Archive for GregAllen

Well, It’s One Louder, Isn’t It?

(Drum roll, with cymbal crash…)

I’m very thrilled to introduce the inaugural issue of GO 211, the Accessible Music Project’s newsletter.

Enjoy. Please share!

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If I Could Read Her Mind… Independence Day 2015

Alice and I packed up the guitar and the little Crate TX50 p.a. and headed for Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall this morning. Haven’t looked at the mall from that perspective in a while.

We picked a good spot in that a few crowds formed, listened, and dissipated as the morning went on.  At one point a nicely dressed lady, probably in her mid- or late-60’s sat down on one of those huge cast iron flowerpots to listen. I don’t recall what song I was finishing when she arrived, but she was clearly dialed in to it. I played “If I Had A Boat” by Lyle Lovett, which she seemed to recognize. She clapped, and stayed seated.

I slipped the capo down a fret, checked the tuning and went right into “The Apologist” by R.E.M. – an intensely powerful song, and even more so when presented at a relaxed tempo with just one guitar and clear enunciation of the lyrics. It’s one of those songs that reaches people in this age bracket and older in ways that seem counter-intuitive; impossible even.  She applauded, got up and came over to drop some coins into the guitar case and pet Alice.

“That’s really beautiful,” she said. “I hear a little Lightfoot in your voice.  He was…” and her lip started to quiver a bit “…my husband’s favorite.”

I moved the capo back up to the second fret, allowed the tuning to be close enough, and began to strum “If You Could Read My Mind”.

“He’s gone now,” she continued,”but we loved to listen to Gordon Lightfoot.” Lost in her story she didn’t recognize what I was playing, and I listened and strummed the opening over and over.  She went on to tell me about where they had seen him once – out west somewhere, in a huge thunderstorming downpour that she said had frightened her, but didn’t seem to faze Gordon at all, up there on stage. She finished.

“Thanks again,” she said, turning and beginning to walk away.

If you could read my mind, love….

She froze, then spun; her jaw dropped into a gasp and she walked back to her flowerpot. She sat down, eyes closed, head thrown back, hand over her heart. The veil of time fell for her, and though her body stayed on that planter, she and what she was hearing were gone, I hope back to that concert out west.

When I finished she took a second to come back to this plane. She dug into her billfold then approached Alice and me again.  Her hand offered a worn photograph – wallet-sized, with that softly mottled blue backdrop; like those not too small prints that your grandmother always wanted when school pictures came out each year.

Big smile. “Here’s my hippie husband.”  Clean cut guy, in a suit. Late 50’s, max.

“I lost him in…”, and the lip started again. “…1994. And I still cry.”

That’s the year I began bringing music to nursing homes.

“I’m so sorry.”

“Do you have a card?”

“Yes, ma’am. There in the case – see them?” And she took one.

“Ma’am? Do you see those cd’s there, by Alice?”  She did. “One of those is for you. Please…”

She couldn’t speak, and some tears slipped from where she’d been willing them to remain for too long.

She looked at me and smiled, held the cd to her heart, and made her way around the mike stand.  We hugged. Alice made jealous noises.

She bent down, petted Alice, managed a soft “Thank you”, and walked away to “Losing My Religion”.

Happy 4th, everyone. Enjoy the freedom to be precisely who and what you choose to be in every whisper of every waking hour.

Profitable Professional Pet Therapist Opportunities

 

Time is what keeps humans from experiencing their entire lives as the old people they already are.

~ Alice the therapy min-pin

**

Crushed.

Just came from a local skilled nursing facility.  The only local contemporary musician who regularly entertains them is me. Been pretty much that way since 1995.

Today I learned that the only person who brings a dog to visit is also me. Alice just says “Hi” to a fraction of the residents, and this is just one Community Venue ™. There’s such a need, so easily addressed. It breaks my heart.

This is a huge opportunity for anyone who would like to earn income from professional pet therapy, and for a team of forward-thinking businesspeople that would like to make themselves more visible and accessible to the Access Limited demographic and their sizable circles of influence!!!! Hello-o-o-o!!! There’s value in making things accessible.  Hello-o-o-o!!!

I know Americans have trouble regarding our Access Limited relatives and neighbors as equals in the pursuit of happiness, but they are. So target them, with equal entrepreneurial vigor.

