Archive for March, 2010

My Salon, A Thank-You (Part II)
March 11, 2010

Salon: An Evening Celebrating the Arts
Saturday, February 13, 2010
7:30 p.m.

Now for the humorous and charming conclusion of the Salon.

Mr. Hoppe continued the Valentine’s theme with a dramatic reading of a 1936 pamphlet by no-name Hugh Morris, entitled “How to Make Love.” The guide is as unlikely as it sounds, and it delivers exactly what you would hope: mockably out-dated advice about courtship, lacking sufficient details to live up its title. Mr. Hoppe’s reading had people laughing and gasping for air. He paused; he licked his lips; he unbuttoned the top two buttons of his shirt; he caressed the piano. He made everything that is frighteningly funny about the text in 2010 uncomfortably hilarious for everyone. A success.

Mrs. Walker Edin provided the audience with a seventh-inning stretch. Chairs were struck and an open space was made in the salon. She led the group in some yoga poses for expecting mothers. With right hands on our hearts and left hands on our stomachs, we breathed and energized and calmed. As the poses became increasingly difficult, some of the audience members tacitly competed to be the most flexible, especially the men. Mrs. Walker Edin’s demonstration of the poses was even more impressive since she was the only one who had the “handicap” of actually being pregnant.

After a short intermission, I picked up the guitar and played a song called “Love and Life,” which is the title song of the album I had the fortune to record in Ecuador in 2006. I wrote the song to get over my weakness for forgetting lyrics; in the song, I spit out words at Jason Mraz speed. My kind “fans” (i.e. friends) then requested “Red, Red” and “Love My Rock.” The first is a little more “country” and part of my on-going acoustic project. The second is a parody song I wrote for The Taste, a band project inspired by the great hard rock hair bands of the 80s. I’ve usually been a bedroom guitar player, but with the encouragement of a generous audience, I played and sang these songs better than I ever have.

Ms. Luttrell read a selection from her short story “Down in the Well,” which tells of the vapid life of Jeff, a young cowboy coming to terms with his mother’s death, his father’s projected rodeo dreams and his own fear of riding bulls. The phrase “down in the well” refers to the deadly situation a rider faces when the force of a spinning bull’s vortex pulls him under. With its natural prose, Ms. Luttrell’s story transported the audience to a small Texas town where a lingering desperation and fatality haunt Jeff’s life.

The western scene now set, Ms. Cherones and I led the group in an old-fashioned, campfire-styled sing-a-long with Stephen Foster’s classic “Oh, Susanna!”. Carrying on a Salon tradition, Ms. Cherones revealed her secret talent on the harmonica; I accompanied on guitar. Everyone sang. After several leisurely rolling choruses, we sped up, kicking the song into high gear. There were at least four “one more time!” calls.

Although this was the last performance of the evening, the party did not end here. And will not end here! Thank you to everyone who performed and attended. Let’s do it again soon.

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My Salon, A Thank-You (Part I)
March 4, 2010

Salon: An Evening Celebrating the Arts
Saturday, February 13, 2010
7:30 p.m.

As promised by word of mouth, below is the review of the Salon I hosted almost three weeks ago. I have given myself a two-fold difficult task. One, I am reviewing my own performance. Two, I am commenting on non-musical performances–various demonstrations and readings. The event was a blast, and I hope that this post will act less as a review and more as a remembrance of what happened and as a thank-you to all who performed and attended.

I opened the evening with the first prelude, a fitting beginning, from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. I tried to focus on the clarity of the five-note voicings of each chord. With the repetitive rhythm and arpeggiated pattern, the temptation is to create variety by swelling dramatically in a Romantic style, but I aimed for a more subdued and gentler line of minimal crescendos to let the harmonies themselves create the drama.

After last year’s five serial sketch installments, the Mike Anderson Players returned, featuring Mr. Anderson performing a piece called “Dear Fellow Virginian.” He read an email exchange between novelist Richard Bausch and Senator John Warner of Virginia regarding President Clinton’s impeachment. The email exchange slowly reveals that Senator Warner’s responses were automated. Mark Twain once gave a lecture in which he told the same humorous anecdote five times in a row. The audience was nonplussed after two and three iterations, but by the end, they were in stitches. Like America’s literary jester-king, Mr. Anderson left us laughing.

Mrs. Williamson played Brahms’s Intermezzo, Op. 118, No. 2 in A Major. I thank her for carrying on a private goal of mine to have Bach and Brahms performed at every Salon I host. This piece is one of the most beautiful melodies I know, and I find myself physically unable to play it because I linger on every note, every harmony, my ear never fully satiated. Mrs. Williamson played excellently, especially careful to voice the melody and balance the counter melodies of the middle section. She negotiated the terribly stiff action of the piano, a difficult feat when playing the delicate and intricate Brahms intermezzi.

Mr. Robbins gave a bibliophile’s show-and-tell. He presented five of his hand-made books and explained some of the more striking features like the Coptic binding. After a descriptive bibliography and a mini-biography of each book’s author, he passed the books around for a full sensory experience. Mr. Robbins then read a selection from his chapbook Crass Songs of Sand & Brine, which transported us to the east coast, smelling of the stale beer and sea funk of his yesteryears.

I returned to the piano to introduce a Valentine’s theme, playing Prokofiev’s “The Montagues and Capulets,” a transcription from his ballet Romeo and Juliet. The piece requires orchestral thinking to bring out the colors of the various instruments and to render the full scope of dynamics. In other words, the piece is as challenging technically as it is fun to play in its dangerous gravity. The first section was well-executed, but the coldly formal dance in the middle had flubs that sounded as if Juliet had taken a golf club to the knee and limped back into the first theme. She and I recovered, but the initial magic was lost in the ending.

Part II promises a less tragic ending. Check soon to see the hilarious and charming conclusion of the Salon.