Friday, September 9, 2011

Come On Home

Wednesday was shower morning.  You are welcome, Gabriola!

So we were even later than usual to join Sylvi (just found out I've been spelling her name wrong -- sorry!) as her breakfast posse.  She was already with some of the Phase II people, but ditched them when we arrived. :-)  I should mention -- I don't think she'd mind, as she's quite forthcoming about it -- that several years ago, an infection in her appendix of all places caused her no small amount of brain damage.   Yes, brain damage from an appendix infection -- who knew?  One of the functions she lost is facial recognition.  So photos of people mean nothing to her, and she warned us when she first met us that she would stare at us blankly if we walked by her on the grounds, so not to take it personally.

Well, when one sense leaves us, others rush in to take their place.  Because by the next day, she recognized us perfectly well.  Sometimes by our voices, but often when we weren't even speaking -- once she gets to know someone, she says she can recognize their energy.  Apparently Don and I have a lot of energy, or a distinctive one, anyhow!  She even recognizes us when we walk up behind her.

Anyhow, we headed to our morning session.  The usual check-in of how everyone's doing and where they're at, followed by Eric and Sari's suggestions of what they wanted each of us to work on that morning.  We did a quick rehearsal of our group song for the concert that night, and then we were all sent off to do our work individually.  Cameron and Don were paired off (The Bray Brothers), so that Don could work out a guitar accompaniment for Cameron's song, leaving Cameron free to dig into the expressive glory of his new-found voice.  Louise and I (the accordion sisters) were paired off, so I could figure out an accompaniment to her ballad.  Eric was going to work with Sylvi on some tweaking to her song, and practising his own accompaniment for it.   Ahmed was given the assignment to write a brand-new song, and the topic had to be his father.

Eric came out to give me the chords he was playing to Louise's song, and then left us to work on it.  Louise was emotionally exhausted by that point already, and once I knew the chords (G# minor, Eric?!? Geez, these guitarists with capos... ;-) ), I only needed to know which verses were following melody A or B, so... we talked instead. Louise had given me a book the night before, about her abusive relationship with a man who actually ended up kidnapping her to try and get across the border, but the police saved her (apparently Oprah is doing a documentary, holy crap!)  Minus the red ferrari, we obviously had much to talk about.  But we also chatted about her art -- yes, this multi-talented person also paints and does mixed media -- her daughters, and other lovely things.  And then it was time for lunch!

We walked out on to the lawn to collect Don, and he and Cameron were doing another run-through of the song.  Holy crap, it sounded just incredible!  We sat in awe.  The Bray Brothers kick butt.  :-)

Lunch time -- chipotle black bean burgers.  Oh my, I could eat those for the rest of my life.

No afternoon break for us this day.  We had work to do!  The (early and shorter) afternoon session began with a recap of all we had been able to accomplish on our songs.  I hadn't really done much, other than a tentative melody for the chorus.   Tried out a couple of new verses that I wasn't totally happy with -- and I don't think the group was, either.  So this time, my nagging doubts were telling me something truthful.  Cameron and Don did Cameron's song.  It was incredible -- just as Don started strumming the opening line, you could see Cameron's entire being just shifting and settling in to Become The Song.  A beautiful thing.  Don had tweaked his own song a bit, and the changes met with general approval.  Sylvi and Louise were both happy with theirs as is, and sang them well.  And then Ahmed's turn -- wow, he had dug deep.  The song was still in progress, but was definitely progressing strongly.  "The day they took my father away...".  Some pretty emotional stuff -- he had given in to the process, and embraced all the stuff he needed to get out.  Job beautifully done.

Then it was time to prepare for the concert!  Eric's accompanist, piano player extraordinaire Bill Sample, arrived, so we all did a rehearsal together, to show him the ropes -- I don't think he needed it. :-)  We did a few runs-through, and then the instrumentalists headed up to the Phoenix Theatre to set up the stage and do line checks.  I don't think Graemme was expecting to need quite so many lines for a duo concert, but he handled us well. :-)  As Eric and Bill rehearsed a few numbers, I quietly played along in the corner -- nothing like playing with good musicians, even if I'm not really playing with them. :-)

The "Spirit in the Song Choir" arrived, and we did a few more runs-through, so everyone could get used to the stage and the microphones -- Eric was very generous with his pre-concert time.  "The Bray Brothers" had been asked to perform Cameron's song that night, so they got some rehearsal time in as well.

