Monday, April 26, 2010
Words & Music Part II: Cheryl Wheeler and Scott Heffernan
Friday evening Tweed Meyer and I headed to Jerry and Pamela Libstaff's, for the second in their series of House Concerts called "Words and Music." Headlining this month was folk-singer/songwriter Cheryl Wheeler, with poet Scott Heffernan opening for her. Tweed wanted to get there early and make sure she was all ready to document both performers with her pencils and paints. I was happy to arrive in time to see what view lay beyond those big picture windows, before night made them a black reflective back-drop. Ooh-la, it certainly was beautiful. The sun burned a silver trail across Case Inlet despite thickening clouds, and a rocky point at the mouth of Dutcher's Cove began to turn silhouette in the coming twilight.
It was still light as Jerry introduced Scott Heffernan, with long dark hair and white beard, a big gentle bear of a man. As he sat down to read, he told of being caregiver for his mother but gave himself the night off from those poems. I'm sure many of us felt a kinship with him in that statement. He seemed a humble man with a wonderful sense of humour and a lovely big driftwood timbre to his voice. His poems were about ordinary days with extraordinary observation. As he read, little birds flew to the feeder outside and swirled behind Scott's head as if to punctuate visually. "I do know how to do this, how to hold my mouth," he read.
He spoke of the road I remember so well, of hitch-hiking and the space created inside a vehicle, a scene that comes and goes with each ride. He spoke the innocent truth of tiny details that catch a poet's eye, of time and place. He wrote of women like a young boyfriend still dear to your heart in fuzzy memory, one who responded with boundless enthusiasm to the stretch of a leg or curve of a breast. As he read his poems Tweed was listening with her fingers curled 'round a brush. In the time it took the outside light to fade she had his introspective and sweetly-weary profile upon the page.
The hand-off to Cheryl Wheeler, after a short intermission, was seamless. She had joined me, standing in the back, listening to Scott and picked up on his hitch-hiking poem. Her "thumb"story (involving a pant-less male driver) had the audience in stitches! It's obvious, after years on the road, that Cheryl is very comfortable as a story-teller, putting a comedic twist to the ordinary in her days. She is a songwriter's songwriter. Her lyrics make something special out of a cat, a phone, the colours in a day...and love. Her voice (even though she had a cold) delivered with control, as a beautiful instrument should. Cheryl is such a rhythmic lyricist, with inside rhymes and pacing that invites melodies to play, delivering tasty phrases like, "...a million shades of light..." as she sang about the colours of an ordinary day at her home in Massachusetts.
I found Ms. Wheeler funny, fiery and delightful. In Tweed's painting she sets off sparks of words and music around her, a strong right arm that would rest on her knee or lay atop the guitar when she told stories, is prominent on the page. The movement of Cheryl's songs and stories twirl out of her curls, notes flying in the air about her.
From ordinary days both poet and songwriter made extraordinary observations, weaving stories into the night. Like hitch-hikers we entered the space and scene of their vehicle, "Words and Music," and were carried away on a road new and yet so familiar. The journey of our days made sweeter by the fellowship of those few miles.