
all we knew and didn’t know
oh I’ve watched you come and go
time and again, Mesopotamia
between the silence and the roar
we are always wanting more
you were beautiful and strange
some things don’t change
you are beautiful and strange

Chimney Full Of Birds

For 7 years Dennis and Robin were both members of a larger ensemble called Take Jack. There were ten singers who played a variety of instruments, composed original music and arranged covers for the group. Lots of harmony. Robin’s husband, Bill Horvitz, was one of the other band members, and he was also the lead guitarist. In addition Bill and Robin had a duo called Tone Bent in which they played guitars and sang their original tunes, recorded a couple of CD’s. Their music has been described as “a roaring ride through the heartland of human experience. Built on earthy guitar parts that sometimes simmer with heat ... a collection of what is, what might have been, and what could be. Composed-through lyrical compositions with a circular logic and a talent for storytelling that speaks to the journey inside us all.” (J. Edward Sumerau, Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA)

Bill was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in November of 2016 and died 9 weeks later on January 15th, 2017. His death was an enormous loss, felt keenly by his family, many friends and students in the music community. His passing marked the end of Take Jack and Tone Bent as well. When Bill died, he left his McIlroy guitar to Dennis. So, many months later, on the day that Dennis and Robin first got together to begin writing songs, Dennis brought the guitar back into Robin’s living room and Robin got out her old Martin guitar, and from the first chord played, it genuinely felt as if the two guitars were happy, if guitars can be happy … maybe even delighted, to be reunited. After all, they had a 12-year-long shared history in their fold. At the end of that first session, Dennis and Robin stepped outside, looked up and discovered a sky absolutely filled with swifts. They were zipping back and forth, playful little musical notes against the blue. Over the next many months the swifts filled the chimney and raised their babies. Their antics became the accompaniment to many rehearsals and writing sessions. Thus was born A Chimney Full of Birds. Robin’s lyrics are visual, contemplative, meaningful, playful, gently heartbreaking and raucously funny. She considers the many layers of what it means to be human––the things we share in common, where we differ, how our lives intersect and influence whatever happens next. Dennis brings unique and compelling melodic lines and dynamic rhythms that deepen and lift up the lyrics, bringing the images to life.


Robin here wanting to add... that Dennis Hysom is perhaps the funniest person I have ever known. I remember a gig we had one time during the holiday season. This was for the larger group – Take Jack, and we had been hired by the Chamber of Commerce to basically walk around the town of Sebastopol one evening,stopping in the shops that were open late, and sing a few winter holiday-season songs. It was raining. There were nine of us –– music binders, umbrellas, three guitars, an upright bass, some percussion. We had been told to start at one particular shop because there would be a check there, waiting for the band. We walked in, dripping water everywhere and absolutely filling the very small space. The owner of the store had no idea why we were there. He knew nothing about a check. After awhile he admitted he was actually the treasurer for the Chamber of Commerce, he just didn’t know anything about a singing group. I said “well, it seems there’s a bit of confusion somewhere but we can go ahead and start singing and worry about payment later. Since we’re here, how ‘bout we sing a song for you before we head out? “Oh god, the store owner said, could you please just go? I was trying to close up when you all walked in here and I need to get home.” We started reaching for the umbrellas and panchos, the instruments and all the rest. Dennis was leaning down, gathering his guitar. He looked at me sideways and said “I don’t know about you, but I’d say it’s going pretty well so far.” And this from someone who is not only a stellar songwriter, composer, musician and performer, he is also an audio and web producer, and sound designer who has created sound design for film and written and produced award-winning music and songs in several genres. He composed and produced eight nature and instrumental albums for The Nature Company/Discovery Communications for which he recorded nature sounds on location in North and Central America. He is co-creator of the award-winning “Wooleycat’s Musical Theater” (Tortuga Press), children’s book and song CD, and of apps for children (PicPocket Books). His songwriting credits include a Billboard Top-40 Country hit. Guitar and Keyboard. Senior Producer for Riverwalk Jazz – an hour-long NPR PRI distributed Classic Jazz program. Apocalypto: Provided rainforest ambiences and howler monkey vocalizations for Mel Gibson’s ‘Apocalypto’- currently available in DVD. Audio Design and Production for Museum Audio Tours, including SFMoMA, Grace Cathedral, Guggenheim, NYMoMA, DAD Museum Ralph Lauren, National Shrine Tour Adult, DeYoung, Denver Art Museum, Philadepphia Museum of Art, NASM, The Smithsonian, Dallas Museum of Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, Museum of Art NYC Art Institute of Chicago – Medieval to Modern. He’s composed over 400 individual pieces of music ranging from 3 to 45 seconds in length for educational toys.

Social Media