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Book 4. Concert Review From the Artists Point of View, Continued…

February 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Book 4. Concert Review From the Artists Point of View, Continued…

 Did I say no hanky panky at all? Well perhaps I’d better re-examine that policy. Because early “come le we goers” are arriving like crazy and they each seem to have the same idea as the first early bird. Apparently numbers of ladies have heard one or another of my recordings on the radio during the promotional blitz of this past week, and have confused me with Engelbert Humperdinck or something. Ladies  are  batting their eyes  and asking if I have any CD’s for sale and before you know it, the sound check is no more, and I am signing CD’s instead. Now, in my view, all things considered, this is not a bad start.

 The trick will be to keep the whole thing from going down hill from this point on…

Here come a number of ladies from the class of “64” who (although I did not graduate from high school) have claimed me as a member because we were classmates up to the point that I left High School, went to New York, and signed with Doc Pomus and Columbia Records.

 I was just telling the great Marcellus (Tutsie’s son and volunteer sound man for the evening) that I have to get a new pair of glasses because recently everyone beyond the second row has fuzz where their faces used to be. When folks that I know or knew, show up. some, (as people often do, ) start with “whats my name? do you remember me?” If you remember me, then whats my name?” The last thing I want to say is “no, I’m sorry I don’t because in reality, I half remember everyone. But the deeper truth is, a number of these ladies look exactly like the irate parents that used to show up at school, raising triple heck about the science teacher who was regularly found passed out at the Normandy Bar at 2:30 in the afternoon when in fact he was supposed to be in the classroom tryin’ to larn us sumpin’.

 It’s extraordinary to see the close camaraderie that still exists between these school girl lady girls, that they want me to be a part of what they share is exciting and really touching for me. However, I do wish that they had squeezed me as closely and for as long, when we were sixteen. But that’s another story.

 The place is filling up and it’s  just past five thirty, the show is scheduled to start at six. The Director of the Museum says to me, “Let’s get started” I say wait! Wait! Lee Carl is coming to film us, starting at six, and he isn’t here yet. We are spared an adrenalin fueled discussion because just then Lee pulls into the loading zone with his equipment.

 We are now moments away from face the freakin’ music and dance time (which, on the chance that it hasn’t occurred to you, is certainly among the most stressful series of moments imaginable, moments in which the question “what in the flaming hell am I doing here”  presents repeatedly, demanding an answer. Fortunately, “What am I doing here? What am I doing here? Leads nicely into “I’ll show you what I’m doing here! Oh Yeah? I’ll show you what I’m doing here! Which is a grand attitude to have when you suddenly find yourself propelled towards and then all alone at Center Stage.

In this case they gave me a fine hand just for showing up, which is again, a pretty good start. A start which in the past might have led to “well I guess I showed them” I’m outta here, (in spite of the fact that leaving at that point might have been just a little bit premature.)

 Traditionally, there has (from time to time) been a little difficulty in getting me (or me getting my self) actually onto the stage. A fine example might be the night in 1966, that Mort Shuman brought George Martin (arranger/producer of the Beatles) to see, hear and hopefully sign me, at “The Scene” in New York. Just before “Show Time” I broke a string and spent the next hour and a half chasing all over the City looking for a replacement string, rather than just doing the performance without the missing string. One can only imagine what the good man thought as he left after sitting there waiting for me for an hour and a half, and then again, what he might have said during the period in which the Beatles were considering my album “South Atlantic Blues” to be their first release on Apple Records. “Oy Say, (he might have said) this bloke’s a flukin’ flufferin” Idiot! Ay Wot!” (Just joking, I know that George Martin doesn’t really talk like that, however having only shaken his hand once just before I was to play for him, but ran away to play “find the string” instead, I don’t really know which words he would choose to use in describing yours truly, but I think we can agree that, in general, the sentiment would be about the same.

 And Ah yes, there were those occasions when in anticipation, too large a spill down the gullet, too many times in a row, may have led to yours truly making a staggering entrance from stage left and actually stumbling all the way across the stage and out the other side.

But not tonight….’cause I mean business…and here we go!

The Director has given me a nice intro, Tuts has asked me to do “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” before I start the program, and dedicate it to “Our Brothers and Sisters and all the lost souls in Haiti” it’s a beautiful song by a great writer and singer, Bobby Scott. I do a good and sincere rendition, hitting some nice notes and ending big. It warms the heart, and breaks the ice, and gets an appreciative response.

