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Monday, March 8, 2010

Forty-Year View From The Stage

Saturday night was a gas out here on the Key Peninsula! Nothing announces the season's change like the Two Waters Arts Alliance Spring Fling, held at the Key Civic Centre in Vaughn. I could not believe it when Phil told me that this was our eighth year of playing the event! I look from the stage and see my friends, my community, even parts of my free-wheelin' congregation out there...and the love I feel for them all is what makes me tick in a performance. Ahhh, we make Love between us, performer and audience; the 'after-smoke' being dust in the stage lights.

Spring Fling was our first gig of this year...very special because...(drum roll please!) this year I celebrate being a professional singer for forty years! Yes, I began skipping high school to go play coffee-house gigs at fourteen!! By the time I graduated high school at 16, I was ready to get on the road with music and the revolution of Love, and there's still no regrets this many years later. Saturday night I felt pretty good in my outfit, now sixty pounds lighter than last year. Folks who hadn't seen me were very kind with their compliments. Of course our audience looked spectacular, everyone so beautifully dressed in colours for the Spring.

The art-piece I fell in love with this year was a metal sculpture, framed and behind glass, of two large feathers tied and hanging down, a bear paw-print at the tie. It was a little out of my price-range but, at this event, there's something for everyone's budget. I came home with a set of cards from Dale Goodvin. His photography is just exquisite...and you can check him out at if you'd like to see some beautiful Pacific Northwestern pictures. Twenty dollars for a set of five cards was the right price for me. You may have noticed that I don't have pictures for this blog...didn't take my camera. My post is not so much about the art, as I have done in past years, but more about the kinetic sculpture of setting, performance and audience.

Well, I wish I could say I have toned down because of all these problems with my hips and back...but...that's the way with addiction...numbs the body and takes the mind to another place. We began softly (yes, Anna was able to join us and add her special, ethereal harmonies) so that folks could greet each other, talk about and sell, art. Our first set was pretty laid-back with a very nice groove. Mark had brought us Rosanne Cash's version of Hank Snow's "Keep Movin' On" and did a great job on guitar, rather than his regular piano. It felt like such a good, eclectic set for keeping our audience moving and getting warmed-up. We try to have new songs for every year, both covers and originals.

After a wee break we came back on for the second set. By now spirits had been consumed, money had been spent and folks were ready for the dance floor, especially our bass-player Bebop's groupies! Every year, they rush the stage like teenagers (we will not reveal ages here!) leaning their elbows on the stage, lacing fingers to rest their chins on, to gaze adoringly at Bebop and flutter their eyelashes. This too is a yearly ritual. By the time he reached his vocal part in "Save The Last Dance For Me" they were squealing...and Bebop was shyly smiling, the colour of a good Washington apple!

What a swirl of colour and beauty in our audience! Bev was in electric green and blue, dancing on her $17,000 titanium leg, Tweed was in a lighter green and wearing a gobsmacking Squash Blossom turquoise necklace, a young woman floated by in orange harem pants...oh yes, the night was an impressionistic painting, quick dabs of colour, a spinning bouquet, inside the still framing of Two Waters' Art!

There was a sweet young couple who stayed on the dance floor for almost the entire second set. He reminded me a little of sweet Miles Silverman, from "Murphy Brown" without his glasses on, and she was so cute in a pink sweater and dark skirt. She had a shy, soft smile and just past shoulder-length, brown hair. They had obviously taken some dance lessons and were thrilled to take their skills out of the classroom. The sweet blush around them both made me feel warm and fuzzy. How special to be allowed to watch this moment in a young couple's life. These are the kind of special pictures, taken mentally from my vantage point on the stage.

We threw in a few originals, like "Ocho Tango" (one delicious woman doing the tango on her own, an imaginary rose in her mouth) and "With Love," for a little old-fashioned swing. "Sitting In Limbo" lasted a long time, reggae being a mellower but oh-yeah-danceable mood. I left the stage and joined our solid gold dancers on the floor for the instrumental break, amping the show a little. Alright, I paid dearly for letting myself go like that...but Sweet Mama, it felt so good to dance!

