Jazz & Stories with Garrison Keillor

Last week I was lucky enough to get to go see Garrison Keillor, the renowned storyteller, at the Eastman Theatre! I was so excited to have the chance to see him live. My family wasn’t an NPR family growing up, but many of my college friends are fans, and they had always raved about good old Garrison. After a long week, “An Evening of Storytelling with Garrison Keillor” seemed like just what we needed!

I wasn’t feeling well the night of the show, so I forgot to take pictures. Here’s a photo of the beautiful program on my beautiful coffee table!

Being a bit of a Keillor n00b going into this show, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I was pretty delighted, though, when he kicked off the evening with a singalong! It was an eclectic mix, everything from “This Land is Your Land” to “I Saw Her Standing There.” Another delightful factor? I spotted the president of my alma mater, Joel Seligman, seated in one of the boxes near the stage, blowing his nose frequently and singing along. (I was under the weather too, Joel. It’s okay. Hope you’re feeling better!).

Garrison Keillor performed with an incredibly talented jazz sextet from the Eastman School of Music, and they blew me away. Garrison would chat and joke for a bit, then have the musicians play a little bit. They played Gershwin, New Orleans jazz, and much more! The clarinetist was so fantastic it made me really want to pick up my clarinet again. And I haven’t played in 4 years!

Credit where credit is due: that was a damn good jazz sextet.

They closed out their set with a number I was very pleased with myself for recognizing: The St. James Infirmary Blues.

While the song’s origins are unknown, Louis Armstrong made it famous with his recording in 1928. I actually knew it from my visits to Fritzel’s, my favorite jazz club in New Orleans! I’ve visited NOLA enough to love the city, but definitely not enough to count myself satiated. I can’t wait to go back sometime!

Anyways, this jazz sextet from Eastman performed a phenomenal rendition of this fantastically depressing song and it brought the house down. And then they came and sat next to us in the crowd! So that was pretty cool.

Garrison has such an interesting style. He’s understated, calm and mellow, but manages to include a level of depth and detail in his stories that’s both astonishing and impressive. My mind caught on details of each story more so than the overarching story arc. The strawberry shaped change jar his parents kept in his home growing up. The French’s mustard he squirted on his burger on his sneaky trip out of the house. A memory like that is bound to make you a good storyteller!

My favorite story that he told was about the insane murder ballads his grandma used to sing him. So strange and so hilarious! I couldn’t believe how he remembered every single word of the ballad. They were bizarre and hysterical.

Up next in the fantastic Eastman Presents concert series? The St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra is coming to town! They’re featuring Nikolai Lugansky as the pianist and are performing Brahms and Shostakovich. I’m sure this will be an amazing concert and I’m psyched to see it!

Photo via eastmantheatre.org

Good news for YOU! I’m giving away a pair of tickets to this concert too! To enter: 1) Follow @eastman.school on Instagram. 2) Follow me on Instagram (@servemethesky). 3) Leave a comment on my photo about this post telling me why you’d love to see this concert. If you’re not feeling competitive (or don’t win but are still dying to see the show), you can purchase tickets here.

Best of luck to all!


Norm Lewis Lookback

Last week I had the opportunity to see Norm Lewis perform at Kodak Hall, and he was pretty fantastic. That guy can sing! You were probably expecting that, though, if you know anything about Norm Lewis. He’s basically a Broadway superstar- he’s been in practically any show that comes to mind when you think of Broadway classics. Les Mis? Yup. Phantom of the Opera? Yup. Porgy and Bess? Yup. He gets around!

Ready for an evening of incredible music!

His show at Eastman included highlights from many of the musicals he’s been in. My personal favorites were the huge show stopping numbers like “Music of the Night” from Phantom and “Bring Him Home” from Les Mis. His rendition of “Bring Him Home” was particularly moving, as he prefaced it with a story about a fellow cast member who died young in an accident. I may have been a little misty-eyed by the end of that one, if I’m being honest. Norm’s voice filled up the whole theatre; it was clear that every audience member was listening raptly.

Norm was a very personable performer. He loved interacting with the audience and included lengthy anecdotes between each song. At the beginning of the night, he mentioned reading the local paper and seeing we “had a lot going on,” then referenced catching himself on Scandal while watching TV in his hotel room. This was the start of a long night of humblebrags. We heard all about his friendship with Audra McDonald, that time he went to a house party at the White House, and how he got to meet Barack Obama. I suppose humblebrags are warranted when you’re as talented and experienced in show business as Norm Lewis is.

Things did get a little weird, though, when he performed a Marvin Gaye number and interspersed his passionate singing with yells of “ISIS!” and “Black Lives Matter!” My boyfriend and I looked at each other in total shock and confusion. Never have I ever been to a concert at Eastman where I’ve heard a musician scream “ISIS” in the middle of a performance! I totally get artists standing up for what they believe in during turbulent political times. The song was called “What’s Going On,” and while it is super important to discuss what’s going on, especially in 2017, this seemed like a bizarre, jarring, and superficial way to approach the topic. I wanted to yell back to him, “Dude! You’re just saying names and phrases!” Yelling nouns is not a particularly effective way of engaging in political discourse.

Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable evening and I’m glad we got to see this talented man bring down the house! Just thinking back on the night, I’m getting some serious feels thinking about his rendition of “Bring Him Home.”

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World-class music right here!

Now, you may recall that the Eastman Presents concert series was on my list of 7 Things I’m Psyched About in 2017. There are three shows remaining in the series, and up next is Garrison Keillor. Apparently I’m out of the loop on the whole Garrison Keillor thing; I’ve heard he’s pretty amazing,  and I’m excited to see him when he comes to town on February 17th!

Garrison Keillor is coming to ROC! Photo via Eastman Theatre.

Even more exciting for YOU, is that I’m doing another ticket giveaway! Love the idea of seeing Garrison Keillor IRL? Comment below telling me why you want to see him. Winner receives a pair of tickets to the show on 2/17! I’ll announce the winner on Friday, February 10th.

Best of luck to all!