Geoff's Notes

Sat, 29 Jan 2005

It's hard to believe that our week in Anchorage is almost over! Charlie re-joined us and despite feeling weak and getting winded, has carried on like a trooper. We have done three shows a day for up to 200 kids per performance Wednesday - Friday. This was made considerably easier than other years by having all the students come to the Heritage Center instead of us running from school to school. Still and all, the days were full and tiring, and most evenings booked with one activity or another. I did manage to set Thursday evening aside for a get together with Mike Campbell, a local singer-songwriter, and a small group of folk music fans at a Barnes and Noble coffeeshop for a bit of a song swap. I met Mike at Mystic Seaport a year and a half ago when he and his wife chanced to come through on my chantey day. He has a marvelous full baritone that made itself evident during my chantey show, and we quickly became friends. Last year he helped me line up a gig at The Organic Oasis here in town, and this year, although there was no opportunity for an official gig anywhere, he located a place for us to gather. This is actually folk week in Anchorage, with lots of performances all over town even on the weeknights, so we were lucky to find anywhere at all. A few of my fans from last year came, and Mike and I had a grand time trading songs for about two and a half hours. By the way, Mike has written as bunch of good songs, and some very funny ones. Look him up on the web and get one or two of his CDs!

Last night we got an extra special treat of being able to attend a collaborative evening of music, dance and storytelling put together by the Anchorage Opera and ANHC. Entitled "A Gathering of Cultures," the evening started with traditional Native American drumming and dance including our own Tobias Vanderhoop (Wampanoag) and Steven Alvarez (Mescalero Apache and Yacqui). The M.C. for the night was our very own Jack Dalton in his character of Raven, and the show included two marvelous native opera singers, Barbara McAlister (Cherokee) and Christina Gagnon (Inupiat), along with members of the Anchorage Opera, the ANHC Yu'pik Comedic Dance Troupe and Steven Alvarez' native fusion band Medicine Dream. Collaborative pieces included a beautifully sung aria, "The Flower Duet" from the opera "Lakmé" by Léo Delibes with three women's voices, interpreted by the ANHC Yu'pik dancers, entirely serious this time, and a gorgeous visual accompaniment to the aria. At another moment, Paul Pike of Medicine Dream played native flute with Tom Getty, pianist, to accompany Barbara McAlister in a medley including "Amazing Grace" in Cherokee. Really incredible!

My favorite part of all was Jack's storytelling, particularly about the "Gathering Song." In his tale, this song has been lost by a village of people who have begun to argue and fight and kill each other. An old man appears and reacquaints them with the song, a song that begins and ends with a drum beat that is in fact the heartbeat of the people, and they are able to shed their anger and live again in love and peace. Jack wove this story through the evening, starting with it as a response to contrapuntal singing of creation stories from Genesis and Native tradition, and ending with an admonition to the audience that the "ending of the story" so fervently sought by us all in fact lay in our hands and would grow out of what we learned that night. Jack managed to draw together the disparate elements of performance through his graceful writing and delightful performance. All in all, a magical night.

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