 We move into my script and first up is “Annalee”

I will (for the first time) be utilizing my own pre-recorded music tracks for four of the tunes, because I think they will be more effective that way. I have had all kinds of philosophical problems with the idea, but the overriding fact is, I want the audience to experience the songs as closely as possible to the way that I so carefully recorded them, and holding out for absolute purity has shown it’s self to be counter productive and in my case, absolutely silly.

 If you are offended by my use of my music tracks, I apologize, I am sincerely sorry. (please consider that this is a free concert, and I have no budget or bonaroos to rehearse and pay a band AND no band to play it for free AND that I have held out on this question for forty five years)  That said, what a  pleasure it is for me to sing against the music from “Annalee” and what an enthusiastic response it receives from the audience …

 Next is two little pieces of poetry “A Kindness Here And A Kindness There” and “Do You Like My Color, Like I like Yours” they are well received.

Then I throw on the battle-axe and slide into “SOON” the theme of my Rock Opera (which happens to be the first Musical ever written by a Virgin Islander to be produced on Broadway) “SOON” is a powerful and passionate song speaking a commitment to justice, brotherhood and equality, that is the direct product of my own Virgin Islands childhood. I still feel it, and sing it that way. The folks are excited and stimulated and let loose with enthusiastic applause.

 Off comes the guitar and I begin to read “The Girl With The Golden Skin”. The audience has never heard anything quite like it and they sit in anticipation waiting to see what will happen…zamo they erupt in laughter and  seem to quickly realize that this piece will be going back and forth between humor, poetic language and strong sentiment. It ends  with a truth about color ,often unspoken but true nevertheless. It gets a big hand… The people seem eager, for more, they like the songs and they like the poetry, so far so good!

I signal Marcel and he starts the track for the La Beiga Carosuel/Tutsie medley, a song that always gets ‘im regardless of who what when where and why. Tonight, its eliciting encouragement and whoops galore from the very start. When we get to the instrumental section, and I start to “wuk up” and shake my bum, they go a little wild, it’s wonderful.

We come back with a tender last verse and take it out in the joyous defiance that the song exemplifies. We get a rousing round of really enthusiastic applause. Next, is another spoken piece, “I Dreamed I Made A Record Called South Atlantic Blues” and then, on with the guitar and into the song “South Atlantic Blues”. This song has always been a unique and powerful experience for me as a writer and singer, it is now forty-five years old but (based on the content) it could have been written yesterday. It’s a pleasure to sing and play it, and hitting the high drama notes and the sweet dynamics passages is very satisfying for me, the audience seems to feel the same way and shows it.

That was the end of ACT l,

 I went straight into  the spoken introduction to ACT ll it’s called:

 “SOOKIES WESTERN JAMBOREE”

 “Some of you good people will remember that once upon a time we had one radio station in The Virgin Islands, WSTA.  A wonderful station that did it’s best to play something for everyone. This meant that we were all exposed to every kind of music.

Believing in music as I do, I believe that this wide exposure had a very positive effect On us all. Among the varieties that we enjoyed was good old Southern Gospel and what they called back then, Country and Western.

 At 3 O’clock in the afternoon the islands looked forward to a show hosted by a young Buckaroo from Frenchtown called “Sookiess Western Jamboree”. The show featured artists like the great Hank Williams, Gentleman Jim Reeves, Faron Young, Skeeter Davis and Patsy Cline and songs like “You’re Cheatin Heart” “Cold Cold Heart “Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On” “He’ll Have To Go” and many many others.

 In those days as you know we here in The Virgin Islands had a number of our own “Home grown cowboys” young (and old) rough and ready hombres who worked and lived out in the  wild wild East, West, North and South sides, and rode their horses all over the place, and once a year, in the big Carnival Parades.

In addition to the working cowboys, there were a number of fellows in town who had perhaps been too strongly influenced by the Western Movies that played at The Apollo, The Alexander, and The Center Theater what seemed like every day and night of every week of every month of every year for many years running. These home-grown desperadoes, certainly considered themselves to be the real deal also, and as romantic a figure as any other cowpoke anywhere and they were.

 Anyway, as  noted elsewhere, I intended to grow up to be Gene Autry the singing Cowboy. So naturally I was very interested in learning how to “make up” songs like those that we heard, on Sookies Western Jamboree, in the movies and in the Saturday morning Children’s stories so kindly broadcast for us by WSTA.

 The next Virgin Islands song grew directly out of these parts of WSTA’s influence on our lives, an influence for which I will be eternally grateful.

