Thursday, November 12, 2020

Walk up songs, politician style

 My entry into the fictious Encyclopedia of Possible Explanations for Thingsis “walk up songs”. It reads: “A “walk up song” is a song chosen by a person, and played when that person enters a place where they want to command attention. Meant as an introduction, it conveys an attitude relatable to that person. Extra points for a song that renders the crowd hopelessly enthusiastic.”


My entry goes on to explain that the original walk up song might have been the fanfare played by the heralds on their trumpets as their King entered the room… “Dat dat da DAH!”. The same idea was transferred to horse racing, aka “the sport of kings”, to signal the entrance of the next group of racehorses to the track.


The walk up song that makes me smile is actually the recorded song the ice cream man plays from his truck to tell the kids in my neighborhood to find a bunch of quarters, and do it now. The song is, incongruously, a calliope version of Woody Guthrie’s “Union Maid”. 


This past Saturday night, with a socially distanced crowd gathered in a parking lot in Wilmington, Delaware, two notable walk up songs were played. One was a Mary J. Blige song, one was by Bruce Springsteen. The Vice-President and President-elects were the ones being introduced. Kamala Harris made her entrance to Blige’s "Work That," her not so subtle nod to female empowerment. Biden jogged onto the stage while Springsteen's song, "We Take Care of Our Own," blasted out to his new constituents.


Inspired by our new leaders, I asked several area folks the following question: “If you were elected Vice President or President of the United States, what would be your “walk up” song at the victory rally?” The respondents were divided into two categories; politicians and musicians. Their answers might keep you searching YouTube for a while, dancing in your chair the whole time.


The Musicians


Local treasure Jon Williams simultaneously answered the question and opened another can of worms. He said, “I would first get the consent of the artist. After the artist agrees and supports using their intellectual material…I would use Michael Franti’s “All the Freaky People”. His mentioned topic of copyright infringement will be covered in another story.


A surprisingly succinct response from Glen Ellen’s Jeff Falconer was “Cakewalk” by Taj Majal. Falconer’s choice is simple and triumphant, joyous and fun. 


Local harmonica hotshot Steen Berrig took the question very seriously, offering two songs before settling on Curtis Mayfield’s “New World Order”. The late funk and soul singer painstakingly recorded the song after becoming paralyzed after a freak onstage accident, requiring him to lie on his back to get enough air to actually sing. Berrig also suggested MC Hammer’s “Can’t Stop This”.


Dave Aguilar texted “I’ll Take You There! Staple Singers!!”. He included some of the lyrics of this jubilant song as an explanation, “I know a place, ain’t nobody cryin’, ain’t nobody worryin’, ain’t no smiling faces lying to the races”. Sounds like a plank of togetherness.


As a restaurant owner and musician, Codi Binkley has a different set of skills to offer towards national leadership. He chose Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line”. The choo-choo train drum part would give him a sweet beat to stroll to the podium.


Richie Mayer is another local musician who mentioned getting permission first. He then would choose another Mayfield song, “People Get Ready”. But Mayer’s first choice would be a song he wrote called “Is Everybody Ready”, from his new album. He said, “I wrote it in disgust over the state of out “union”. It is a call to arms”.


Tommy Thomsen forsook the swing in favor of a classic, John Lennon’s “Imagine”. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”, he texted. Not a song to rev up the crowd, but certainly one to inspire them.


Luthier and musician Steve Klein texted in response, “With the absurdity of the question, that I could actually be elected to office… I can really only answer with a song from my old friend and past presidential hopeful, Joe Walsh, “Life’s Been Good to Me So Far”.


Huh? Yep, Joe Walsh ran as a write in candidate for president in 1980. His campaign promise was “Free Gas for Everyone”. He promised to make his song, and Klein’s choice of walk up song, the new national anthem.



Next week, the politicians place their votes.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Viral local bride

The most viewed video on YouTube is a music video called “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi, with over 6.4 billion views.Billion. Ed Sheeran is on the list of most viewed videos. On that same list is Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Maroon 5. Their videos also have billions of views.

Quaintly, number 29 of the Wikipedia list of most viewed YouTube videos is “Wheels on the Bus” by Little Baby Bum, with 2.2 billion hits. A Sonoma Valley couple has video on the list, too.  Theirs has only had a little over 2.5 million views, but that is not bad for a wedding video.

