About noon last Monday or Tues, Jennifer Snopko, manager at Prairie Art Alliance’s Gallery II — on Adams, just west of Sixth Street, Springfield, Illinois — posted a plaintive plea for a music man to play at their First Friday open gallery June 1. I saw her Facebook post three minutes after it was posted, and I offered to play/sing if I was still on the organization’s list of approved talent. The good news: I am.
The bad news: I am.
Sometimes when I perform my songs and traditional folk songs at most any “reception” it’s like reciting The Gettysburg Address at midnight from the pitcher’s mound at most any Little League Ballpark in a driving rain: nobody listens. But that’s okay. One gets used to it, and I can always use the practice. And I seldom get wet.
I knew when I responded to Jennifer’s green light that I could fill the two hours with songs I had written and words and music from acoustic Bob Dylan (the good years) , Peter Paul and Mary, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Doc Watson and Huddie Leadbetter (a/k/a, d/b/a “Leadbelly.” But when two friends expressed special enthusiasm for my music, I did something extra special to prepare, hoping, anticipating they would come to the occasion: I practiced.
I also decided to use a music stand, even if I had to buy one. A very unhappy experience at The Rock Shop Wednesday, where I had purchased my newest guitar (my “trophy guitar”) last Christmas, and a guitar strap for that guitar, and a pickup cord earlier in the day precluded my buying a music stand there. When I mentioned my plight where I “work” my friend Jessie offered to give me his. It had been given to him, he doesn’t use it anymore, and it was mine. Whatta GUY! Thank you again, Jessie! It was exactly what I needed to display my typed lyrics to my eyes off to the side. I don’t like standing behind anything when I’m singing or reciting poetry. Jessie’s gift renewed a little hope that I still might connect with success ($$$$$) in this town.
truck full of geetars, ready to roll
In the past, if I wanted to take more than one guitar to a performance, one had to ride in the pickup truck’s cabin with me, and the other(s) had to ride in the open cargo bed in back. I had tried placing one guitar flat on top of another, but they would not fit under the dashboard. This time I had the bright idea to arrange three guitars (“trophy guitar” Ibanez, 12-string steel Epiphone and nylon-6-string Epiphone) tilted in the cabin so their extended but narrow necks fit under the dashboard. I added the foldable music stand, a bag of my books to offer for sale, and I had a cozy cabin, but it WORKED
Employer commuted my sentence and allowed me to leave “work” early, in time to set up at Gallery II. By the grace of God, I found a parking place just half a block to the G, and I delivered everything in only two trips: one carrying three guitars and one with the rest.
the view from inside, flipped horizontally
I arrived about 4:45. Jennifer welcomed me smiling (always a good sign) and Prairie Art Alliance executive director Janet Seitz Carlson came over as I was arranging instruments and we chatted a few friendly minutes.
tres guitarras, arrnged and tuned
Before I began playing, I walked around the gallery and took a few pictures of creations I thought YOU should savor as well, perhaps even purchase . . .
looking toward the south side of the Old State Capitol mall
view from the inside looking toward the Illinois Building across Sixth Street
The Epiphone 12-string was first into my hands when I began singing a little past 5:00. It’s fashionable in this city to begin whatever you’re intending to do fashionably later than the appointed minute. This way the performing artist can create anticipatory tension. This is particularly true and effective after visitors begin arriving. I wanted to play the 12 when my hands were strongest, though I sang strictly strumming tunes. The one exception was “The Midnight Special,” written in the late 40s by “Leadbelly” and performed by him about that time. There were many activities going on downtown at 5-ish, and the gallery did not fill as rapidly as usual. And since few of the few were drifting back to where more fine artistic creations and the folkslinger were, I changed guitars after 20 minutes, skipping over my “trophy guitar” and playing the Epiphone 6 which I most enjoy playing because I can finger pick better and have more fun.
As I warmed up with the instrument, visitors began trekking from the beverage array and friendly voluntee purveyor of libations to the tempting finger arranged not far from me. A local attorney and patron of Gallery II in recent months paid attention as much to my music as to the food, and over the course of more than an hour stayed within earshot of even the lyrics. We chatted between songs, and I began to feel I was talking to the equivalent of Wolfgang A. Mozart’s Austrian Emporer. He liked my songs and expressed a desire to me, the management and passing new acquaintances, that I should perform more frequently at Gallery II and beyond. This was incredibly affirming patter, and the more we talked, the better I played.
As we talked a woman I had met during a Gallery II event last fall approached with her husband and 10 year old son. She had been very impressed with my poem “It was a Younger T0wn” and Katherin Pippin Pauley’s delightful mixed media creation which my poem inspired. When I asked her son what was his favorite tune, he was a little shy and hesitant to answer. I asked if he knew about the magic dragon named Puff, the three of them smiled in recognition, so I played Peter, Paul and Mary’s arrangement of “Puff the Magic Dragon.” They even stayed for another few songs.
Also — and strangely surprising — was the reaction of several artist acquaintances whom I had met, even written about for Illinois Times and others whose faces and creations I had photographed dozens of times at receptions over the years. They wandered by withhout hesitating to listen and returned to the front of the gallery so fast my lyrics had to hurry to catch up with their escaping back sides. Two happy exceptions were Kitty and Delinda who exceedingly graciously chatted with me for several minutes and listened to several songs. They were delightful.
Visitors continued to waft into the Gallery, and I stayed in music mode until 8:00 when Jennifer and dedicated volunteers began picking up things and turning off lights. I hated to see the evening end.
One of the last to depart was my friend Hugh Moore who took this picture of me with my new Sony Cyber-shot. THANKS, Hugh!
Thanks too to Gallery II for a reason to practice and have fun. I’m going to spend more time with strings instead of things with wings. Jennifer knows I am eager to gig again “at the drop of a hint.”
I hope YOU know that too.
Thanks to Prairie Art Alliance and Gallery II for a memorable evening.
Live long . . . . . . . . . and proper.
Read Full Post »