All entries filed under Film

A film crew was scheduled to come in to Godfrey’s on a Monday afternoon to shoot some scenes for a movie (I still don’t know the working title yet) and Ramona asked me to open up for them and stick around to be in the audience for some of the shots.

I learned about the premise for the story as I hung around. Old veteran country player./songwriter has fallen on hard times, gets a chance to reboot his career at the Sands Casino here in Bethlehem. The gig falls apart at the last minute, and he suffers a heart attack at the Hotel Bethlehem. His guardian angel shows up and the vet asks the angel to let him play this new song he has written. The angel says he’ll let him play it at the Open Mike at Godfrey’s, a club that he played on the way up. He shows up, plays the song, and walks out the door, leaving his guitar behind and both angel and vet vanish onto Fourth Street.

The director (whose dad plays the veteran) needed someone to be the host of the open mike, and since no one else was available, I stepped up. As the filming progressed, they added me, bit by bit to the script. As we proceeded through the filming, they added more and more scenes with me interacting with the main character and the open mike audience, doing multiple shots from various angles, close-ups, reverse takes, etc. I was able to call on my high school and Touchstone theater chops to do some interesting cuts. It was nice to be part of the creative process, coming up with fodder for the film. Frankly, it’s what I do for a living.

As it turns out, I’m there for the final scene of the film. Realizing he’s left his guitar behind, I pick up his guitar and walk outside the club, trying to catch him. I turn around and see that there’s no one on the street. I react and ponder the mystery.

All this is not what I imagined I’d be doing on an empty Monday on my calendar. but it called on me to be a creative artist. That’s pretty cool for me. Serendipity.

The Song of Bethlehem premiered tonight at Arts Quest and Craig Thatcher, Nyke Van Wyk joined Ken Goldstein for a live version of the song featured in the film. Another curious evening. 

The project dates back to Dec. 4th of last year when Craig called me up and said that he needed me for a mandolin part for this piece on Bethlehem Steel and the subsequent invention of Musikfest, Steel Stacks and “Bethlehem’s” arts community. Funded by Arts Quest, it focused on the reclamation of the brown fields left by the Steel when it folded, and the City of Bethlehem working with  Musikfest to build the current complex and its success for the City.

When we taped our part, it was hovering around 32 degrees in one of the old Steel buildings, with a sound stage, recording setup, etc. Ken worked on his solo takes while Craig, Nyke and I shivered in the background. Eventually we had our time recording our parts as we worked on the arrangement. (We had just worked on the song individually that morning.) It was brutally cold and that counts for the fact that we are not smiling a whole lot in the film.

This film is really good, acknowledging the Steel’s past, its collapse and the city’s effort to maintain the old and bring in the new. Craig mentioned his three generations of steel workers in his family. That brought it home for me. My friend Bruce (Clarence the Clown) also was featured. He worked there for years and has become quite an archivist himself. It was cool to see us on the big screen.

Following the half hour film, we were brought up on stage and interviewed by a MF gentleman. He had done his homework and asked some intelligent questions. I was curious how he was going to fit me it. I mentioned that the sound of the Steel was the soundtrack to my days at Lehigh (I left out the part about waking up sick from the fumes on rainy days….) and then talked about folk music – acknowledge the past, bring it into the present and push it into the future. This was the basic premise of this song and it’s why it works. It was the right thing to say.

Then we got to play the song live. It was curious that we didn’t have anything to work from prior to the gig. I found the lyrics on my computer with the chord progression and we basically learned it from the film as it played. We played it well and it was quite nice. Ken is very lucky he picked some of the pros in the Valley on this project, and it was a pleasure to share the stage with Craig and Nyke. We were a band tonight.

After the film, I received some nice compliments from folks, saying that they were very glad that I had a place in the film. That was a nice tip o’ the hat to my part in this SouthSide renaissance. It was gratifying to accept this deep compliment. And folks said they enjoyed my mandolin work as well. That actually gets my attention more than the historical niceties. I’m a player first, on stage with my friends friends Nyke and Craig.

But I didn’t get the chance to editorialize about Godfrey’s place in the artistic revolution of the SouthSide. Those days in 1976 were pre-Musikfest but I am sure that they were aware of this. That’s fine. I’m glad to work for their cause.

I headed back to Godfrey’s to connect with the Open Mike folks. I am grounded again.

Here Comes the Sun – first song of Godfrey’s 3.19.76

Someday, though, folks will take it back to 42 years ago when Godfrey’s opened on the first day of spring, 1976. I’ll be celebrating the anniversary tomorrow. That’s when the acorn was planted. There, I said it.