Volume 3 Book 5 Part 9 of
Living in the Bonus Round
(The Big Voice Chronicles)

Steve Schalchlin singing at the piano.
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[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [Pt 10 ]
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June 18-26, 2003.
A Night on Main St.
Wednesday night felt like Steve Unleashed because, as much as I enjoy performing The Big Voice, what I TRULY love is to be in behind a (real) piano on a bare stage with no set program, a list of ideas and an audience that "gets it." A night of complete impromptu where I just follow the energy of the moment.

As I began writing this entry I was having difficulty remembering exactly what it was I sang and said in my solo concert because I was in such a total "zone" throughout the show, I have very recollection of what transpired. But I knew I was enjoying myself when I exited into the lobby, wondering if I'd gone the full hour only see that I'd been singing and playing for 90 minutes. (It seemed more like a half hour!).

Before the show, I got behind the bar with Julie
and served drinks to the guests. It was too boring
to sit upstairs in the dressing room.

Drew was our Assistant Stage Manager for the night.
Tom was in the booth running lights and sound.

And it's that REAL piano that makes such a huge difference to me. Though I can handle the little Korg that we use for the show -- the stage is too small for the baby grand -- but it's like walking in a cast. Sure, you can get where you're going but it's not as much fun. To have the wood and the strings, the punch of the vibration of the sound as it comes from the body of the instrument -- what can I say? It turns me on more than pornography. It's almost sinful how much I love it.

In fact, I opened the concert with a description of how our piano as home had been a major part of my healing, my physical therapy. Not just the playing and the creation of music, but the actual, physical "vibrate through the body" SOUND of the strings as the hammers strike them. I recounted how, after a couple of years of being too sick to sit up at the piano, how just playing the music again changed my body physically, bringing it back to life.

A woman I know as "Nurse Terry" was in attendance and she sent her observations to the TLS list. Reading her account reminded me of what happened on that stage:

Steve Schalchlin singing at the piano."Steve Schalchlin gave an inspired solo performance to an appreciative Rochester audience on Wednesday, June 25.  The message went from heart to hearts with piano music as the vehicle.  Steve's genuine connection to the instrument was especially evident when he described how, after two years of being unable to play because of illness, he tentatively returned to the piano and played a single musical chord - his favorite chord.  As he lay his head on the piano to let the vibrations pulse through him, the listener could almost feel the impact of the music seeping into his soul as of water that falls on parched earth."
She's a poet!
"Rebirth figures prominently in two of the songs that were included in this concert, Lazarus and Beyond the Light, that describe the experience of slipping close to death, but not being taken.  The audience feels vicariously the acceptance of whatever may come that can only result from incredible reflection and an indeterminate amount of anguish."
Now I'm remembering. I opened the program with Lazarus. That's a first. I hadn't sung it in so long I wondered if I'd even remember the words.
"Steve shared another touching story about a moment when a piano figured prominently in his life.  He went to visit a good friend who was dying of liver failure due to AIDS or AIDS medications."
Readers of this diary know this story. It was when Dickie was on his deathbed.

Steve Schalchlin singing at the piano.
Singing about Dickie.

"Listening to Steve play the piano had been so important to this friend that he had bought a piano just for Steve to play when he visited.  As his friend lay comatose in his home, Steve played for him one final time, and stirred him into responsiveness before he took his final leave.

"Did he succumb to Friendly Fire, the song that simultaneously makes me want to laugh and apologize? That such a message can be delivered with enough levity to keep medical members of the audience from crawling under the table is quite a feat.  But some people take things more personally.  When Steve pointed his "ratta-tat-tat-tat-tat" finger at a woman in the audience, she responded "ouch!".  But don't worry - it was only a flesh wound!"

The "levity" in that song, as I mentioned from the stage as I introduced it, came from Marie Cain, the most brilliant lyricist I know.

Steve Schalchlin singing at the piano.

"Five Great Big Guys is another song that keeps the audience comfortable while telling a difficult story.  We exalt in the triumph of "mother bear" as she protects the rights of her son from a homophobic school system that didn't."
That's the song about PFLAG mom Carolyn Wagner and her son, William.

Steve Schalchlin singing at the piano.

"Steve has an amazing ability to show us a range of human experience that can be expressed through words and melodies without leaving us in despair.  Perhaps this is because he is not despairing when he writes his songs.   While he knows that the subject matter is sometimes difficult ("Just one more depressing song and then we'll move on to something else.") he presses on.  He knows what the world needs to hear and pay attention to.  Thank goodness he's there to remind us and keep us honest and give us a role model of the Reluctant Soldier some of us may be brave enough to emulate.

"Save Me a Seat makes it clear that we will have to wonder how much of Steve we really know, although he shares so much of himself so honestly through his music.  For the tunes that are not performed in either The Last Session or The Big Voice, it was a treat to have seen Steve play and feel his music during a concert rather than relying on CD, although the musicality of Beyond the Light is even more impressive than the two earlier CDs."

Thanks to Barry Fasman who helped me produce and arrange it. But yes, it's way easier to "feel" the songs and to improvise when I'm not "tied down" to a script or locked into the pacing a theatre piece requires. And again, I'm not knocking theatre. It's just a different environment, one I'm only now getting used to.
"Even though his song makes clear his awareness that he's necessarily Going It Alone, he allows for powerful connections during his journey.   Jimmy joining Steve on stage to share a funny story was probably the only reason Steve's blood pressure didn't shoot off the charts!  He had the house shaking with his jazzy piano improvs, foot stomping percussion and a voice that hits every register right where it should be, even when he's off somewhere in the "zone".

"Steve's voice is even more impressive in concert than during his dramatic/comedic performances.  Maybe it's easier to concentrate on one thing at a time. Or maybe he doesn't want to show up Ethel incarnate.  :-)

"Although I came in a little late, during the first song, I am very glad I went and sooo glad that they saved me a seat."

Thank you, Terry, for writing that "review" of the night. After Wednesday, we had one last night in Rochester. Then we closed up shop, and after saying our goodbyes to Chris and Ann Marie, got on a plane and headed for Texas, but not before setting two more dates to perform in Los Angeles at the end of July. And here's the new flier I designed especially for those two shows:


[ Book 3-4 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [Pt 10 ]
© 1996-2003 by Steve Schalchlin.
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