Friday, December 11, 2009

Holiday Cheer With Steve

I have mentioned in the past, the thrilling musical shows that I do with my buddy, Steve Blunt. I have also spoken warmly of Steve's whimsical habit of varying the set list mid performance. Typically, he will casually sidle up to me between songs and whisper, "I have a great idea for a song to do here. You don't know it, but just follow along. You'll get it. No problem."

This habit of his keeps my toes curled with excitement.

And by excitement, I mean soul blistering panic.

We were hired to do a show of holiday songs at the public library in Fremont, NH last night. Steve decided to eclipse all our previous efforts at glittery musical extravagance. We scheduled a rehearsal for Wednesday at Steve's house, but the 14 inches of snow we got that day made unnecessary travel something to be avoided.

Personally, I did not find traveling for rehearsal unnecessary, but Steve is a big-time, hot-shot musician who laughs in the face of musical challenge. The musical challenge in this case, is me.

So yesterday morning, mere hours before our grand holiday gala, Steve emailed me a set list comprised exclusively of songs I have never played before.
Reading the list filled me with with a warm glow of gut-wrenching holiday horror.  When dressing for the performance, I selected stain fighting clothes specifically for the inevitable barrage of tomatoes that the audience would no doubt be armed with.

We arrived at the library early and took our time setting up so that we were left with 20 minutes for a leisurely rehearsal through 60 minutes of music I had never played, including one song on a musical instrument called "BoomWhackers". They are loads of fun and produce a delightful musical tone when you strike Steve over the head with them. The problem with the BoomWhacker song was that it required Steve and me to play actual notes together, as part of the same composition. He also decided it would add to the excitement to invite a kid from the audience to play part of the song, too.

I thought that was a brilliant idea, because when I messed up, I could blame it on the kid. Sadly, as it turned out, the kid he picked was great and left me no opportunity for blaming my mistakes on her.

We practiced as diligently as we could for 20 minutes, then opened the floodgates and let in the crowd. As they settled into their seats, we regaled them with stirring renditions of "Deck the Halls" and "Chorus of the Bells" played on jaw-harps. Really, nothing says "Merry Christmas" like two guys drooling through their jaw harps.

We then went right into Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, with me wailing away on my harmonica.
Occasionally, things go wrong in performances. I think that is actually why so many people enjoy live music. There is always the very real possibility that something will go dreadfully wrong.

Being a drummer, I am woefully ignorant about music in general.  "Me hit things." about sums up my musical aptitude. By the time we were a few measures into Rudolph, even my drum-damaged, musically impared ear could tell that something was very, very wrong.

Steve stopped playing and laughed a merry "Ho Ho Ho!" He looked over at me and I crouched to make a smaller target for the inevitable barrage of tomatoes. "I'm in the wrong key!" Steve laughed.
"Ha Ha Ha!" I laughed, wondering what the heck a key is.

I know, in theory, that songs come in different keys. I also know that when the instruments are not in the same key, they sound awful. Even worse than Hannah Montana or The Jonas Brothers.


So Steve made the adjustments he needed to make and we carried on. The audience was wonderfully enthusiastic and we wound up having a great time. I think the audience did, too, as I didn't get hit with a single tomato.

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