Sunday, March 6, 2011

What is Old is New

Last night, Shawn and I had the wonderful opportunity to play in a very unique performance space. The room, called the Lyric Hall, is located in New Haven, and on the surface of it, you would never know what surprise awaits in the back of this shop front. Granted, a look through the windows will let you know that this is the home of craftspeople, not so much an antiques store as a place where the past is carefully, artistically, and lovingly cared for and restored.

However, much like the pieces of history displayed in the shop window that may reveal a beauty not first apparent when found in grandma's attic, taking a little walk down the side of the building to its back entrance reveals a surprise that is both unexpected and welcome. It turns out, the Lyric Hall spent about 20 years of its early history as a Vaudeville performance hall, and the owners of the building have now lovingly restored the stage and part of the audience area to look like it would have back in the days of the traveling troupes. 

Last night, Shawn and I had the great privilege to be the first performers to re-christen this stage as a home for performances, and it was a truly wonderful experience. The acoustics of the room were perfect, especially for our blend of eclectic acoustic music. Having a stage that actually was big enough to comfortably hold the two of us was a treat too, after playing in several venues where you are simply tucked into an out of the way corner. Shawn and I celebrated the hall by dressing up a bit, and adding several Vaudevillian moments to the show. As an added bonus, WPKN from the University of Bridgeport came by to do a live broadcast of the concert. (Check out the archive recording of the broadcast HERE )

Doing this performance has led me to reflect a bit on how so much, music included, works in cycles. A large percentage of the concerts that Shawn and I now do are house concerts, held in people's homes for audiences very interested in listening to music. I am reminded that this sounds much like the salon concerts that used to be the mainstay of music performance, but which lost popularity as the concert hall replaced them. 

All in all, it was a very special night, and we look forward to being able to return in the not too distant future for more music making and fun.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Lets PLAY!

There seems to come a moment, somewhere in the middle of each show that I play, where I have this moment of clarity about just how lucky I am to be able to do what I do. There is a great quote I heard once, though I don't recall the source, that went something like,

One of the best gifts that the English language has given musicians is to be able to call what we do 'playing.'

I am sure that some variation of that sentiment is probably true for just about anyone who is truly passionate about what they do, but when I find myself onstage, dug deep inside of a song, and I look up to see the enjoyment and joy on the faces of the audience, I truly feel that there must be nothing better. Music is universal. It's movement, it's pulses, it's tensions and releases, they speak to all of us and to what it means to live.

Last night found Shawn and I playing at a great venue in Hartford, CT that is not only an arts performance space, but a place too for people to get assistance training and finding employment, a place for people to eat a meal that comes directly from local farmer's fields, and a place for people to gather as a community in an area of the city that has felt more than most the challenges of modern life in the center of a struggling city. The fact that it is an arts venue that is an anchor for this new neighborhood approach I think is completely fitting.

Through the arts we share what it is to be human. We find common ground, beyond cultures, languages, and geography, where we can all meet, performers and audience alike, and can form community. I have been privileged to have had the arts feature so prominently in my life, and it is my wish for everyone that they may experience the same. So listen, watch, feel, taste...


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekend Warrior Tour update

It is now mid-November, and Shawn and I, AKA Prester John, are about 2 1/2 months into our "weekend warrior" tour, 2010-2011 edition. For those of you unfamiliar with what we do, our first CD / recording was released this summer on the innova record label, titled "Desire for a Straight Line." since its release, we have been playing about 2-3 shows a week all over the northeastern US, ranging as far as Baltimore, MD and Rochester, NY. Tonight finds us in Hartford, Connecticut, practically our own backyard, at a wonderful space called the Studio at Billings Forge.

For the most part, the tour has been good to us. Feedback from our audiences and from critics at the shows has been universally positive, and the simple fact that we have been playing our material so often in front of an audience has allowed Shawn and I to polish that ever elusive stage presence / persona that is so critical to engaging that audience.

Other big recent news from the duo includes the fact that the new recording made it onto this year's grammy nomination ballot! The odds, of course, of becoming one of the five finalists in whatever category we were listed in are slim to none, but it is still another layer of recognition for what Shawn and I are trying to accomplish with our music.

I hope to use this new blog space to post my own musings about music, the music business, audiences, performance, and pretty much anything else related to my professional life, and I welcome each of you reading to add your comments to anything I talk about. I enjoy the art of the dialog, and I look forward to sharing ideas over the months and years to come.

Thank you for reading.