Anna gave it her all in this second set, and then had to leave early with her brother for home. The price she pays to perform, with chronic Lyme disease, is thrice mine. There were a few times when looking into her beautiful dark eyes, she pulled me through some of the rustiness of my musette! I thought at one point, I might have to leave with her. I was hurting, tired and totally soaked through...but mad crazy in the zone. I promised my back and hips that I would spend all of Sunday resting...and jumped back on stage to finish the last half-hour, after Anna left. By the time we were done, I had been there for five hours and had worked pretty damn hard. During breaks I believe in going out and thanking as many people as possible for coming out. These are my friends, my community, some are even a part of my free-spirit congregation!

I never forget that it is MY honour to perform for a live audience, be it thousands...or two. My ritual is to ask to be connected, so that I may connect my audience...for it is bigger than all of us when the magic happens. Yes, I turn on a powerful personality on the stage...but she gets quickly tucked away down off it. I believe Divas get lost, thinking the power is theirs. The talent is theirs, yes, but that is a gift to be forever thankful for, not to mention humble about...and has to be crafted continuously. I have worked hard, for forty years, ever thankful for this gift and the Muse who leads me.

How incredibly fortunate, to have been doing this professionally for forty years now; the swirl of memories fly by like a massive gallery showing. I can remember making up songs in the bathtub as a wee girl. I moved on to Big Band, to musicals, to folk, to country, rock and New York session A-list, and then to jazz again when I moved back west, wow, nearly thirteen years ago now! Inside of me are all the twists and styles I've been absorbing since childhood, including the influences of movement in music and rhythm played in Southeast Asia. Music has been, since long before we came along, part of the movement of Creation. This many years after my start in a little Folk trio, I have a style, uniquely my own...with the schooling to make it last.

My voice (a little out of practice with this last year's health problems) has aged in a good way, like cognac. I'm ready to sing and keep my view from the stage for quite a while yet, ready to celebrate all this year! To anyone who has been in our audience, I thank you for your part in the whole collage. You are who I look to. You are the multi-coloured waters I come to cleanse my eyes and soul in. Two Waters Arts Alliance's Spring Fling, as always, was the perfect first-of-the-year venue to pour myself into...this view from the stage, as it has been for forty years now, was a vista of flowing colour and love.


Kim Thompson said...

I have had the pleasure of seeing Lorraine and Jazz Musette perform and readers, this really is a must see, must hear. The energy and the music is superb and it is appealing to all. I am always in awe of musical people and well, this band is AWESOME.

Congrats on a wonderful performance and congrats to Two Waters Alliance and the Key Peninsula community (one I know and love) for a terrific celebration!

Mizu Sugimura said...

A most musical memoir!

Lorraine Hart said...

Thank you for being a part of my addiction, my friends! I'm becoming very semimental in me old-age!

It's hard to believe, when you're young and the milestones look sooooo far away, that one day they will surprise you by zipping past. I intend to enjoy this year!

Anyone else have any milestones they would like to talk about?

Dale Goodvi said...

Retirement! Should have done it 62 years ago!!

Lorraine Hart said...

Well retired (YAY!!!) and now you have lots of time for what you excel at.
I don't want to give any of your cards away...this could put a dent in my letter-writing! Giving yourself to your Bliss (and your lovely Missus) must feel fantastic as a milestone. Cheering you on!

JosephMcG said...

Beautiful... beautiful... beautiful... I loved that getting connected so that you could be connected with all the folks in the audience...
I hope you got a good soak... and that you continue to choose to let your light shine

Lorraine Hart said...

Thank you so much Joseph! I'll let you know when...we're going to be playing at the Mandolin Cafe this Spring. Would love to sing to you!

Stephanie Frieze said...

Yes, let us know, Lorraine. I've yet to make it to one of your gigs and feel alike a poor friend indeed. Something to look forward to.