Local residents Amy Miller and Brad Surosky were married in 2007.  In their wedding party and amongst the guests attending were some superbly talented people. Rather than a simple toast, one of their friends orchestrated an entire production. No sappy speech read from a crumpled and wine stained sheet of paper. Singing! Dancing! A total of eleven people participated in the “toast”, and the resultant video is so darn cute that even 12 years later, it is still a very popular video. 

It is probably a video de riguerfor all brides; “Best Wedding Toast Ever – Amy’s Song”.  Good luck recreating something like that.  To do so, you will need Groomsmen and Bridesmaids who have had experience in live musical theater.  Just like Amy.  Just like Brad.

Miller and Surosky, along with their friend and business partner Stephan Stubbins, are the driving forces behind the hugely successful Transcendence Theatre Company, and the Broadway Under the Stars series. The shows are presented on an outdoor stage in 
Beautiful Jack London State Historic Park. The season concluded on September 8. 

After living in Los Angeles for eight years, the three experienced stage actors had a dream to present live theater productions in a beautiful outdoor setting. They met up with their Stubbins, who shared the vision, and began a search for a location.  Miller called it, “A very serendipitous story. We embarked on a research trip in an RV across America.” They soon became focused on “wine country”.

The travelling scouts reached a conclusion, “We choose Sonoma.” The serendipitous part of the story occurred when they were tipped off to the plans for Jack London State Historic Park. An announcement that the park was slated to close had been made just the day before.

A quick presentation to Parks representatives resulted in quite a challenge. They could use the winery ruins at the park or their shows, but they had only $83 and six weeks to put a show together as a sort of “test”. 

They passed the test and, as they say, the rest is history.  Transcendence just closed out their eighth summer season.  The totals this season read like this: 15 sold out performances, over $500,000 raised for the parks, 44 musicians, 97 songs, and over 74 different performers passing across the newly constructed stage. Those are impressive numbers for the young theater company.

This year, Transcendence produced their first full length Broadway production, “A 
Chorus Line”.  Miller directed the show and it sold out all of its eight performances in June. Three other productions followed; “Fantastical Family Night”, “Those Dancin’ Feet”, and the recent “The Gala Celebration”.

They all added up to many “Best Night Ever” events for almost 18,000 local residents and tourists. The shows are first class Broadway styled productions and delight all who attend.
The affable and entertaining Miller participates in most of the productions. Sidekicks Surosky and Stubbins perform and handle many of the behind the scenes tasks.

Now that the season is over and the stage has been struck and stored away, the work begins on preparations for the next Transcendence productions. They will present “Chicago” next summer. Soon will be pre-production meetings, casting, technical revisions, rehearsals, and finally live shows. The cycle begins again.

The team of Miller and Surosky are working on another production, one that will have a run of many decades. Their first child, a boy, is due in January. “Transcendence was my baby for so long.  I want a real baby now,” Miller said. Andthatcycle continues.

It won’t be too long now before the talented couple is adding to the “viewed” number of “Wheels on the Bus”.  While they are watching that video, check out “Best Wedding Toast Ever-Amy’s Song”. 


I wrote this in May of 2010, before my disillusionment with teaching at El Verano School. I remember this guy. What a shame.

As we all know, one of the casualties of a standards-based curriculum, where THE TEST is the driving force, is the loss of teaching the arts. Performing arts are particularly hard hit. At El Verano School, we are doing what we can to lessen the hit that drama classes have taken. 

For the past ten years or so, I have been putting on a stage show with the assistance and collaboration of my colleague, Craig Madison. We have not always had the same grade level, in fact, this year he teaches third grade to my fourth grade. But we still get our kids together and put on a show. 

The fact that we put on a play is nice, perhaps even astonishing considering how many students are involved, but I am writing about it because of a very special aspect of our production. The play is always totally improvised. There is no script, no preconceived plot, no particular direction. The entire production is fleshed out with the kids during the course of about one month before it is finally presented to the student body. 

Craig and I have the luxury of having students who have seen these productions already, and they know that they tend to be somewhat, shall we say, rollicking. I could have used the word “confusing,” but "rollicking" implies a sense and joy and craziness. Putting 60 kids on stage will almost always lead to craziness. 