So here we go. In remembrance of Sookie’s Western Jamboree and our very own Caribilly Cowboys. A little Caribilly Christmas Song for all the children in all of the warm weather places in the world, our very own “Sandy The Bluenosed Reindeer”

 (The audience remembered Sookies show and that wonderful time in our collective musical history right away and although they had never heard this spoken intro before, they actually began to echo my words as we went through it, and then gave a wonderfully warm reception to Sandy The Bluenosed Reindeer both before and after I sang it.

Can’t beat that.

This sweet momentum led us into “Captain Hookfoot”  an eight minute piece of spoken Calypso humor about a character I created called “Buckra De Paehae” and Pirate Treasure and Jumbies. (Buckra means poor white. Paehae means white man, in French Creole) It is written and delivered in Calypso (the language of my childhood, an idiom which lends its self wonderfully well to broad, exaggerated and colorful Island humor) Hookfoot was the biggest hit of the night so far. I said to my self “Wow, So far so good, now for Gods sake, don’t choke on a mosquito or something.” I knew the next tune “Where My Lover has Gone”  was pretty good, it’s been a hit for me for years. It’s a great tune to sing. On went the guitar and from the first C MAJ 7th we were in the groove.

Next up was another humorous spoken Calypso piece called “The Barracks Yad Bay And beach Club” about a (now gone) UPSTREET neighborhood  fondly remembered by all, and the building of the waterfront drive. The folks loved it and… we were on to “Surrender To The Sun” this song is a definite hit for me and this time I sang it against a most beautiful new track produced for me by Warren Schatz. It was absolutely beautiful. The audience could not have been more receptive and I did what I could to sing the heck out of it. Very beautiful, very romantic very much a success.

Next was another spoken Calypso piece called “The Inheritance Box” about the History of the Illustrious often blusterous “House of Buckra De Paehae”  it’s also quite funny. The people laughed it up and loved it too.

Which brought us to a poetic little piece called “The Reason We Sing” which doubled as an introduction to “The Virgin Islands Song”  which is the theme and the finale.

We utilized the  musical track featuring Jeff Medina’s beautiful guitar work., I sang the heck out of it and it was a smash. The applause was so effusive that I was frankly, a little embarrassed…I bid the good folks good night and told them truthfully that they had been my favorite audience of all time ever anywhere.  

We got back to signing CDs, and getting  to the Kalaloo.

All in all it was simply wonderful; I really do wish you were here.

Book 1. Saturday Market and Book 4. Concert Review

February 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Book 1. Saturday Market and Book 4. Concert Review, From The Artists Point Of View

Book 1. Saturday Market 

While living “UPSTREET”my big sister Gale (all of eight and a half) decided that she and I would get up very early (around five thirty) on Saturday mornings so that we could participate in the local Saturday morning custom of going to “de market”.

De Market was an Old Danish West Indian design cast iron structure that once had housed the slave market; it occupied an elongated rectangle in a central, if not center part of town. Charlotte Amalie (or Amalia, both are correct) is built along a shore line running (depending on where you’re standing) east to west, or west to east.

There was a main street that approximately paralleled the shore line. On the south side of the street was a long row of rubble masonry warehouses and red and yellow brick alleys (The red brick arrived as ballast from England and the British Isles, the Yellow brick as ballast from the Mother Country, Denmark) The warehouses ran from Main Street town to the water’s edge. The North Side of the street were mercantile establishments, with second story balconies above and beyond them, fine and even grand homes began to climb the hill sides, their large windows and verandas catching the trade winds while looking down upon ships of every nation rocking gently in perhaps the most beautiful harbor in the world.

 This magical place was made even more magical by the refreshing dewy cool of morning and the golden early morning light. The market square was magical in its own right; ancient mahogany’s lining its cobblestone perimeters. On the west side, the venerable stone and wrought iron of the centuries old “National Bank” and “Christ Church” a Grand old world Methodist Church right out of a dansk dream of Devonshire, and on the north the original Jewish ghetto, now “long row wood houses” and coal pot, communal “yad” heaven for struggling laborers and their families, the rough and tough streets of “Savan”.

To the East, dirt floor and plank barrel bar rooms for the likes of Ben and Raffie dem, who were always drinking rum again, Scruffy customers who would look at home on any skid row in the world, but were certainly too wild, unconstrained and uncontainable for most.

These desperately dinged and damaged men wore a steady path to and from the dungeon cells of Fort Christian. Cursing, shaking their fists (and other parts) and yelling in tongues not known to devil or man. (One hundred and fifty-one proof cane rum, mixed with and chased by the hot hot blazing hot sun will do that to a fellow, no matter what his original religion or disposition)

 On the South side of the market square, towards the sea and the breeze, was the emporium most favored by children, a dark cave like interior appropriately called “The Igloo”. While not a one of us had any idea of the kind of cold that would necessitate crawling inside a house of ice cubes to get warm, we did appreciate the miraculously cool blessing of vanilla and chocolate honest to goodness ice cream.

