Friday, September 19, 2003
Peter Mayer with Rick and Audrey opening on September 13, 2003 at House in the Woods, Frederick Maryland Area
John Mornini, a Focus Inn supporter we saw last at the Dawson’s, is directing traffic to parking in the field beside the barn as my husband drives in at the House and the Woods. I always think of the Thanksgiving song “over the river and through the woods” which fits the directions to this farm.
We heard that the 100 seats here were promised 3 weeks ago (in commercial venues they’d call that an early sell out), so we arrive in time to claim good seats. The two friends who come with us, Mary and Ann, exclaim about the beauty of the drive and the farmland.
The performers are finishing dinner on the porch Mary and Ann and I approach the house to use the bathroom before the concert. (Women after a 1 hr drive you know). I go first and then I wait for the others outside on the porch, and try to give the performers the private space they deserve before performing. However, I overhear Dayana talking about how her parents choose her name. I tried not to listen in, but is a good story – ask her sometime.
Rick and Audrey open accompanied (how lucky for us), by Dayana Yochim (who still is, as I said in my blog posting 7-15-03, a treasure of a cello player). Ilene, our hostess, recalls how their very first House in Woods concert (maybe even before the series had a name) was Richard Dahl, Cletus Kennelly, and Lea. Audrey was at the second concert. Now Richard (Rick) and Audrey are a married “righteous duo” and as their web site says, “the smiling face of folk”.
Rick plays guitar, mandolin (bouzouki) and bodhran (Celtic drum) , Dayana plays cello, bodhran and shakers, and Audrey plays guitar.
Rick, Audrey and Dayana’s set includes:
Denmark Ain’t So Far Away – a song about the geography of the heart. Right after their engagement, Audrey went to Denmark for 10 days with another man (her Dad). Loneliness is good inspiration for a songwriter. The 10 days gave Rick time to imagine how far or close the world is one a map, and what sights his fiancée may be seeing, all she may be doing. Rick mopes (he hears the 4th fireworks on the mall were good) and writes this song. To give Audrey’s perspective - does he wonder, was she so busy, or was she missing him too?
The Bravest Things – Audrey song - At her grandparents’ house, the kids would jump out of baths and run away wet in their birthday suits, and grandma said “come back, you’re naked as jaybirds”. This song is about risking exposure of a different kind with a lover. Can you stand still and “admit you are not quite sure you turned out right”.
We Are the Grain – A song by Audrey dedicated to the farm. Rick plays bohdran and Audrey guitar (no cello on this one). This is just a lovely song about the cycles of life, giving and receiving, “we come in joy and power” “with sunburned faces….we gather here.” The hosts who are farmers, Ilene and Phil, and who also mightily gift the music community, should see themselves in this song. And may we all.
Followed by another great song, this one by Rick and I am not sure whether Rick has named it yet. Is it “What is Love”? Rick, in writing it, was inspired by Tracy Grammer, Dave Carter’s surviving partner. Tracy has been so brave, so remarkable in carrying on sharing Dave Carter’s music since he left this plane in July 2002. Rick’s song weaves together the summer sun and autumn leaves - “may you have the strength of the weeping willow”. Afterward Rick says he is still working on the words, so I guess he won’t share the song with Tracy until it is completely perfected. As grace would have it, in my zeal to share good music on the drive up I played several Dave Carter songs, including Gentle Soldier of my Soul, for our two friends who are sort of folk “newbies”. And we told them a bit about Dave’s life and death, and about Tracy. I had no idea Rick had written this song. We would have been listening to Peter Mayer CD’s if I had not forgotten to put them in the car. But the pile in the car did include a Dave Carter CD….
For a final song, Audrey sang Shining –. So on this one Rick is one the bouzouki and Dayana on the bohdran. A song about a boat trip and meeting a Canadian boy with a guitar. The audience sings along: “shine shine shine”
Then Ilene introduces Peter Mayer, who has been coming to House in the Woods for 5 years, has 6 fantastic CD’s, and great new one in the works. Ilene also thanks her former employers, Class Acts, for donating the sound system for tonight.
Peter talks about the over the river and through the woods feel of this place. He is from Minnesota, and finds driving in the DC area up to this place challenging. He was on a big road with 6 lanes on one side (270) and looking for the right turn, then a 2 lane road, pass a little village, over a river, on a one lane road (with a mirror) then off road up the driveway to this house and barn. Feeling so charmed and relieved to find this sanctuary here, Peter invites us to one minute of quiet… and then sings Bountiful – a song I have actually danced to in my kitchen. My heart does summersaults of gratitude. Can this night be more magical than the last time I saw Peter. Yes…..
Minnesota has had drought until just before Peter left, and the rain was so welcome he just wanted to strip and go out in it. (Yes, and Audrey remembers as a child leaving the tub all wet and having to be called back – is there a wet and out there theme going tonight!) Maryland had been drenched in water in contrast, though luckily we have a perfect temperate and dry evening. Peter sings a song about water - Ocean Mary
Peter mentions that Audrey and Rick had great autumn imagery going in their songs, and notes that in an agrarian society autumn after the harvest is in, is a time of preparing to rest through the winter. In modern times, we rest in the summer, and the fall things speed up. But still, let us hear something in autumn calling us to rest.. Peter sings Coming Home, “when the summer’s ending…rest will greet me… love will receive me”.
