Another Box Checked

Last night I finally made my performing debut.  For years (decades, actually) I have avoided taking the stage, preferring to play my guitar and sing songs in the privacy of my home.  I’ve taken to referring to myself as a “bedroom soloist.”

That changed last night.  Here’s the story, told in brief:

A few weeks ago I was informed of a local group that meets every week to sing and play music.  The Folk Club of Reston/Herndon (Virginia) has been gathering for 36 years, and I just now heard of it!  Given that I lived in Reston for 27 years and that I was there when the club was founded, I was a bit taken aback at my ignorance.  But, there’s no time like the present, so I thought I’d check it out.  Tuesdays are free evenings for me usually, so this worked out well.

The venue is the back room of the Amphora Diner Deluxe, a 365-day eatery that serves a full assortment of meals and cuisines.

Amphore Diner Deluxe

Amphora Diner Deluxe, Herndon, VA

After my first visit, I came away thinking to myself, “I can do this!”  The variety of performers ranged from semi-professionals to those, who like me, play for their own pleasure and fulfillment. So, I decide to take the risk and join them.

It’s a simple and well-established process:  A sign-up board is placed to the side of the performing area and those who wish to play add their names.  Each performer is given eight minutes (including set up time).  Once a month there is a “showcase” performance, where the star is given 24 minutes.  There is usually a concert once a month with a featured artist and a small cover charge.  There is a brief intermission, and guests are free to eat during performances.

So, given an eight-minute performance window, I decided to practice a couple of songs that I hoped I would have down pat, and loaded my guitar into my car and arrived early enough to get my name on the list.  As it turned out, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving is probably not the high demand date, so I was informed each performer would be allowed twelve minutes instead of eight.

I had signed up to be fourth, but with the empty slots, that became second.  After the first performer left the stage, I was introduced as a first-timer at the club.  I added that I was a first-timer overall, and that as my “maiden voyage,” would allow myself three mistakes.  I then introduced my first song, Michael Nesmith‘s Roll With the Flow.  It took me a minute to get my bearings, so to speak:  bright lights in my eyes, and finding my voice.  Fortunately, any jitters mostly disappeared, although I felt at times I was struggling with my voice.  I followed that with Steve Goodman‘s Six Hours Ahead of the Sun, a tune I’d only recently been teaching myself.  Oddly enough, I think I played the latter better than the former, even though I started with what I thought would be my best offering.

Given that I had more time than I’d planned for, I decided to add my rendition of Brewer & Shipley‘s interpretation of Witchi-Tai To, an Indian chant that I’ve loved since I first heard them perform it in the early 1970s.  I tried to get the audience engaged in singing it as a “round” (the style used to sing Row Row Row Your Boat, for reference), but as I learned later, many in the audience couldn’t make out the words.

Which is another fact I only learned about:  Performances are mostly acoustic-only, meaning that there is no amplification and no microphones, which I thought from my previous visits were the norm.  I’m glad I practiced acoustically, but it was a lesson learned that I needed to consider: What un-enhanced music sounds like, and how to better project.  My voice is not my strong point, so I need to work on it.

Overall, I had a lot of fun.  I made a few mistakes, but as I learned early on, many in the audience don’t notice, and some of the other performers made errors, too.  Some more glaring than mine!  The main objective is to have a good time, and in that I succeeded.  I even had one audience member thank me for Witchi-Tai To, saying she’d heard Brewer & Shipley play it in concert, and hadn’t heard it in years.

Now, I’m no longer a rookie.  I’ve decided to do it again, and so I’m going to work on some new material and give it another go!

 

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