Then we had about ten minutes left to head down to the lodge and scarf down some teriyaki salmon before the concert -- damn, it would have been a good meal!

The workshop participants had the front row of chairs saved for us -- woo-hoo, VIPs!  We sat down and got ready to enjoy the show.  Stretched out across the back curtain were Eric's five guitars (he uses many different tunings, plus has a 7-string and a baritone), Don's guitar and lap slide, and my cello.  Nice little bit of visual poetry.  Don, of course, wanted to organize them by size... or maybe by colour.  I mentioned they were already in alphabetical order -- cello, followed by guitar-like objects.

Eric took the stage, solo at first, and began a beautiful first half of the program, that had us alternately dancing and sighing.

That's when my body started in to Stupid Body Tricks, followed by Return of the Revenge of Stupid Body Tricks...  WTF?!?  First it was my cough, which had been pretty much absent most of the day, but was suddenly out in full force.  Then cramps.  Then a nasty pain down my side.  Get a grip, Lyssy, what's with this?  You never get stage fright, this is stuff you love to do, why all this weirdness?  OK, talked myself out of appendicitis, but then... oh, seriously, you're going to threaten explosive diarrhea now?  C'mon, I survived the mussels before going on stage, that's not going to scare me.  Listen to me, body, even if I crap my pants on stage, I'm still going to play and sing, so cut it out.  But wait... you've got to be kidding me... a seizure?!?  You're threatening a seizure?!?  I haven't had one of those since I got rid of the ex-husband, and you're threatening one because I have to play a few notes on stage?  Listen, body, even if you're writhing on the floor, I'm still going to play my damned cello and sing my heart out.  So smarten up.  NOW.

In the midst of this internal chaos, Bill Sample joined Eric, on the beautiful grand piano off to the side.  He's such a sensitive accompanist, the effect is just magical.

Eric's last piece, then it was time for Cameron's song.  His girlfriend and a bunch of friends were in the audience to hear him perform -- many people rooting for him.  And the man did not disappoint.  Not by a long shot.  Once again, he owned that stage and became that song.  And the crowd went wild -- not just his friends, either.  Standing ovation!!!  Bray men rule.

Then it was time for the grand finale -- our group song, "Come on Home".  And with Cameron as inspiration, everyone stepped up and did better than ever on the song.  Even my Stupid Body Tricks went away (as they usually do, when I've got a performance to give).  Everyone's solos were great, and in the gospel-y section at the end, every line was given with strength and sensitivity -- the audience was clapping along, singing with us.  We were in the zone.  And yes, the crowd went wild again.  It was a great night.  Many hugs and kisses on stage.

As the audience started to shuffle out and we were leaving the stage, who should I see but Tim Harrison, who was doing a review for his new website, Now On Gabriola.  He seemed to have had a good time, but I guess we'll see when the review gets published. ;-)  Many other happy audience members, too.  I got a chance to practise accepting praise and gratitude... homework!

We headed down to the lounge for a celebratory beverage or two with Louise, Sylvi and Cameron -- Eric and Sari were heading out to finally have some dinner, but said they'd join us later (they didn't end up coming, because they were both falling asleep on their feet by the time dinner was over).  Louise invited us to come and play at the shelter where she works when we're in Calgary, so we'll be seeing her again in a couple of weeks, yay!  Cameron may have to go home before the morning, but we manage to talk him out of it -- it wouldn't be right to not have him there for the follow-up.  In the midst of all my merry-making, the Stupid Body Tricks began again.  Geez, maybe I actually am sick or something?

We walk back up to the room, and I realize I still haven't fixed the last verse, and we're supposed to be recording the final songs the next morning.  Crap.  OK, I'll see if I can at least cobble something together before my body falls apart or I fall asleep.

I sit down on the bed, haul out my pen and notebook, and...


Barf out a revised second chorus and a final verse.  All in one fell swoop, no edits.  And then I start to bawl my eyes out.

Those weren't the pains of unexplainable stagefright.  Those were the pains of childbirth.

The Return of the Revenge of A Song Is Born.

I feel much better now.

Musically -- especially when I'm explosively musical,

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