It’s a celebratory time of year. Sunday was Mother’s Day. Social media was abuzz all weekend with graduation announcements. Wedding season is gearing up. And summer vacation is just around the corner.
So is the 2022 TJC Spring Jam. This year, I’m making the first portion of the Jam into a recital for my private music students. That’s going to make for a fun evening, and I suspect it will boost attendance—all those parents and family members coming out to hear L’il Billy play his piano piece.
Last fall, I submitted a piece to Self-Reliance, a magazine about independent living, entitled “The Front Porch Concert: Opportunity for Musicians in The Age of The Virus.” They accepted it and cut me a check some time ago, and I’ve been waiting patiently for the article’s publication ever since.
Much to my delight, I arrived home from a school event Saturday evening to find the Summer Issue, Issue #25 of Self-Reliance, in my mailbox. There on page twelve is my article, taking up four beautiful pages.
It’s been a lazy weekend here at Portly Manor, as I’ve been recovering from a very long week of Fine Arts Festival-related activities. It’s been pretty glorious being in bed by 9:30 PM and sleeping in until approximately whenever Murphy barks me awake to the use the bathroom, which is roughly around 6:30 AM. I still need to file my taxes, so I’ll be working on that annual ritual of tedium later today.
For this week’s Lazy Sunday, however, it made sense to look back at this past week’s Fine Arts Festival, and to celebrate the achievements of the students involved. I’ve also worked in a post about Son of Sonnet’s new Locals page:
“Concert Time!” – This very short piece was written before the concert, which was a smashing success. There are tons of little things to get done to put on a concert, but this year’s ran pretty smoothly.
“TBT: Flashback Friday: Opening Night” (and “Flashback Friday: Opening Night” & “Opening Night“) – Due to some last-minute emergencies and conflicts, a few students had to back out of the school play, which meant the Drama teacher and myself end up taking on some roles. I had the luxury of reading from a script onstage, which I tried to conceal as best I could. These posts are all about the challenge and the thrill of acting.
Last Saturday was my annual Halloween Spooktacular, marking the third Spooktacular and the second hosted from my front porch. I hit upon the idea of doing a front porch concert around Halloween last year, when most venues were still closed to live music, or only very slowly bringing it back. I’d heard of other musicians doing outdoor gigs, and though, “Hey, why not turn my front porch into a stage?”
This year, I suspected that the success of the first two front porch concerts might be diminished somewhat, especially as the concert was on the Saturday before a Sunday Halloween, which meant most people were trick-or-treating and throwing parties that night instead of on Halloween proper. Several of my biggest patrons, who usually drop some serious coin at these events, were unable to attend due to other plans.
Still, I was excited for the evening, and while my concerns about lower attendance were confirmed—and the event resulted in a substantial but not debilitating loss, at least in the short-run—it was a fun night, one that also carried with it some important lessons.
It’s also the week of my third annual (and second on the front porch) Spooktacular! As such, I spent a good portion of the weekend making the preliminary preparations for having lots of people sitting on my front lawn for a couple of hours or so.
Among the myriad tasks I completed (such as some long overdue weed eating, and applying more ant bait to the lawn), I engaged in my favorite Halloween season ritual: carving a Jack O’Lantern! I picked up a couple of massive pumpkins from Sam’s Club for $7 each, and this one made for particularly attractive gourd. Just look at its perfectly jaunty, stout stem!
Fortunately, South Carolina is a free State, and live music is making a real comeback. Indeed, I had the opportunity to hear my buddy, poet Jeremy Miles, play a gig with his new band, Jeremy and the Blissters, at a hopping coffee shop Friday evening.
The experience was electric—and not just because of the piping hot sound system and stacks of amplifiers. The band—which, in addition to Jeremy, consists of good friends from the local music scene, two of whom have opened my front porch concerts—was stunning and powerful, offering up an eclectic mix of New Wave, punk, pop, acid rock, and more.
Beyond their impressive musical prowess and sweeping repertoire, Jeremy’s group reminded me of how fun live music can be—and how desperately we need more of it to return.
Thanks again to subscribers and regular readers for your patience. It’s been a wonderfully quiet day at home—literally, I’ve only gone outside to check the mail and to cut some oregano from my garden—so I’ve gotten a ton of writing done today.
Halloween is easy, because it comes packaged with all sorts of fun activities: Halloween songs, costume contests, spooky décor, etc. A generic springtime theme is a bit more vague, and with it already feeling like summer here in South Carolina, the theme presented some initial problems.
Happy Belated Mother’s Day, Mom, and to all the other mothers out there. I didn’t serve my mom breakfast in bed, but I’d like to think my presence was enough to brighten her day. She did go to the trouble of making a delicious banana pudding, proving once again that moms are great—at least my mom, anyway.
Given that we all enjoyed a fun, busy Sunday, I’m a bit behind on the blog, and plan on returning with more substantive posts tomorrow. I’ll likely pick up with a belated Monday Morning Movie Review, but on Tuesday.
In all seriousness, the blog has been doing pretty, with fairly consistent daily pageviews and a small uptick in readers leaving comments. Work and my illness late in April have eaten up some of the time I can dedicate to writing, but summer break is fast approaching, and I’m hoping to resume work on my next book, a collection of the first fifty editions of Sunday Doodles, and begin working on a planned collection of new, original short stories.
My poor health recovered, I tested negative for The Virus, and the Spring Concert was a smashing success. I managed to get back to work Wednesday, giving me time to build—for the first time since the 2019 Christmas Concert—my Frankenstein’s Monster sound system, rehearse my students, and wire up a ton of microphones, amps, keyboards, and the like.
After every big concert, I spend part of a class period conducting a “concert postmortem,” my pet term for reviewing the highs and lows of the previous night. It’s a good opportunity to discuss elements that could be improved for the next concert, but also to allow the students to bask in the glory of their performance a little longer.
Not surprisingly, this process tends to work better with high school students, who have developed politeness filters and know how to phrase suggestions diplomatically. They’re also veterans, so they understand better the realities of live performance, and don’t have unrealistic expectations. Middle school students tend to either be over-awed by the experience (one student Thursday evening exclaimed, “That was awesome!”) or very critical of small errors. That’s why we frame these discussions as “constructive criticism,” which helps the students understand the purpose is to build each other up and point out areas where we can all improve.
Regardless, I’m letting readers in on that process a bit with a general “concert postmortem,” including our finalized set list.