Danielle Tardy was getting a routine check-up when she got some jarring news – she was pregnant.

She hadn’t planned to have another child. She had two sons already, including an 11-year-old with severe autism. As she struggled to deal with her emotions, Tardy was able to gain a more hopeful perspective and express her love for her children in a way most of us never will.

She wrote a lullaby that will be performed by musicians from the Portland Symphony Orchestra. It’s called “Third Time’s a Charm.”

“It’s about how this (baby) is the final piece of the puzzle to our family, and we’ll be complete. It helped me deal with something that at first scared the heck out of me,” said Tardy, 33, of Portland, who is expecting her third son in July. “It helped us have a more positive outlook.”

Tardy wrote her lullaby as part of the Portland Lullaby Project, part of a national effort launched by the Carnegie Hall Musical Connections program in New York City. The project was organized locally by the symphony last fall, with help from local musicians and health care providers. The national lullaby project is in its third year, and the Portland Symphony Orchestra is one of three groups to participate, along with symphonies in Chicago and Seattle.

The lullabies will be performed Thursday by local musicians and singers, including symphony members, as part of a free Mother’s Day concert at Port City Music Hall on Congress Street.

The project’s goal is to help new and expectant mothers bond with their babies and deal with the stresses of pregnancy, and their daily lives, in a creative way.

“I think the big thing it did was boost their confidence level,” said Kate Beever, a Portland-based music therapy consultant who helped the mothers write their lullabies. “It’s about mothers finding a connection with their newborn. They are able to process, and express, their feelings by writing a song.”

In writing the lyrics to “Third Time’s a Charm,” Tardy was able to put into words her hopes for baby Nikolis, due July 26, and what he will mean to the family.

“We have high hopes for you, baby, because all great things come in threes,” Tardy wrote on lined paper at the Portland Lullaby Project’s writing workshop in February. “As our new addition, we wonder who you’ll be. Your two brothers have their places: Jacob’s strong and happy, Brandin’s artistic, bright … but who will you be?”


To find mothers who might be interested, the symphony asked health care providers and other groups that work with parents to encourage expectant and new mothers to get involved. Tardy found out about the lullaby project through Maine Medical Center’s clinic, where nurses and staff have been extremely supportive throughout her high-risk pregnancy. The staff at the clinic reserved 10 seats for Thursday’s concert, which Tardy said “means so much to me.”

Tardy will be on stage for her lullaby, singing harmony on the chorus, with Portland-area singer-songwriter Sara Hallie Richardson on lead vocals. Richardson sang lead on most of the lullaby recordings, and will sing them at the concert.

One lullaby will be sung by the mother who wrote it, Sarah McLaughlin. The concert will feature a total of thirteen songs, including lullabies written for the project as well as other popular songs or songs written by local musicians. The symphony’s “Lullaby String Quartet” will be featured on eight songs.

The lullabies were written by the moms with help from musicians, songwriters and Carnegie Hall Musical Connections representatives during a gathering at the Woodfords Congregational Church in Portland in February. Then the songs were arranged by musicians, before being recorded at The Halo recording studio in Windham in April. Most feature a string quartet from the symphony.

Recordings of the lullabies will be given to the parents, and to some of the people who donated to the Kickstarter campaign used to raise $15,000 for the project. The lullabies may be available at some point as well at the Carnegie Hall website, said Carolyn Nishon, general manager of the Portland Symphony Orchestra.

Nishon said the lullaby project is a good fit for the PSO.

“Our mission is to serve the community by enriching lives through music, and this is a direct way to do that,” she said. “Ideally it has an impact on all these families.”

One of the mothers involved, Sherina Howard, used the project to write an upbeat lullaby for her 4-year-old daughter, Akeira. Howard got involved with the project because she was expecting a baby, Jeremiah, who was born in February.

But one of the lullabies she wrote as part of the project, “My Love My Life,” is dedicated to Akeira, who has a genetic disorder known as Apert syndrome and was born with a malformed skull and a variety of other physical issues. Howard, 28, wanted to write a song to remind her daughter that she can live a healthy and happy life despite her obstacles. And that her mom and brother will be there to help her at every step.

The song, written with help from Beever, is an upbeat, New Orleans-flavored tune with trumpet, strings and a thumping beat. The lyrics include the refrain “Your heart grows stronger, Apert’s no longer.”

“What I got from this was the ability to connect with Akeira in a very different, and special way,” said Howard of Portland. “This is something she can go back and listen to 10 or 12 years from now. The message is upbeat, we’re going to be there for you. It was very emotional for me.”

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