Sunday, December 12, 2010

Vinyl Cafe Christmas: 2010

As I blogged last year, Andrew and I like to attend the Vinyl Cafe Christmas Concert with Stuart Mclean, which tours around Canada every year. We don't go to any other Christmas concerts throughout the season, so this is sort of our one chance to tap into the holiday spirit (aside from being bombarded by advertisements, and mall music--thankfully we're pretty much done with that for this year). The concert also isn't an overload of Christmas. The musical guests only preform 2 or 3 times each, and they don't necessarily sing Christmas tunes, and the 'Dave and Morely' stories (the main reason why I love listening to the Vinyl Cafe) aren't always on a holiday theme. It's a good time, and an afternoon well spent, I think.

So, what can I tell you about the show? I enjoyed it. I laughed heartily throughout. I wished it didn't have to end, but as all good things must, it did. First, I'll make a quick mention of the musical guests: Matt Anderson (brought back from last year due to popular demand), and Jackie Richardson. As noted last year, Matt has an extremely powerful voice. It fills a large auditorium like the Jubilee without difficulty, although I think this year he was a little toned down (for the better). He sang a gospel tune in the first act (thanks to my somewhat 'Swiss cheese' memory I can't recall if it was a Christmas song, or if it was a regular gospel song) but the second song was 'O Holy Night.' My one beef with Matt is that he walked onto stage in bare feet and tattered jeans--it just seemed a little unprofessional. I can't remember what he wore last year, but I would have been happier if his pants had been hemmed and there were shoes on his feet.

I looked around for information on Jackie Richardson, but was surprised to find that Google had little help for me (I could only find a few articles regarding specific events, and an unhelpful MySpace page). From the intro given to her during the show, she's well known in the jazz/blue/gospel scene, has sung back up for Ray Charles and opened for Tina Turner (I think...that Swiss cheese memory acting up again). She was good. Her voice was full, and rich, and low. I kept thinking of the line from Spaceballs: 'So she's a bass,' not to say she was a bass--my ear isn't good enough to pick out a singer range--but I would guess her to be a contralto. Her rendition of (You make me feel) Like a natural woman was powerful and she seems to be an expert at the singing/talking thing that some performers do during intro's to songs. Overall, she was great.

Now for Stuart. What is there to say about Stuart McLean? For anyone who's listened to the Vinyl Cafe you know he has a unique delivery style that if you tried to punctuate on a page as he speaks, would violate grammatical rules left, right, and centre (not that I'm a grammar guru...). Yet his dramatic pauses and stammers some how manage to captivate listeners. The Jubilee Auditorium was full on Sunday, December 5th, and despite the musical guests, people were there to see and hear Stuart. Three stories were read that afternoon, plus an extra special segment where he sped-told seven stories in eleven minutes (approximately). I won't tell you much about the stories, that would ruin the experience if you're a regular listener, and the new Christmas story should air during the last radio show before the 25th. Two of the stories were Christmas themed (one old, one new), and the third was a wonderful tale about Dave going to visit an old buddy in the hospital and well...getting into trouble (this Dave we're talking about).

The speed-telling section was a neat segment. As the first act closed Stuart announced that the show was a few minutes short, so he needed people to request stories for him to speed-tell. A bucket was placed in the lobby during intermission and audience members were allowed to make suggestions. As act two opened, Stuart came out with John Sheer (piano) and Denis Pendrith (bass). The deal was Stuart would pull out audience suggestions and the musicians would come up with something to play as accompaniment. Many of the stories asked for were my own favourites including, Dave Toilet Trains the Cat, and Home Repairs. When Stuart read out the request for Dave buys a coffin, John Sheer began to play 'Little Boxes' (a song I'm not familiar with, but it was a cheerful sounding tune). Stuart remarked he was expecting something more somber, at which point John switched the song to a minor key. Again Stuart quipped, that he meant mournful, not Slavic, something hopeful. What was played next? When you wish upon a star. *grin*



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