In most years, the Rachel Bissex White Light Fund teams up with Advance Music and 104.7 FM the Point to provide the cash prize for the annual Advance Music Singer/Songwriter Contest. But since the pandemic has put the kibosh on large public gatherings, this year the organization is taking a different tack.
Recently, the White Light Fund invited songwriters to write and record songs about or inspired by mothers, or that have a motherhood theme, and post them to the In Love and Memory of Rachel Bissex Facebook group. Submissions will be accepted through Sunday, May 10 — that's Mother's Day, BTW, in case you'd forgotten. On Monday, May 11, 10 submissions will be drawn at random, and each of those songsters will receive a $100 cash prize — or "gig money," as a flyer detailing the giveaway calls it.
The giveaway is titled "A Dance With Your Mother," a nod to "Dancing With My Mother," one of Bissex's signature songs. Bissex, a beloved Vermont folk songwriter, died of breast cancer in 2005. The White Light Fund was founded shortly thereafter.
As of this writing, about 25 artists had submitted tunes. These include notable Vermont musicians such as indie-folk duo the Beerworth Sisters, mandolinist Will Patton, jazz singer Taryn Noelle, and songwriters Jon Gailmor, Chad Hollister, Katie Trautz and others.
The giveaway has attracted some nonlocals, too, including members of the famed New York City folk group Four Bitchin' Babes and actor/musician Jeff Daniels.
Rachel Bissex and her daughter, Emma Sky
"It's just how the folkies fly," joked Lynne Cardozo in an email, explaining how the famous actor became involved. Cardozo cofounded the White Light Fund and is organizing the Mother's Day giveaway with members of the Bissex family, including Rachel's daughter, songwriter Emma Sky.
Daniels, who is a friend of Four Bitchin' Babes founder Christine Lavin, submitted "Momma Never Left Her Oldest Boy Alone," a song he wrote for his mother when he was 26. (Songwriters are allowed to submit tunes they'd written previously, in addition to new works.) Introducing his song in the video below, Daniels explains, "This is a song for anyone with a mother."