 However long before we would get to the Igloo, Gale and I  first had to make our way past those things that make these kinds of memory so heady and transporting. We would walk down “Pave Street” past the First Moravian Church, the Park Shoppe, and then the park that the Shoppe was named after Roosevelt Park which in turn was named after Franklin.

It was a kind gesture of remembrance but this little park, originally “Coconut Square” had as much to do with Franklin Roosevelt and his world as it did the King of Siam.

It was a very old fashioned little city block park surrounded by  old black iron gating and planted with Coconut, Baobab, Tamarind, Mahogany and the tallest slenderest (like something out of Dr. Suess) Palms, there was a big elevated lily pond in the middle and winding walkways with actual  old round armed park benches scattered here and there. I loved it; it was like Mary Poppins London via Dr. Suess meets the Belgian Congo. (‘course we had no Dr. Suess back then but I guess that’s why I felt as if I’d been waiting for him for a long long time when he finally did came along)

 Just past Coconut Square the road rose up to the old British Cable Office and divided, the left going directly to the foot of the hill topped by Fort Christian (1691), while straight ahead took us past the Grand Hotel and the very first Church on the Island, The Frederick Lutheran Church

 The British Cable Office was quite an important place in those days run, by a very stiff and important fellow with a pencil thin moustache and a most clipped British air and attitude… He was Mr. Alfred Evelyn, the  Grand father to be of my first wife Patricia, and Great Grand father to my Bix “little Scott”

If  Mr. Evelyn could have seen this in his future as he spied Gale and I pogoing alone down the street at six o’clock in the morning, I don’t doubt for a moment that he would have wrapped us both up in a proper brown paper package, tied it up with string, and sent us off to far freakin’ Calcutta.

 Just along past the Grand Hotel we came to Post Office Square, another absolute treat for the eyes and imagination, up on the right on Government Hill sat the Beautiful Pink, Hotel 1829, birth place of the Arts Colony that had intrigued and brought Mud and Lea and Mud’s boyfriend Justin, to Charlotte Amalia, in the first place.

By now shafts of sunlight would be lighting the odd elevated corners, creating splashes of intense color like an impressionist painter might do. And after all, this is where the father of impressionism Camille Pissarro was born and his sensibilities came of age. If you came upon the beautiful pink hued Hotel 1829 first thing in the morning, just as the rising sun is coming over the mountains that ring the town and the golden light has just come splashing into the square, I don’t doubt that you would be an impressionist too, it is simply too real to be real. Ecstatic overload spills back and loops around and around until you, head spinning, stagger on towards “de market”.

Exiting post office square you enter the narrow “commercial district” of main street crowded with shops on both sides, There on the left is Lockhart’s General store, Riieses Liquor Store, and Greaux’s hardware, on the right is 7 Queens Quarter, and The Center Theater where the marquee advertises a double feature featuring Gene Autry, and Jungle Jim,  with episodes seven and eight of the serial “The Insidious Fu Man Chu” stuck in between,

There is the wonderful Apothecary Hall with its enormous bottles of blue, red, green, and gold elixir of the Gods or something, displayed invitingly in the windows. The most indefinable but soul satisfying and reassuring smells waft through it’s open doors reminding us all that no matter what, the Apothecary Hall has the cure.

On the side streets towards the Harbor, the butcher stalls belonging to butcher “White Pierre” and butcher “Black Pierre” are open, goat and pig, mutton and pork is the song being sung back and forth between the Pierres and their customers,  

 Ladies are setting out large baskets of fruit on the sidewalks crossing the gut, Soursap, Sugar Apple, Mango, and we aren’t even at the market yet.  It didn’t take me long to realize that Gale had had another heck of a good idea,  wonderful and exciting.

In that part of the early morning set aside for those people who conspire to be happy, cheery early risers are greeting one another, there is unspoken but palatable pity for those foolish or unfortunate enough to lie unconscious  through this the most beautiful part of the day, these folks and Gale and I are in a magic time and we all know it.  

