Sunday, March 02, 2008

A Weekend of Music

It's been an interesting musical weekend. On Friday night, I attended a concert consisting of one man and his guitar, occasionally set aside for a piano. No background singer. No bass player. No fanfare. Just a one man band in the midst of an elegant theatre.
Livingston Taylor is an interesting guy. That's him at the right. He will play a poignant piece, or a medley of interpretations from "Oklahoma" and follow it all up with a quirky comedic number. Much of his banter between songs reminded me more of an odd college professor than a tender-hearted poet. His humorous asides seemed so out of place at times, but then again here is a guy who played a beautiful number on the piano about pitch, yaw and the Wright Brothers followed by a quick tune about the upcoming intermission which would probably end about the time the CD sales in the lobby slowed down.
He's not exactly a well-known performer. In many circles, he's simply a footnote to his famous brother, James Taylor. But that sells Livingston short. At times during the show I found myself wearing a goofy contented smile, just wrapped up in the sound of a man and an instrument.
The atmosphere was different on Saturday night. My wife and I sat in a somewhat smoky bar and grill listening to an oldies rock and blues band. This wasn't just any oldies rock and blues band. This band is fronted by my mother-in-law. I realize that may sound strange to many, but it's old hat to me. Hey, I've known my mother-in-law longer than I've known my wife!
Besides, the band is good. My mother-in-law is a good singer too. They play every weekend at clubs and fairs around that area and have a pretty good following. I haven't spend an evening in a bar for a while, so it was an interesting change of pace. Of course I knew most of the songs Saturday night where the evening before it was rare that I had heard the tune before the performance.
Then this morning during our worship service, we had a guest performer. A high school junior, this boy did two numbers on the piano and two other tunes on the accordian. Yes, I said the accordian. I'm not a big accordian freak, to say the least. Weird Al Yankovic, Lawrence Welk, assorted polka kings... what other use does this squeezable "concert in a box" possibly have?
The kid did well. He explained that he learned the accordian because his grandmother played it, so I could at least understand his attachment. He did a fine job too, playing His Eye Is On the Sparrow and How Great Thou Art. I'll admit though that I enjoyed his two piano numbers much more. Maybe it's because the accordian seems a little cheesy to me. I'm sure it's difficult to master, but overall the presentation of music on most other instruments is much more enjoyable to me. Then again, I'm not a big polka fan.
Music has always been a big part of my life. The ten years of my life spent working in radio found me immersed in music of all styles and helped form my rather ecclectic musical taste today. It also burned me out on a lot of overplayed pop and rock songs from the 80s. At times these days I retreat to some types of talk radio or classic radio programs to cleanse the palate, as it were.
Still I find it easiest to slip into a mode of worship with music. I sing, but I can't play any instrument worthy of public performance. I wish I could. There is something about being able to journey to a place where worship flows freely, or for that matter, where non-religious thoughts flow freely.
I don't have to mention just how divisive music can be also. You've heard the stories of churches splitting over the whole "hymns vs. choruses" war. But even in the secular marketplace there is a gap between die-hard country fans and hard-core rockers, even though there are similarities between the genres. Mostly I think it's a matter of what reaches the soul. I'm thankful that in one weekend my soul can be touched by a guy and a guitar, my mother-in-law singing rock and roll and a high school kid with an accordian. Thank you Lord for my easy-to-reach soul.

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