Friday night I was one of five hundred women crazy with excitement to see Harry Connick Jr. for a personal concert at the Blissdom conference in Nashville. Go ahead and read that sentence again if you need to, and make sure you're sitting down.
In the Fuse nightclub at the Opryland Hotel we crowded around the eye-level stage with only a velvet rope between me and the man my college roommate used to swoon over nineteen years ago (she's the one who first introduced me to the tunes of Mr. Harry-Met-Sally). We stood in front of the stage area, waiting for about forty minutes with colored spot lights blinding us intermittently, eating too many bacon-wrapped scallops from the h'ors d'oeuvre table and smelling the acrid yet thrilling odor of the fog machines--and I would have waited all night if I'd had too.
Mr. Connick followed his four band members onto the tiny wooden stage where they performed four, count them FOUR, songs in the most glorious, rich and tasty jazz I've ever heard. Now I've loved jazz ever since I became an adult and discovered its power and technicality but this was something I'd never heard. If you want details I'd say it was Dixie but that's like trying to describe the performance by saying he sang in English.
I'd never heard jazz live before and I can tell you I'd have stood there as long as they were willing to play--each note was like the perfect lemonade, balanced and sweet and full of energy and I'd defy you to have listened and not moved with the beat. We're so proud of our digital accomplishments, of the clarity of MP3, of the ability to share and spread music until we can't get away from it but there has be a distinction between our normal, plastic music and the notes they were creating. While the songs were well known and the tunes familiar, plucking those vibrations myself straight from the strings and reeds that produced them was the difference between eating canned, processed corn and harvesting a summer cob straight from the field. Yes it was sweet!
I was in awe and I'd love to have a recording of the performance but it wouldn't be the same. A copy wouldn't convey that connection to the band, the joy of the sound or the energy of their movements. It might give you an idea of what they played but not what they created.
Anyway . . . before the performance Mr. Connick spoke about how he appreciates things like community and people who get things done. How he admires the women in his life and how important it is to do whatever you can to help others within your own sphere. He's been active in rebuilding his hometown of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and he and Branford Marsallis have created what they call the Musicians' Village which is a complex for aspiring performers including housing and support for their education and success. So far they've been able to build eighty homes and do their little part to rebuild and make the world better and you have to admire not only the results of their efforts but the desire to help others that got them there.
So the message that accompanied these glorious melodies? Don't be discouraged in trying to do good things and look around to see what you too can do to make a difference whether it's on a small scale in your own home or in eighty homes--it's not so much the size or amount as it is the fact that something good gets done, which is a hopeful and appropriate message in a time when it's often easy to get discouraged and hopeless for the future. I appreciated that these five men took the time to share a little something with us, something I'll never forget and that made my life just a tiny bit better.
I was impressed but you can see it for yourselves--thanks to Cooking with Caitlin and SouthernPlate.com here are clips of both the speech and the final number. Wish you could have been there. Both clips were filmed from the opposite side of the room from me--I was in front of the saxophonist and loving every minute.
After the performance he stayed to shake hands and take photos--I hadn't intended on saying hello but I was feeling particularly brave after the performance and when I walked up to him I was a little shocked to realize I was a good inch taller than him in my towering heels. They spun me around to get in the photo and I nearly toppled over on those shaky shoes when he put his arm around me on my shoulder. I guess they expected me to smile for the camera but I think I gave them a good deer-in-the-headlights face (or moose if you prefer) so who knows how the shot turned out. I'll have to figure out who has it . . .
P.S. The photos were taken by Dawn at My Home Sweet Home whose Flickr stream you can see here, some rights reserved. Her pictures of the conference are wonderful, she's a talented photographer!
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