Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Time to Teach;
A Time to Learn

Last week I came back from St. Martin to a kitchen table on which was sprawled the Village Voice, opened to an ad for Antony and the Johnsons at the BAM, and Time Out New York, which featured a notice about Michael Feinstein's Carnegie Hall program of romantic songs from the American Classic Songbook. Miriam wanted us to go on a date, and these were my choices.

That was a tough decision. I'd spent an entire week in St. Martin recovering from the cold and flu which cut my trip to Toronto short -- Marty had to "airlift" me back to New Jersey after I became too ill to drive home from Toronto. I infected four families who were with me at a little dinner soiree. Once I got back to my hosts's home I blacked out and crashed to the bathroom floor before trying to drag myself into bed, and blacking out a second time. Marty gave me only one choice -- to come home immediately -- and even that was postponed for one day while I slept it off.

Marty asked me to consider putting off the holiday by a week. I refused, wanting to stick to our schedule. And after such a tough year, I felt he did not deserve to have his holiday delayed by me. My body said "don't go" but I did not listen. Two days later we boarded a plane and headed to the tropics where the delightful, humid air brought on a relapse, and I spent most of my time reading, sleeping and listening to my iPod. And faithfully taking my meds, prescribed to me by the doctor at the Grand Case infirmary. I listened to Antony almost every day (and incidentally, Yes, I will have to go back to Toronto this week to pick up the car and drive it home). This is what happens when you do not have the word "no" in your vocabulary. I could/should have postponed the holiday by a week and might have gone hiking, windsurfing and snorkeling. Note to self: JUST SAY NO.

Anyway, now that I was back home, I enquired about Antony, but the show was totally sold out.

"Come on down to the show and wait until showtime for rush seats," came the suggestion by a well-intentioned salesperson. But I said "NO." Yes, I really did. I did not want to jeopardize my returning good health by waiting around in the cold night air for something that may not materialize.

I listened to the little voice in me which said, "Carnegie Hall." Success. We got a pair of cheap tickets, and on the day I placed my order, Michael Feinstein was on WNYC, talking about his PBS special on the Soundies.

Spending a few hours with Michael Feinstein is like taking a master class with a superb musicologist and visiting a favourite cousin. Not only does he know the stories behind the songs, but he made a life's work of befriending the composers and documenting their lives. Seeing him onstage in his suit and hearing his traditional singing style evokes an image of a lone Rat Packer. He was born in the wrong era. On the other hand, he is the son of the Rat Pack. He is a steward of all that great music who knows his job is to keep the music alive. As long as people keep coming to see him, he says, the music will live. I am still singing those songs in my head and mulling over some of the anecdotes that Michael told.

When we got home, there was an email from Lisa Roma -- one of our Mamapalooza performers from Arlene's Grocery.

She was singing as part of the Poetic Notion Chorus, which was to be an interpretive show of Laura Nyro's music.

From her email:

Poetic Notion Chorus is an inspired group of performers, soloists and musicians, directed by the gifted vocalist/composer and choral director, Rob Darnell. Chorus: Sandy Cleary, Corinne Goodman, Lisa Roma, Nikkie Schmeigelow, Meryl Zimmerman; band: Mike Czekaj (drums), Rob Darnell (vocals/piano), Jesse Martin (guitar). Poetic Notion is receiving a Soul Patrol award for one of the Best Performances of 2006. For more information, visit, or .

It took me almost two hours to make the trip to Park Slope, but it sure was worth it. The room was crammed with a hometown crowd of Laura enthusiasts and fans and friends of the performers. The show was an inspiring, soulful and loving display of great music and vocal talent. While I was in St. Martin I had read Soul Picnic: The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro by Michele Kort (Thomas Dunne Books, 2002) and felt that I had a deeper insight into Laura's music and the How's of her music if not the Why's.
Musical director/pianist/vocalist Rob Darnell was very true to Laura's improvisation and mid-song tempo changes. He offered up a very sweet and soulful harmony to anchor the female harmonies. I agree with the assessment that Laura would have been satisfied with these artistic interpretations of her work.
By all means visit Poetic Notions' website and be sure to read the review of their Dec. 2006 show.
In the spirit of Michael Feinstein's Carnegie Hall show, on this modest little corner in Brooklyn here was another excellent example of how important it is to keep the music about which we are passionate alive. In this way, we musicians can all be leaders.
It was pouring rain as I made it down the slope to the Manhattan subway. I stood on the platform with a guy who had also just come from the show. We gushed together until his train came. I smiled all the way back to the Village, despite the rain. I didn't even notice that the weather was probably 30 degrees warmer than it had been the night before. Maybe I am feeling a little bit healed.

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