Because frankly it is stupid to suggest that I or anyone provide critical therapeutic value to the American marketplace for a pat on the back when music and dog therapy has the power to diminish the need for drugs and doctors.  Y’all go ahead with that line of thought, but I’m a compassionate businessman.

And I have to wonder what is appealing about growing old into a discriminatory social paradigm that threatens to take music and dogs away when we will need them most?

Is everyone else really comfortable throwing their hands up in mock helplessness?

The need is so obvious, the answer so simple, sensible, lucrative, rewarding, timely, fun. Where is everyone? What do we think time is for?

Damn. I’m going to go mow the lawn now, and cry.

Then I’ll pitch some more articles, because if just one person gets it, and acts…

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Gramps Oliver – a silent musical

MUSICIANS NEEDED FOR “GRAMPS OLIVER”, A NEW MUSICAL ABOUT AN OLD MAN IN AN AMERICAN NURSING HOME

Gramps Oliver’s indigent family leaves him on the steps of a nursing home.

Mr. Bumble is the music professional at the nursing home. He feeds the old codgers a steady diet of one song daily. The same song, every day. It’s an old song because they are old people.  They’re always hungry for music.

One day, Gramps Oliver and several codgers draw lots to see who’s going to have to ask for extra music. Gramps Oliver draws short, which leads to the famous line: ‘Please, sir, I want some more.’

Mr. Bumble is like ‘More? He wants more gruel?’ and his face gets red and he’s about to break into song.

But Gramps Oliver says “No sir. Please sir, I want some more music.”

“Bwaaa-ha-ha-ha-ha! No one gets more music here!”

Mr. Bumble then offers 5 pounds for anyone who will take Gramps Oliver away from the nursing home.

Some stuff happens and then Gramps Oliver ends up running away to Nashville where he meets The Old Fartful Dodger and his merry musical gang. Revived by the rhythmic diet Gramps Oliver becomes one of the best wheelchair pickpockets around.

Half A World Away – episode #1

Half A World Away: a parallel universe REM tribute show

Episode 1: April 14, 2015 / Madison, VA

Alice and I had a great visit today to a new Community Venue. Since they were completely unfamiliar with my repertoire I decided to open the REM tribute tour right here at home, so the majority of the set list was comprised of songs either written by REM, cover songs they have done, or songs by their influences.

Set List 

Tired of Singing Trouble (REM)

Invocazione (original)

I’ve Been High (REM)

Hello In There (J. Prine / Michael cover)

Breakfast With You (original)

Half A World Away (REM)

Walk Away Renee (Left Banke)

Jolene (D. Parton)

Wendell Gee (REM)

Hallelujah (L. Cohen)

The One I Love (REM)

Dream Dream (Everly Bros. / REM cover)

**

The crowd was wonderfully attentive and appreciative, and it was clear that they liked the music even though a great deal of it was brand new to them.  The facility had an awesome floor made of old pine boards that contributed to some wonderful acoustics!

Alice was her usual adorable hit self, spending most of the time perched on a chair.  She eventually moved to the floor where she curled up in the guitar case and went to sleep.

I have the best job…

 

An Afternoon with R.E.M.

The first leg of the Play Something Pretty That You Like spring tour will consist of a series of Community Venue concerts featuring the music of R.E.M.

The music of this now-retired mega-band from Athens, GA has been consistently popular with senior citizens and the disabled children and adults that I have been entertaining since 1995.  Half A World Away was the first REM song I brought to seniors that year and it immediately established itself as a favorite, remaining on the set list for years.  I was invited to play it at the memorial service for one of the ladies from that very first Community Venue.

Without a doubt the two most common words that seniors have used over the years to describe most of the REM songs I play are “beautiful” and “relaxing”.  It’s fun and rewarding to introduce artists that I respect to audiences that might otherwise never experience their music.  It’s fun watching them quickly become fans and make requests like “Play that one about the blackbirds!”.

And it’s doubly fun to put a Community Venue REM Tribute show on the road because they have been so very supportive of the SongSharing effort beginning with their 1993 donation of CD’s, DVD’s, and T-shirts to our “CD’s For The Troops” drive.

I’m over the top thrilled that Michael Stipe once covered the John Prine classic Hello In There with Natalie Merchant. Hello In There is about how lonely it is to grow old, and how profoundly important it can be to just say “Hello”. I can’t think of a musician I’ve met that would idealistically disagree with the song. Play Something Pretty That You Like speaks to the opportunity to animate those lyrics and personify that spirit.

