Friday, October 04, 2013

41st Annual Nat'l Storytelling Festival - A little music to get us ready

Pre-Festival Thursday
Getting Ready Music
Tim O'Brien

Opening act:

Nora Jane Struthers and the Party Line

The pretty blonde took the stage with the four guys in her band, to warm us up for the main act. Nine songs later they left the stage to thunderous applause. Nora Jane Struthers and the Party Line are talented musicians. Each had an opportunity in to spotlight their skills during the show.
I had noticed a young man talking with the two couples seated in front of us before the show. During the show the whole tent was duly impressed with the energy and talent of this same guy, Jack Devereau, the fiddler. But those couples seemed especially expressive of their admiration, giving proud and knowing looks at each other as he played and bursting into applause or joyful laughter often. It reminded me of myself.

Twice this year I have had the joy of watching a daughter in a major role on stage, performing beautifully and reaping just acclamation from an audience. Lillian as Tracy in Rome Little theatre’s production of Hairspray, and Brannon as Velma in Oceanside California’s Star Theater production of Hairspray. Both, in this father’s humble and righteous opinion, were magnificent. I beamed whenever they took the stage, nudged Sheila at highlight points, laughed outloud just from sheer joy, clapped and hooted when they completed a number, and wildly when they took their bows.

I recognized the tableau before me last night. These folk were Jack’s parents and grandparents. During a break we struck up a conversation --- Are you surprized, Brannon?

Jack’s grandmother told me about entering Jack’s room when he was a toddler to find him performing there to an imaginary audience with his pretend guitar. He stood peering into a distance, standing on his bed. She asked hin what he was looking at. “All dem people!” he replied.

Both my girls were performers from the get-go, too. 

Nora Jane and the boys played mostly her own songs

The interplay of the instruments and voices and personalities on the stage can be magical and joyful and tragic and awe-inspiring. I like to remind my kids and fellow actors that the audience has fun when the folks on the stage are having fun. Since the audience’s fun is our our object, having fun on stage is required. This group had fun on that stage last night. Turning and grinning at each other when they got in a special lick, or maybe at some (unheard by me) glitch.

My only complaint is my old geezer, slightly hard of hearing, usual complaint with virually everyone in America under 40. Enunciation! If songs have words, the words are important. I have had a mantra that has become ritual for me. I learned it from my friend and vocal coach, Rachel Jones. Before any performance of a song I mentally chant at least a couple of time, “The Words. The Words. The Words.”

Main Attraction:

Tim O'Brien

A very different kind of magic happens when there is one singer and one acoustic instrument (at a time) owning a stage as occurred in the Library tent for 15 consective numbers to end the evening. Just Tim O’Brien in his ordinary non-descript print shirt, tails hanging casually and comfortably over non-descript pants, his reddish hair and beard slightly unkempt. He might have been driving down Boone Street and decided on a whim to drop by and jam with us. 

His two Grammys for Best Bluegrass Vocalist are well deserved, but my goodness, he is no slouch as an instrumentalist, either. He worked by turns for an hour or more through four instruments, beginning with an awesome guitar, then the “scariest instrument in America” (the banjo), that Italian mandolin (“mandolin is Italian for ‘out-of-tune’”, he jokes), and finally a mean fiddle (His fingers blurred on “The Black and White Rag”).

My friend Duane Parsons, whom we lost this year, would have enjoyed this show I think. He was a big fan of traditional music, especially blues. Not a lot of blues tonight, but lots of bluegrass. I thought of him, since the last traditional concert I attended was a great blues show in Decatur with Duane and Charlotte.

And he can enunciate. I understood each line, always simply constructed, like most good writing.

I have several pages of notes on the individual songs from Nora Jane and Tim, but will have to stop here for now. Sheila is working up in our room at the Sleep Inn, while I tap keys and sip coffee in the braekfast area downstairs, surrounded by several other tables of breakfasting fans of storytelling. I need to go up and make some sandwiches for lunch while she finishes up a work assignment. The first stories begin at ten. We need to be in our seats by a little past nine. Probably won’t make that, so it’ll be back seats for us this morning, probably.

Here we go. The 41st NSF official begins!

Check back, I hope to add some pics and links later. Gotta go!

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