March 26, 2008

Ballads, Spirituality, Healing, and "Legitimacy"

Spirituality and healing – in the book “Adult Children: The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families”, spirituality is described as feeling a great feeling of euphoria and connectedness with the universe combined with the realization of one’s incredible smallness.

Should this be the case, there are many of us that have glimpsed spirituality, some of us being unaware of what we were feeling. Should this be the case, I have experienced spirituality many times in my life, oddly enough when in cities such as New Orleans, Chicago, and New York City. Feeling small yet powerful in a city, you may ask? Yes – the smallness from the realization that I am simply one of the billions on the planet that is moving around at a particular time of day, a grain of sand on the shore that we inhabit and call Earth.

“Between A Ballad and a Blues”, the play written by Linda Parris-Bailey for which I both played AND acted was a tremendous success for Linda and the company. Personally, it was an honor not only to become acquainted with the life and work of fiddler William Howard Taft “Louie Bluie” Armstrong, but also to meet Barbara Ward Armstrong, Mr. Armstrong’s widow – a life-filled, profound, beautiful woman who celebrated a birthday on the day following the show’s closing. She took such an interest in everyone in the cast and of course in the show (there were times during our ninety minutes on stage that we could feel her very concentrated attention), even joining us onstage for the finale.

I found myself impressed with many if not all members of the cast: Bert Tanner, who played Howard Armstrong impeccably; Clinton “Hu” Harris, who brought the best of himself to the role of Carl Martin; Starr Teleford, who in many ways served as an inspiration both on and off stage by providing so much encouragement to his colleagues while facing “demons” of his own; singer Kelle Jolle, who (as the kids say) ROCKED “Wild Women Don’t Get the Blues”; Lyigia Simmons, who very convincingly and beautifully brought us Barara Ward Amstrong; Mykael Merchant, who played the connecting and important role of Paul Prentice (once a fiddle student and later an ethnomusicologist who studied Mr. Armstrong’s life) and Linda Upton Hill, a string bass player and actress who delivered one of the most powerful monologues about love, loss and parenthood that I have ever experienced.

It was strange, not only playing traditional music fro the Appalachain region but also to actually be a part of the show as Blind Roland, but I did what I know to do – and I hope that everyone was pleased…I think they were – I’ve been invited to do more performances and am waiting to hear about the tour.

After six performances the play ended it’s premiere run on Sunday evening and now, three days later, I sit in New York City’s Port Authority Bus Terminal, waiting for the shuttle that will take me to LaGuardia International Airport for a flight to Toronto. For some, this kind of traveling may seem insane, particularly considering that I moved into an apartment on February 13 – one day before flying to Tulsa, Oklahoma to play with the Tulsa Opera – and after six weeks on the road went back to my new home for the purposes of putting my bed together, unpacking, doing laundry, and resting as I could before starting today at 5:30am.

It felt odd for me, too – but I found myself feeling peacefully “invisible” upon boarding the Maryland Transit Authority’s #19 into downtown Baltimore, destination being the Baltimore Downtown Greyhound Station where I then caught the 8:00 schedule to New York.

More from the road,

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