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22 February 2010
She stood there in a forest green lace gown, which set off her white hair beautifully. She picked up her microphone and started singing "September in the Rain." Her voice was as rich as melted Godiva chocolate, something you just wanted to wallow in. I remembered that it had been over 10 years ago that she told me "I'm going to give this up; I'm too old. I just don't have the voice any more."
I don't remember exactly how old Martha is, but I believe she's in her 80s. She may need a mic to get the sound out now, but the voice is definitely still there.
This was the 18th annual benefit concert for Citizens Who Care, a group which is dedicated to imroving the quality of life for the frail elderly and their caregivers. Eight of the area's most popular singers get together in February each year to perform works by one or two selected composers or lyricists (Rodgers & Hart, Harold Arlen, Oscar Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter, etc.), with commentary written and read by Stephen Peithman, which always provides fascinating insight into the history of the featured artist.
This year's artist was Harry Warren and the title of the concert was "Remember Me?", an appropriate title since Warren is not exactly a well known name, though he wrote some of the most memorable melodies. I thought of that as accompanist Jim Crogan played the overture, which started with "An Affair to Remember," and I realized that not only could the last 5 minutes of the movie put me in tears, even if I hadn't seen the rest of the movie, but a few notes of the theme song had the same effect.
I was overcome with emotion as the cast sauntered onto the stage singing "Lullaby of Broadway." It was a whole piece of my history walking across that stage.
There was Lenore, with whom I shared some incredibly intimate moments on our drives to and from San Francisco when she was singing with the Lamplighters. We started out as acquaintances, but after several months of sharing rides back and forth there were soon very few secrets left. There were a lot of emotional things happening during that period and we became very close friends.
We grew apart after she left the Lamplighters and married. We see each other periodically--usually at this annual concert--and there is a huge unspoken thing that connects us, but we usually exchange pleasantries and then go our separate ways until the next time.
There was Gwyneth who was the choreographer for the Jazz Choir in the years when Tom and David were involved (I don't think she was working with the choir when Paul was in it). Our paths have crossed many times, and -- again -- through many emotional situations that brought us together. Those moments live in our eyes when we meet, but are left unspoken. We did talk about a story I'm writing for the newspaper this week and it turns out she's the person I'm supposed to interview, so I will probably be seeing her next week.
And then there was wonderful Martha, a vocal teacher, who helped Paul learn how to keep from wrecking his vocal chords when singing in the rock band.
Bob always brings a flood of emotion, not only because he was the boss of Jeri, Ned and Paul (but mostly Paul) over the years. But today there was an even bigger connection when he began to dance to "I Wanna Be a Dancing' Man" and was joined, on the second verse by his son, who had a special friendship with Paul. He was 5 years old when Paul died and as I looked at this tall young man, I remembered the story his mother had told me about taking him to the cemetery to bring flowers to Paul's grave.
There was the other Lenore, whose husband flatters me by reading this journal regularly, and Joe, with whom I have spent the last five New Years Eves, and Peter, whom I have watched perform for years and years. And of course Stephen, who let me help him write two very well received original operettas here. He did most of the work, but I just loved our discussion sessions.
I looked out over the full house in the theatre and saw so many people I've known for most of the time we've been in Davis, including my old boss, Attorney Bob, the guy who used to chase his secretaries around the "liberry." (I don't know whether I should be flattered or insulted that I was never chased.)
This concert reminds me of everything that is good about Davis and all the people I love in this town.
And it's worth it all just to hear Martha's velvety voice one more year!
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