With much preparation and rehearsal, we pulled off a wonderful night at Godfreys tonight. With Roland Kushner taking the lead, and Rick Weaver, Mary Faith Rhoads and myself, we did carousel of Stan’s music, each of us taking the lead on songs with accompaniment on mandolin, hammered dulcimer, concertina, guitars and vocal support as well.
A nice bonus was the vocal support of the audience who chimed in on so many tunes. It’s something you can’t really prepare for.
I was responsible for several tunes – Giant, Oh No, Not I, White Collar Holler and Legends (from John Gorka). It was quite refreshing to not have to lead the show, and have each of us be responsible for our songs.
Giant came off very nicely, with Mary on hammered dulcimer and I added rain stick. We could have done more with the improve, but not everyone is used to taking chances like me. This one has been road-tested and it showed. I love this song.
I followed with White Collar Holler, an a cappella work song I used to do with Steppin’ Out! or Out on a Limb. I haven’t done it since. I was glad I spent a couple of run throughs in the kitchen to get comfortable with the arcane computer lingo. It came off strong, and it was nice to feel free to add the hand movements I used to do, plus some new ones. Comfortable, and strong.
In the second set, I led “Oh No, Not I” and it came off well. This one I don’t have down to my solo specs. I have my work cut out on the exact vocal phrasing with a stronger guitar melody, but I have the ‘Stan Command’ on the presentation. That’s what made the song work with this audience. And that’s what I learned from Stan. Kick it! Take no prisoners.
A very curious moment with Legends, the next to last song of our set. I started out and missed the third line on the song. I stopped, and said that I would start again. The song was too important not to present correctly. It was the most obvious screw-up of the evening, and it was me, the pro. But, as it turns out, it was the right thing for me to do. Regroup. I then proceeded to nail this song I supposedly know so well, …though not to John’s version. Good response from the audience. I got some nice love from the crowd tonight and I appreciated it deeply.
Besides not having to front the evening, I got to noodle on mandolin on a bunch of the other songs, those well-played by my friends throughout the night. I am blessed with a very nice mando that gives me wonderful opportunities to explore some interesting acoustic spaces. I love the percussive chops of this instrument and appreciate the challenges of playing melodies in support of the band. I could have done more prep on the arrangements but was trying to balance the reality of being a working musician and investing in long rehearsals. Roland is a task-master.
We did many sessions in prep for the gig, and it paid off handsomely. The comfort level of Roland, Rick and Mary was palpable, which enabled me to relax in the shadows. I had the chance to simply sit out a bunch of tunes (adding to the dynamics of the whole evening), listen to the other songs and help create listening spaces for everyone. Solos, duos, multi-instruments, etc. and both sets prospered. Different voices, guitar styles, etc. It makes for a great show, even among the locals.
I had my witticisms, commentary and connections with Stan, Godfreys,John Gorka, et al and as well as my relations with each player. As usual, there were other spontaneous excursions that turned out to be good theater. But, I got to balance these outbursts with the other folks chiming in, taking the mike on their terms. I was glad I could step back and watch my friends do their stuff. We all know that’s good folk staging. The chat is important.
I really enjoyed this evening, especially in celebrating Stan’s deep legacy with the club and the greater folk scene, as well. We brought it home, though, on this very stage that Stan played on back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Tonight really connected his music and his spirit on ground zero here at Godfreys here in Bethlehem. Community at its best.