Vern Had to Buy Dorothy’s Pie – There were 5 children in Peter’s family growing up and all the kids and his Mom and Dad picked and sorted apples. There were good ones, “hummers”, medium ones, “ho hummers” and bad ones “bummers”. Over the years the trees at his parent’s house declined. One tree died, and the other was on its last legs and not producing apples any more, until this year. Somehow locally this year was a great year for apples. Peter’s Mom called and told Peter she had a “hummer” for him. This song is a true story about how an apple (in the form of apple pie), played in a role in the relationship between Peter’s Mom and Dad. Not exactly the same as the apple story from our original mythical parental forbearers, Adam and Eve. But Peter’s apple story is also interesting.
Astronaut Dreams - science and space are frequent topics in Peter’s imagination and songs. But not like they are for the woman in this song. For another on this theme, check out the lovely fanciful song “Camping by the Sun” on Peter’s Bountiful CD. I love these images of space and of the earth in the midst of space.
Last song before the break is another new song, inspired by feeling sad, affected and helpless earlier this year on the eve of the war in Iraq. With the continuing middle eastern conflict and tensions so many places, we area still… Looking for the Dove. “she was here…leaving us standing. scanning the horizon .. the clearing skies above…”
I remember being almost in tears when I first heard this song March 29th. It is still moving, and I am so glad to hear he is putting it (and other new songs he sings tonight) on his upcoming Solstice/Winter CD.
At the break, my friend Ann tells Peter she is so excited about his song Looking for the Dove. I talk to some folks who know a lot about the local singer-songerwriter music scene. They turn out to be Ilene’s parents. I wonder later, were they always interested so that her interest stems from theirs, or are they learning from her involvement? In passing, her mother expresses wonder at all the house concert hosts who have so many people in their homes on a regular monthly basis.
After the break, Peter opens with another new song from the Solstice project, Magical World. “life can be hard but” . This song expresses wonder at all we are given. And in a wonderful, magical way…
The Dark – The days are getting shorter, there are longer nights. Peter notes that many people have negative associations with darkness and things that go bump in the dark. Can we see some positives? Why, even encounters with monsters can make you a better person, if you survive. A song of reversals. ”you might find what you’ve been missin, somewhere in the dark”.
I sit here listening to this thoughtful, sometimes funny, heartfelt music. David Wilcox bought my ticket for a Bruce Springsteen show tonight, and he is in a big stadium with a huge crowd. I can see it in my mind’s eye (I’ve seem Bruce Springsteen before) -standing up most of the concert and screaming. It is fun and energizing (in a way), and I could have gone and enjoyed it, but it is also physically taxing and lots of effort. Instead, I am sitting here, very relaxed, very mellow, listening to some of the music I like best in the world. Hearing new songs that amazingly I like as much or better than the old ones. For once I am not resentful about all the songs the singer doesn’t play because “magically”, he plays my absolute favorites and all the ones I particularly want to hear tonight, starting with the first song of the evening, and it just gets better and better. David Wilcox, I hope you are grooving in the stadium. I am so glad I decided to be here.
John's Garden is a request and is about pumpkins and transformation. Peter says “you guys should record the songs here, with crickets/insects chorus. I’m accompanied by a massive band outside”. Is it Ilene who says Mary Byrd Brown did record here and you can hear the insects in the background.
A toddler is removed from the area before he can make a impact on the interesting stage sound equipment he wants to grab. A dog passes by. Peter says, “we got kids, we got dogs…this is a farm.” He remembers another rustic venue he played, with dogs. He shares that while performing he saw a dog enter the adjacent room and out of the corner of his eye, Peter saw the dog beginning to eat his sandwich. He also ruefully remarks that he is tuning to the crickets.
Blue Boat Home – Peter words, using the tune of an old 1800’s church hymn by Roland Prichard – another amazing us adrift in the universe perspective.
Touch The Air Softly – to “write” this love song, Peter wrote the melody and used a poem by William J. Smith.
.Peter, did I hear you comment “the new CD I am working on may be too introspective, too meditative”. Is this like the question, I heard 5 years ago, Will people in commercial venues like the song “Holy Now”? It is like a favorite wherever you play it. I think, people are so hungry for this music.
Another brand new song, My Soul. To understand this song (and others Peter plays) we need some scientific facts. He tells us that at the speed of light it would take us 100,000 years to cross our galaxy. And there are billions of galaxies. 100 billion or so galaxies, they are as plentiful as snowflakes. “Snowflakes in a cosmic storm”. As Peter finishes, I hear a woman seated behind says “beautiful”. Another yells out “Will this be on your Solstice CD?” They are both speaking for me. Peter’s answer is yes.
Saying “Have a great autumn” Peter closes with Holy Now. For me this is a song that takes me from images of childish faith, to wonder and spirit. I breathe deeper when I hear it, sigh, and feel the goodness around me. Check out the Sugarloaf Coffehouse MP3 page for Peter Mayer/Lea duo of this song. http://www.scuu.org/coffeehouse/mp3s.htm
As an encore we join Peter in singing an old spiritual – Guide My Feet, hold my hand, search my heart.
The next morning is Sunday, and I stumble into the same church Peter Mayer is attending! Peter is invited to share a song and sings Birthday Party (another of my many favorites). My husband and I are the only ones there from the concert the night before. Needless to say we are amazed and delighted.