Perspectives of a Writer and Musician

Issues related to writing, publishing and playing jazz music: One man's muse.
by Al Stevens

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Location: Florida, United States

Friday, December 14, 2007

I had an interesting show last night. It was the final dinner meeting of a local association of retired military officers. The fellow who hired me is the youngest member of the group. He is 80. He said they were closing down because their membership was shrinking as members died off, and no one still alive was able to serve on the board. Most of the members are veterans of World War II.

He wanted music and ventriloquism in the show. I wrote some material specifically for the group mainly about my elderly man figure's Army experiences during WWII with plenty of irreverent references to officers. Also lots of old people jokes.

I played background piano during cocktail hour and began the show after dessert was served. The client had asked for about 45 minutes, and I was prepared to do an hour, but after a half hour he signaled me to cut it short. Everyone was getting tired and wanted to go home. Some of them were already nodding off. Just like a nursing home gig except in this case the inmates drive themselves home.

Audience reaction was okay, but not great. An audience of mostly octogenarians includes a lot of people who can't hear very well and the room accoustics were typical country club banquet room--the walls and ceiling absorbed most of the sound. I had my system on the edge of feedback, and they still had trouble hearing.

Setup and teardown took longer than the show. Electric piano, bench, amplifier, elevated speakers, microphones, prop table, and three ventriloquist figures. After I got set up I realized I'd forgotten to bring the figures' performance stand, the platform they sit on when I manipulate them. So I had to perform in the old way with one foot on a chair and the figure on my knee. (Thigh, actually. Why do we always say, "on my knee?" You ever try sitting on someone's knee? Kind of bumpy.) I had forgotten how awkward and tiring that posture is.

Tomorrow night is more to my liking. A jazz club with an audience of hearing people who've been drinking a lot.

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