GLENDALE, Calif. — Music is all Santa Monica couple Lynn Harrell and Helen Nightengale have ever known.
When she was 2 years old, Nightengale started playing violin because she “wanted to do everything my brother was doing.” Harrell, now a cellist, finally chose music when he was 16, losing a $50 bet to his brother that he would be a professional baseball player by the age of 20 in the process.
“Music chooses you,” Nightengale said.
Harrell and Nightengale, founders of the HEARTbeats Foundation, have joined forces with notable artists such as Paul Simon, Joan Baez and John Williams to create “We’ll Paint You a Rainbow,” a CD that hopes to raise money to benefit at-risk youth all over the world.
The album, produced by Nightengale and Brad Cobb, features an eclectic mix of sounds, from the African-inspired “Cabhayeye” by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, to the soft, acoustic ballad “God is God” by Baez.
“I think globally, [the album] hits the message,” Cobb said.
Neil Comess-Daniels, friend and rabbi to Harrell and Nightengale, has a song on the album called “Children of War.” Comess-Daniels ended up working with Nightengale when she agreed to produce his children’s music.
“Here I am, a rabbi who happens to play music, and my name is next to Lynn Harrell on the cover,” said Comess-Daniels, rabbi at Beth Shir Shalom in Santa Monica. “My name is near Joan Baez, and near Paul Simon, Blind Boys of Alabama, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Jessye Norman. It’s really quite incredible.”
The title of the album comes from a lyric in Comess-Daniels’ song.
Nightengale feels that music and art are “intrinsic in really helping them to express what they need to to feel better and perhaps move on and recover.”
“I think it centers them,” she said while taking a break from a long recording session at Bridge Recording Studio in Glendale. “I think it gives them a sense of themselves and their surroundings like no other language.”
Nightengale said her two young children, Noah and Hanna, who were present at the studio, are encouraged to play music.
Harrell said his wife handled the administrative aspects of the album, including deciding on the artists and the order of the songs.
“My value was that I’ve been a good guy, have been fair and honest, and have never asked of anyone something in my entire career,” Harrell said.
Harrell said that was the reason Baez, Simon and others joined the project. However, it seems that he does not take credit for much else.
“Our foundation would not have gotten off the ground, this record would not have been made, etc., etc., if it hadn’t been for Helen and her tireless energy,” Harrell said.
Comess-Daniels believes it was a the couple’s joint effort that made the album possible.
“That album was produced by their passion,” he said.
Harrell and Nightengale serve as artist ambassadors for Save the Children’s Healing Through Education and Art program, which brings all types of art to children in need, such as drawing, painting, music and others.
“We’ll Paint You a Rainbow” is available on iTunes now and will be released worldwide on April 8.