 As we walk in the shade of the old Mahogany and Tamarind trees, beyond “de gut” there by the Library, The Market is beginning to bustle, vendors have come from every part of the Island, many by donkey cart, or donkey, all have enormous baskets filled with fruits and vegetables or prepared goodies and delicacies, Mabi frothing up and out of it’s rum bottle containers, fresh fish of every color and description, Tanya, okra, hot pepper sauce that could ignite it’s self for spite, sugar cakes (that’s what Gale and I want more than anything) coconut and ginger sugar cakes, a penny apiece.. thyme, chibble, lemon grass, the herbs of Eden (or so they say) my sister Gale loved herbs so much that she developed the most famous herb garden in Pennsylvania when she grew up, benye, pate, papaya, cherries, conch, whelks,  a crazy cacophonous cornucopia of calypso accents from up, down and all around the islands Tortola, Saint Kitts, Anagada, Antigua, Barbados, Culebra, Puerto Rico, smoke rising from the coal pots little samples of the ripest mango, sugar cane, and guava, “come Scottie, come Gale, wha yu doin up an out so early?’ Yu had yu breakfus? Me dear chile, come lemme gi yu sum ah dis”

I don’t recall ever having anything more than a very few pennies to spend, but it seems like we always came away with much treasure from the market. Some of the eating kind, some of the cooking herbs kind for Mother, but mostly the kindness kind which after all, was the kind that really mattered the most. Yep, my big sister Gale  had some really good ideas. 

 Book 4. The  Concert Review, From The Artists Point Of View

As promised, (but only because, even after forty seven years before the mast, I have been able to maintain the semi pristine purity of obscurity of one  “unknown” to the music press), I will review the concert myself. However because I am the artist, and not eyes and ears in the audience, but eyes and ears backstage, and onstage, I will naturally review it from the artists point of view…

First, the synopsis, which is: “Simply wonderful, wish you were here!”

Then to the facts of the matter:

 Our sound check was scheduled for 3:30 PM, however at 3:30 PM, I was bouncing along in the back of Tut’s truck, spiffed up to the max and trying to hold, balance and keep a seventy pound pot of steaming hot Kalaloo from spilling. (This because Tuts is, in addition to many other things, “The King Of Kalaloo” and he promised the Director of the Jarvis Museum that he would make and bring enough to feed everyone..so now he has been awake for fifty hours straight, cooking it, and is close to Kalaloo collapse as one can get)

 We were rushing to pick up Tut’s Cousin Delia, who was coming in to Tortola wharf from Roadtown, also scheduled to arrive at 3:30 PM…Whoops, No Delia. The customs man said “you mean de schuppidy crazy woman wid de big black hat ana head wha cussin’ like a drunken sailah?, No man she done gan up de road” Up de road we zoom, Now Tuts is cussin’ Delia with his head turned to the back seat looking at the kalaloo, in fact and effect driving forwards backwards. It was not a good 10 minutes of driving or, rather let me say, it was the best 10 minutes of driving ever considering, that the only one looking at the road was me, and all I could do was steer with  the hot pot, of steaming  Kalaloo,whilst trying not to spill it.

 By the grace of what must be a Kalaloo (or perhaps innocent tourist) loving God, we arrive at the concert site with minimal spillage of soup or blood…Thank goodness we are finally able to get it inside and out of our hands.

At a quarter to four, I am able to start setting up for our sound check… at four fifteen the first lady (no not Mrs. Obama) the first concert goer/comer arrives, takes a seat right down in front and immediately begins to gaze adoringly up at yours truly. God bless her, she has come early because “she doesn’t want to miss a ting’”

 She is a mighty Purdy lady, the color of spun honey, in a wonderfully low-cut yellow sun dress, with a bright and sunny face. (Did I mention that she is sitting right down front?) Fortunately, I am more than warmed up and ready to sing, so the sound check is not an embarrassment, in fact it turns into sort of a mini concert just for her, complete with little squeals of appreciation and charming effusive complements. In years past we might have called the concert “jazz” right then and there, and gone off together to make a life in Brazil or St. Croix, but I’m almost grown up now and I am here on serious business.

After all,this show and concert is part of “The Second Coming”  and this time there will be no…well…a lot less…well.. a little less… hanky panky. But no hanky panky today.

This means a lot to me. I will be singing a one hour concert presentation of my new Musical, “The Virgin Islands Songs”, to and for an audience of local, honest to goodness Virgin Islanders, not a bar full of drunken visitors who think they’re in the  Bahamas and want to hear “Who Let The Dogs Out” Or “Chiquita Cheeseburger”, nor a room full of wealthy white folks wintering in the Islands and wanting me to play those “steel pots ‘n pans or whatever you call them” but de real ting’ mon…and if I don’t do it right, right here, right now, t’will be best to  leave the equipment behind and beat feet, straight for the airport… Continued…