Truth be told, by the time we actually present the show to the audience, it is pretty tight. They all know their parts, they all have a eye patch or wig or tutu to wear. The improvisational aspect of this endeavor lasts only a couple of weeks, but the fact that the kids write their own lines, or are fed lines by me or Craig, means that there is no script to memorize. That means that they are much more willing to become their characters. All it takes is acting, not memorizing. 

Several years ago, after the three shows were concluded, a girl came up to me to offer her feelings of being in the show. This student was really, really bright. She was well traveled and very confident. What she said surprised me. She said, “That was the most important thing I have ever done.” At times when chaos is surrounding me in the first few days of play practice, I remember that student and her comment. 

In the past, the themes of the play have included time travel, live rock and roll music, dancing waiters, and sharks. And the Superintendent. So far this year, we have time travel, live rock and roll music, belly dancers, and sharks. And the new Superintendent. The show this year, called “The Witness,” will take place June 1. I'll let you know how it is coming along.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

This is a bit of a nuisance, this blogging thing.  But I think it is a good way to get some of the words out. Please give me some sort of thumbs up if you agree.

Friday, September 7, 2018

15000 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen. 938-4064 Sunday, Sept. 9: Dan Trotta.
2 p.m.
 ELVERANOINN, 705 Laurel Ave. Sonoma. 935-
0611 Saturday, Sept. 8: Kitten Drunk, Moon Sick, Laguna Screech, Third Six. 8 p.m.
 FRIDAYFARMERS MARKET, Depot Park, 270 First St W.
Friday, Sept. 7: Stewart Degner. 9:30 a.m.
 GUNDLACHBUNDSCHU WINERY, 2000 Denmark St. 938-5277
Saturday, Sept. 8: Angel Olsen. 7 p.m.
 HOPMONKTAVERN, hopmonk. com 691 Broadway,
935-9100 Friday, Sept. 7: Craig Corona.
5 p.m. Witherward. 8 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8: Vardo. 1 p.m. Erica Sunshine Lee. 8 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 9: David Hamilton. 1 p.m.
 MURPHY’SIRISHPUB, 464 First St. E, 935-0660.
Friday, Sept. 7: Jon Emery.
9 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8: Dan Martin and Noma Rocksteady.
9 p.m.
 MUSCARDINICELLARS, 9380 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood,
933-9305 Saturday, Sept. 8: Jami Jamison Band 5:30 p.m.
 PALOOZA, paloozafresh. com 8910 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 833-4000Thursday, Sept. 13: Live Music Series. 8 p.m.
 SEBASTIANIWINERY, 389 Fourth Street East, 933-3230
Friday, Sept. 7: Poyntlyss Sistars 6 p.m.
 SONOMASPEAKEASY AND AMERICAN MUSIC HALL,sonomaspeakeasymusic. com 452 First St. E.,
996-1364 Friday, Sept. 7: Bruce and Jodi. 6:30 p.m. Sean Carscadden Trio. 8 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8: Full Circle.
5 p.m. Arcosonics. 8 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 9: T-Luke. 5 p.m. Sonoma Blues Jam. 8:30 p.m. Tuesday,Sept. 11: Tim E., Bruce, and Lou. 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 12: Arcrosonics. 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13: King Daddy and the Prince of Thieves. 7:30 p.m.
 STARLINGBAR, starlingsonoma. com. 19830 Highway
12, 938-7442 Thursday, Sept. 6: Open Mic.
8 p.m.
 THEREELFISHHOUSE AND GRILL, thereelfishshop. com 401 Grove St. El Verano,
Thursday, Sept. 13: The Wailers. 9 p.m.
 TUESDAYNIGHT FARMERS MARKET, Sonoma Plaza Tuesday, Sept. 11: Chris Hanlin (horseshoe), Sonoma Jazz Society, Michael O’Neill Quintet (amphitheater) 6 p.m.
 VIANSAWINERY, viansa. com. 25200 Arnold Drive,
(800)995-4740 Saturday, Sept. 8: Acoustic Soul. 11 a.m.
Sunday, Sept. 9: Clay Bell.
11 a.m.
 VINTAGEHOUSE, vintagehouse. org. 264 First Street East, Sonoma, 996-0311
Wednesday, Sept. 12: The Cork Puller Trio. 6 p.m.
If you want your gigs listed, email Tim Curley at eltimcurley@ gmail.