Friday, August 28, 2009

Callback at Tupelo Hall

I had a great time playing on the open stage at Tupelo Hall in Londonderry, NH. And I must thank Susan Werner, who apparently picked out their piano, for changing my negative opinion of Baldwin Pianos - I loved theirs. It was a real treat to play on such a big stage, and I hope one day to have my own show there. At the open stage, you are only asked to play two songs, so it's very hard to choose. I went with, "Let the Waves Come in Threes" (the title track/sea shanty) and, "Shadow of a Doubt" (always a favorite). Both of these songs feature a lot of piano texture, and I was able to bust out a fun solo on Shadow. In fact, the feature act of the night had quoted The Pink Panther in one of his solos, so I made sure to do the same :) His name was Jacob Johnson - very good guitarist and hilarious performer. I decided to stay for the whole night (even though I played fairly early on) so that I could hear everyone else. Right before me, a pirate had performed! He was literally in full pirate garb! Things were winding down around midnight, and the room was still pretty packed. Suddenly I heard an announcement from the stage asking if Anna Dagmar would come up and play another song to close the night. My first callback (usually this is a term I associate with actors). I had only a moment to decide on a song, and of course thank them for the opportunity. Having already played my most piano-y stuff, I went with a ballad, "Amazed." I felt very connected to the audience, and it was easy to sing. After the show, the booker mentioned he'd like to talk to me about being an opener for a headline artist or being a feature act on a future open stage. Needless to say, I'll be following up on this great lead and will keep you posted!

Lobster Quadrille

Who can say anything bad about Maine? I was lucky to have a few days there surrounding my gig at the North Star in Portland. I made a point of getting hopelessly lost near Kennebunkport, while trying to drive some friends to the beach. So lost in fact, that I became dangerously malnourished and down and out, and I just had to pull over and stop for a $14.95 Lobster Roll. It was worth every penny! The show with Mike McGinnis went really well - he's a magician on the clarinet. We hadn't really had time to rehearse, but as you know, Mike plays on the new album and has been playing with me since we met at Eastman. He's great at creating spontaneous arrangements and he knows when to use space and when to add something to the music. Very tasteful. And playing with someone who improvises so well gives the songs a fresh life. BTW the "Lobster Quadrille" is from Alice in Wonderland (a favorite story of my childhood in England). I've realized that the lyrics "will you, won't you?" in my song, "Falling Star," must have been inspired by this passage in the book - take a look!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Java might not be such a bad idea

Just as hard as it was to leave Pompanuck, it was even harder to face the four hour drive back to Chelmsford. I usually do vocal warm-ups in the car (not ideal, but practical) but this time I just tuned into NPR and lots of Saturday story-telling in between trying to keep myself awake with the wind from the wide-open windows. (Maybe that's why they call them wind-ohs!) And what better place to collect your brain cells than an afternoon catching up with business at Kinkos? Ugh. But by the time I got to the Java Room, I was gig-ready. I was actually excited because Daniel LeBlanc from an HBO shoot-off had come to video tape my show and interview me (will share footage in September) for a special on Chelmsford musicians. The turn-out was great and I love playing the piano there. Folks that couldn't make the All Saints' show came to this one, and some came to both (thank you!!!). The concert went well, but this was the first one where I actually felt exhausted (rather than energized) afterwards. I suppose I had been traveling for over a month, so it's understandable! Maybe I should actually consider drinking java?!

Free Range Pianos

A hop, skip and a jump (and a 30 minute wait behind a stuck train) brought me to Pompanuck Farm in Cambridge, NY. You MUST find an opportunity to visit there! I knew about it from a friend's wedding, and they have organic produce, free range chickens, free range pianos (!) a retreat center, Yoga classes, childrens' camp, theater programs, a Yurt, camping, a music series and a completely sustainable existence on the land. It was lucky timing because the evening of my concert was the night before several jazz musicians were beginning a week-long retreat at Pompanuck. Therefore, jazz pianist/composer Art Lande and his wife, vocalist/improvisor/occupational therapist Aubrey were in attendence. I met Art several years back at a Michael Cain concert and spent more time with him at a piano get-together at Erik Deutch's house. It was wonderful to know he was in the audience, and he was kind enough to introduce me before I took the stage. I played two long sets, including many songs I rarely perform such as, "Midtown," "One More Time in the Air," and "If You Leave Me." After a cheerful reception with many people from the surrounding area, I holed up in my room at the meditation space and slept soundly next to a copy of Tao te Ching. It was nearly impossible to tear myself away from all of the jazzers round the table the next morning, after we indulged in blueberry pancakes with homemade yogurt. Special thanks to Scott and Lisa for making this event possible, and it sounds like I will be performing there in-the-round on one of their upcoming songwriter nights. Stayed tuned, folks in Bennington, VT (it's only 20 min away).

"You Play Piano Like I Fly Planes!"

Thursday the 30th I headed out to Leeds, MA for a house concert at the son of my high school choir director's home. He is married now with two wonderful half-Danish children. I knew it was his house because of the sit-upon and push-along lawnmowers multiplying in the yard (he fixes them for all the neighbors and sometimes they turn up out of nowhere!). That night we had his wife's delicious baked goods and homemade blackberry jam in between short sets of music. One member of the audience offered me the quote of the night: "You play piano like I fly planes!" Turns out he's a pilot :) Around 12:30am I had a request for some Debussy, and duly played Dr. Gradus ad Parnassum on the antique red upright piano - unknown to me, my high school choir director was listening on the other end of the phone! In the morning, the young girls were up early and after a bout with exploding tea, we settled back to the piano to sing from a charming book of Danish children's songs! I left their house full of sunshine (and blackberry jam).

Chelmsford Chapel

Playing at All Saint's Chapel was one of the highlights of my whole tour. Luckily, I had emerged from a horrible migraine only an hour before the show. *Quick note - good foods for migraines include Oatmeal, Peppermint, and Spinach!* My parents were visiting as well, and of course they made the emergency grocery run (times never change/thanks mom and dad!). But in spite of the fact I wasn't feeling 100%, something happens when you are on stage. And looking out at good friends from my home town was the key to feeling better. Amy and I chose four songs for her features - "Smile for Free," "More Beautiful Than the Sun," "Welcome Stranger," and a duet with me of, "Let the Waves Come in Threes." She sounded gorgeous (AS ALWAYS!!!). The reception was lovely and there were many blasts from the past, including my 8th grade English teacher (remember reading Anne Frank? I wrote a song about her back then.), a good friend/composer from Eastman, and the warm and helpful church community. I'm grateful to always feel at home in Chelmsford, MA.