My wife went to two musical performances two days apart. This was unexpected because we had no idea we’d be attending either at the beginning of September.
Early in the month, we went to the Showstoppers show at Mac-Haydn Theatre in Chatham, NY, a “celebration of our season cast members and the magic of theatre – it’s the ultimate show tunes revue.”
My wife was sitting next to Elizabeth Ward Land, who knew many artists performing and several Mac-Haydn actors in the audience. She said she loved the Producing Artistic Director of the Mac, John Saunders, who was one of the fine performers at that show.
Before the show, Elizabeth casually mentioned that she would be presenting Still Within The Sound of My Voice: The Songs of Linda Ronstadt on the 13th. She knew her Ronstadt. I am a big Linda fan. So we got tickets.
When we got there, they were requesting people wear masks. MacHadyn had scheduled a program called The Marvelous Wonderettes, featuring over 30 “throwback hits” from the ’50s and ’60s, from September 7 through 17, 2023. But the notice on September 12 noted, “With heavy hearts, we announce that, due to Covid cases within our performance team, the remaining performances… have been canceled.”
As I noted here, this program also had COVID challenges.
The show went on.
Still, it was a fine show. Ward Land has a lovely voice, though she didn’t especially sound like Linda, not that she was trying to. But the songs with the tight harmony trios were pretty darn close.
What was interesting was the storytelling about Linda’s musical journey from country to pop to light opera to the American songbook to Mexicali. Much of this I knew, but there were a few pieces I didn’t. Elizabeth tied it to her varied musical and acting career.
The playlist was similar to her 2022 album with the first five and the last four in the same order. Someone To Lay Down Beside Me was out, but Adios, a lovely solo by Madison Stratton, was in. The other vocalist was a last-minute addition, Mac-Haydn musical director Eric Shorey.
More than the camel song
The next day, a guy I know, in that Smalbany way, posted on Facebook that he had two tickets to see Maria Muldaur at the Egg on Friday, the 15th. I claimed them and went to his place to pick them up.
At the beginning of her show, we thought it might be more talking than singing. It would have been OK; she had just turned 81 on September 12. She told great stories about the McGarriagle Sisters, Dr. John, Doc Watson, and many more.
Muldaur loved a B-side of a Peggy Lee single, the Leiber-Stoller song, I’m A Woman, which Bob Dylan, who she knew from the Greenwich Village neighborhood where she grew up as Maria D’Amato, often requested. It was the first song in the show.
Soon enough, she played more music from 43 recorded “albums in the folk, blues, early jazz, gospel, country, and R&B traditions.”
She noted that when she recorded My Tennessee Mountain Home, with vocals by Linda Ronstadt, it may have been the first cover of a Dolly Parton song; Maria still has the thank you note from Dolly.
Her story about Hoagy Carmichael’s presence at her recording of his Rockin’ Chair was lovely. Benny Carter got Hoagy to the session.
Not nearly the end
She said Don’t You Feel My Leg (Don’t You Get Me High), the Blu Lu Barker song, was her most requested. She played that just before Midnight at the Oasis. Some musicians would have ended it there, but she had at least another half dozen songs to share
The photos of her with various musicians, including Bonnie Raitt, Geoff Muldaur (of course), and many others, some taken by Annie Leibovitz, were astonishing.
Ultimately, besides being a great musical experience, the concert was an incredible musical history lesson.
Backs broke, bending, digging holes to plant the seeds
The owners ate the cane, and the workers ate the weeds
Put the wood in the stove, the water in the cup
You worked so hard that you died standing up
He Ain’t Got Rhythm with Tuba Skinny