Below is the song list from which the set lists will be drawn.  It includes not only REM originals but a few songs they have covered over the years and some by artists that influenced them.

REM Originals

The One I Love
Losing My Religion
Half a World Away
Driver Eight
Wendell Gee
Fall on Me
End of the World As We Know It
The Apologist
Country Feedback
Let Me In
A Poem and “Making Moves”
I Believe
Tired of Singing Trouble
Rockville
Photograph

REM covers

Dream Dream (Drifters)
Hello In There (John Prine)
Love Is All Around (The Troggs)
Arms of Love (Robyn Hitchcock)

Influences

Leonard Cohen / Hallelujah

This Flower Is Scorched

The Cedars: April 3, 2015

“But the one I love is the divine, and the simple prop is the song…”

Seniors are an ever more influential market demographic. In addition to traditional life demands such as food, shelter and clothing seniors bring to market an increased need for things therapeutic.

Suppliers of countless goods and services profitably respond to the reduced mobility of seniors and their trend towards community housing by making their goods and services more accessible. Accessibility is lucrative in the aging marketplace.

But our popular musicians don’t seem to be much interested in professionally making music more accessible to seniors. I’ve known this for the past dozen or more years, but recently I’m realizing how deep and broad the taboo runs.

It’s not just musicians – the media supports this notion, as do many senior facilities. It’s held that musicians should volunteer – they should not find profitable ways to include seniors in their performance schedules. This is due to the unexamined idea that the seniors or the facility will have to buy tickets. That’s silly.

Sponsorship foots most of the bill for just about every bit of entertainment in America. And I have successfully demonstrated for 17 years that business sponsors will enthusiastically support entrepreneurial musicians who carry their marketing message to seniors, the generations they influence, and their caretakers in such a unique, dynamic fashion. And musicians like R.E.M., Billy Joel and Dolly Parton will provide in-kind support, and patrons will step up.

I’ve also refused for twenty years to acknowledge the popular stereotype that old people are musically stuck in the past. So today’s set list looked a lot like this…

Country Feedback (REM)
Let Me In (REM)
Walk Away Renee (Left Banke)
Invocazione (orig)
Perfection of Mays (Tom Proutt)
Hello (L. Richie)

…and this triggered a request for another love song, by a gentleman who has a new love, and I said “Okay, wait until the end.” And I went on with…

Turn the Page (Bob Seger, by request)

As I got to the second verse of that last song, about the “same old clichés, is that a woman or a man?”, I had these glimpses of frightened people in places like Indiana muttering their trendy version of that same old cliché today. I hope I’m wrong. But just in case, I played…

Hallelujah (L. Cohen)

…and then I began to strum the final song and I said “I want to make sure you understand, because people think this is a breakup song, and people think when it says “a simple prop to occupy my time” that he means the one he used to love, and that sounds awful.”

Everyone agreed. I went on.

“But the one I love is the divine, and the simple prop is the song…” and their eyes began to light; heads nodded and knowing smiles agreed with the analysis “…because that is what he does with his time, is writes songs to the one he loves – while he is here – separated from the one he loves. And so when another prop comes along, that’s just another love song to the divine.” I made that up but I like it, and they applauded, and I closed with a particularly fiery rendition of…

The One I Love (REM)

Seniors are artistically worthy. Musicians need to get with the times and make music more accessible to them, for profit. It’s easy and lucrative, and music will reduce their need for doctors and drugs. Stop feigning charity, because the result is that they are ignored totally and we end up with today’s paradox: Audiences starved for music by self-proclaimed starving artists.

Audience Equality: The Challenge of Music, America, and the Marketplace

What you get is the refreshing opportunity for a breath of fresh air from a little band of rebels who spring up and utter something like the American Declaration of Independence. And this yields the opportunity to stare down every imaginable threat in defense of this dream of individual equality. Even the threat associated with going against the professional grain of American music in the early 21st century…

The opportunity and challenge of equality is simple. You begin by seeing yourself equal to every human that you can imagine, from the most highly accomplished to the least accomplished. That’s the vision part. Then you express and experience that vision in every encounter as you go about your day. That’s the practical part.

