I wanted to talk about my best musical performance moment. But, this is so hard to do – it’s so hard to pick from all of the great moments I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of. But here goes…
When my daughter was very young, we were part of a church in Half Moon Bay, California that was really quite small. Because it was so small, I could make requests of the music director about tunes that I’d like the choir to perform or that I could perform. Her name was Gwen O’Neil and she was always, always, always wonderful to me.
Around this time I was very interested in the music of Martin Simpson. He is what I guess you would call a folk/traditional musician he played guitar and he was from the UK (although at that time he was living in New Orleans). I loved his guitar playing–especially his arrangements–and he was my primary influence on guitar in those years when my daughter was really small and I had stopped playing drums and took up the guitar.
Anyway, there is a tune of his that I absolutely loved and wanted to perform (“Leaves of Life”). I thought this tune would be perfect for a Good Friday service, since it talked about the mother Mary losing her only son, etc., etc.
The arrangement had no guitar: it was just Martin singing with a cello on the original recording (Barry Phillips on cello, most likely). So, working with Gwen, we put together an arrangement with me singing and her backing it up with long, lush tones from the organ.
You’ll recall that I said this church was small. So it wasn’t unusual that the service on Good Friday had only myself and Gwen, the vicar, and I think 2-3 other people in attendance. But it was really a wonderful moment–it was one of those moments where everything was perfect: it was the right sound, it was the right tune and it was the right vibe…everything.
Words really fail when you’re trying to describe something beautiful like this. The best I can say is it was just a perfect event–all the elements worked together to create this wonderfully beautiful, transcendent moment.
My favorite musicians talk about their best moments in music in this way: it’s not that they are the ones being the genius, but rather that there is some genius-ness floating in the ether. And, if you work hard and keep after it every day, every once in a while it flows right through you.
And that’s exactly what it felt like for me. I am certainly not the world’s most gifted singer, but something happened that night in the ether and it came out through my singing, it came out through Gwen’s playing and it came out through the audiences vibe and reaction to what was going on. I was just someone who showed up and happened to be out in front opening his mouth at the right moment 🙂