|Trail of Tears-|
Saturday, October 16, 2010
There is no gig like a sit-down concert where the audience is attentive, with you and not distracted by the sounds from another stage, a festival P.A. system or crazy local radio remote blasting hip-hop a few yards away. Not that those aren’t fun and necessary but I find I rise to the occasion and feel the audience notices and appreciates it. Last Sunday I performed one of those types of concerts in a beautiful church with an enormous wooden, vaulted ceiling, incredible stained glass light pouring through, a nice stage and comfortable benches for the people there. I didn’t even need to use any effects like reverb because the sound was so luscious. The church was St. Paul’s United Methodist here in Las Cruces, NM where I live. They have had a wonderful and diverse afternoon concert series for many years with some very well known musicians come through. I have attended many myself.
As the audience came in I saw familiar faces, both friends and people who follow me. I was so grateful. I hadn’t slept more than an hour the night before having been under much stress. The person I live with is in Houston dealing with Cancer and I couldn’t be there to help due to work. So I drank a couple of pots of coffee and even ate a chocolate donut, something I never do, to try and wake up some. The music director had printed out a program of my songs and I was glad because I left my set list at home being as distracted as I was. As a musician you really can’t ever assume just because it is a local gig that people will show up. All sorts of things happen in lives and people forget. I played my best and was only focused on this moment. Between my first and seconds songs there began a low-frequency hum in the P.A. The sound guy tried to fix it and somehow, even when I wasn’t playing the main house speakers blew out. I know right? An acoustic, Native Flute and Hang player blows out the speakers—oh yeah I rock!
I kid, but it was a little unnerving and we relied on the choir loft speakers which were behind me. I did my best to speak loudly in my story telling and play a little more assertively. I soon regained my composure and focused. When the audience is with you feel responsible for the energy and pace of the music. Looking at the faces I knew they were engaged, even leaning in when I was talking. I was inspired and so happy to have this kind of audience. By the time I got to my Americana Medley of Wayfaring Stranger, Amazing Grace and Shenandoah I knew I had to reward them by digging deep. I told the story of how Amazing Grace became the unofficial song of the Cherokee because on the “Trail of Tears” or "Nunna daul Tsuny" repatriation by the U.S. military when a tribal member would die they weren’t allowed to stop and bury them. And many, many did die along the way. So the Cherokee would sing Amazing Grace, a song they learned from Missionaries, in their own language though as a way to mourn and pay respect.
As I transitioned from Wayfaring Stranger into Amazing Grace the Copper roof of the church started snapping and popping loudly. I looked out and no one made a motion. Many had their eyes closed and others were leaning forward. I played Oh Shenandoah on the flute and put it by my heart and sang three A Cappella verses of Across the Wide Missouri. I had my eyes closed but could hear whimpering and sniffling. When I looked out there wasn’t a person not wiping their eyes and pulling out Kleenex. There was a deep silence then an applause that lasted five minutes as I just bowed and mouthed “thank you.” It took me by surprise. I was much moved.
I finished my set and told them how when I travel I tell people about Las Cruces, our little community on the Rio Grande River and the level of artists, poets, writers and musicians who live here because we like our quality of life. After my last song the applause was so warm and everyone rose to their feet in ovation. I was again floored and probably looked like a deer in headlights, but stood there in gratitude. Afterwards I stayed forty minutes singing CD’s, listening to stories, networking, and answering questions. There were people there from North Carolina, Iowa, Canada and many other places who just happened to be in town and bought many CD’s to give out as gifts. I was exhausted but feeling really content that I worked, it worked that day. It reminded me to never underestimate and always respect the power of music to transcend, to move listeners and to sometimes even heal the musician. This Sunday is a return concert to the Hillsboro Community Center in the low hills of the Gila Wilderness. This is another sit-down concert and I am hoping to again bring my A Game and make people feel something good. Check my website calendar for details: RandyGranger.net
Here is the video treatment of Across the Wide Missouri or Oh Shenandoah. Enjoy
Till next time