Challenging indeed, to see yourself equally equal to Presidents and homeless people; equally equal to those you serve and those who serve you; to those you care for and those you rather don’t. It sounds almost ridiculously impossible. But that’s the opportunity of America and in one sense it’s actually very easy to witness in real-time because we are all equal in a most fundamental, undeniable sense – we are all I.

That’s not a Roman numeral one, it’s the letter “I”. Clearly you are I because you express yourself from the I-perspective, and you experience your life from the I-perspective. Everyone does. You cannot possibly have the experience of being other than I, nor can you express yourself as other than I. Nobody can. And so suddenly, wonderfully, there is tangible, inescapable truth to the philosophical observation that there is no other. Not only inescapable, but practical and actionable.

So the simple truth is that everyone is wandering the earth dreaming “The Dream of Just As I Am”. If there’s a common dream of humanity it has quite a bit to do with being accepted and listened to, loved and allowed to be “Just As I Am”; just as we be in the ongoing moments of human interaction that comprise a life.

That’s it. It’s all about you, really. There’s no need to project the opportunity of equality onto the globe and fret over whether 7 billion people have the same amount of stuff. Play your part. Simply move out into your world every day and see everyone as your equal in this simple, profound sense of equality. And as a professional bring this vision with you and treat everyone as equals in the marketplace.

If you can’t see yourself equal to everyone at every turn then you don’t really believe that we are all created equal in this life and we are all equally valid creators of our lives. Equality to you, like most Americans and musicians, is a goal because you do not hold the truth of individual equality to be self-evident. It’s okay. I understand because my vision has been thus blurred in the past. It can even appear justifiable to argue for inequality.

But that is a very dangerous argument because if you do not recognize meaningful individual equality then you do not recognize that you and your fellow citizens “…have been endowed with equal right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. The whole individual freedom thing screeches to a halt and the world is not a very fun place to be. And when, like hundreds of years ago, the world is a big place where people are not being regarded as equals and treated with due respect you get… you get… oh dear, this is a little funny. What you get is the refreshing opportunity for a breath of fresh air from a little band of rebels who spring up and utter something like the American Declaration of Independence. And this yields the opportunity to stare down every imaginable threat in defense of this dream of individual equality. Even the threat associated with going against the professional grain of American music in the early 21st century.

Perhaps you will be in that rebellious little band. 

Set Lists – Raleigh, NC – 01/09/2015

Alice and I visited two Community Venues(tm) in Raleigh, NC on Friday January 9th. We met some wonderful people at both places. Alice was a hit, as always. She hung out with a very nice lady at Sunrise, and halfway through the show the lady moved to the floor to sit with Alice for the remainder of the set. It was clear they both enjoyed their time together!

Here are the set lists.

Atria – Oakridge

Will the Circle Be Unbroken (traditional)
Fall On Me (REM)
Breakfast With You (original)
One Stage Before (Al Stewart)
I Walk the Line (Johnny Cash)
Invocazione (original)
All I Have to Do Is Dream (Everly Brothers)
Jolene (Dolly Parton)
One Choice Thing (original)
If I Had A Boat (Lyle Lovett)
Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
Swing Low Sweet Chariot (traditional)

Sunrise at North Hills

Will the Circle Be Unbroken (traditional)
Fall On Me (REM)
Breakfast With You (original)
One Stage Before (Al Stewart)
I Walk the Line (Johnny Cash)
Invocazione (original)
All I Have to Do Is Dream (Everly Brothers)
Jolene (Dolly Parton)
The Apologist (REM)
If I Had A Boat (Lyle Lovett)
Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
Swing Low Sweet Chariot (traditional)

Set List – The Cedars Jan 02, 2015 (Golden Living Charlottesville)

Wonderful show today, with a great turnout at The Cedars in Charlottesville. We had to miss our show scheduled for December 19th as they had a flu bug going around for a while. What a great way to open up the new year!

Set List:

Breakfast With You (Original)
Jolene (Dolly Parton)
Slipstream (Jethro Tull)
Admission (Original)
Wendell Gee (R.E.M.)
Invocazione (Original)
Will the Circle Be Unbroken (Traditional)
Cry (Angie Aparo)
One Stage Before (Al Stewart)
I Walk the Line (Johnny Cash)
All I Have to Do Is Dream (F. & B. Bryant / The Everly Brothers)
Apologist (R.E.M.)
One Choice Thing (Original)
Swing Low Sweet Chariot (Traditional)

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