Monday, March 5, 2012

…And Then There Was The Weekend

My eventful week continued over the weekend. Saturday night my wife and I attended the last concert ever by the Orchestra of Kentucky. No, the organizaiton is not disbanding (no pun intended) this was just the last performance for them in the Van Meter concert hall on the Western Kentucky University campus; their home for the last few years. Later this month they will be moving into their new home at the brand new Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center.

Saturday night’s performance was part of the orchestra’s “Retro Series” and featured the music from “The British Invasion” of the 1960’s.  Performing on stage were The Orchestra of Kentucky, conducted by Jeff Reed; a group of vocalists, “The Retro Singers”, and a very talented cover band, “The Rewinders.”

This was the 3rd Orchestra of Kentucky concert we’ve been to over the last 18 months. It just might have been my favorite and not just because the tickets were free.

The two hour show included covers of songs originally recorded by British artists: Chad & Jeremy, Peter & Gordon, Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, The Animals, The Tremelos, The Mindbenders, Pink Floyd, The Who, The Spencer Davis Group, The Zombies, Freddie & The Dreamers, Jerry & The Pacemakers, Tom Jones, Lulu, and The Hollies. Those weren’t all the artists covered but that’s all I can remember.

One of the Retro Singers was Billy Duvall. Billy is a nice Christian guy who’s a very “snappy” dresser and has a terrific voice. His R&B style of gospel singing is outstanding and well known around our area. He’s ministered at my church at least twice over the last several years.

During the concert he sang two songs: “Gimme Some Lovin” and “It’s Not Unusual”. It was pretty cool that someone we know was part of the show.

The performance of the night was by a guy who sang the classic song “House of the Rising Sun” with an animated and unique style. He was so good he got a standing ovation.

Personally I enjoyed the unique harmonies of several of the songs. “I Got To Pieces” and “Silence Is Golden” were among my favorites. The unusual vocal blends and acoustic effects in the singing of the Zombies song, “She’s Not There” were fun as well.

My favorite elements throughout the entire show were the brass section and the keyboards. I’ve always appreciated the stand-out musical contribution horns made to the all the popular hits of the 60’s; these “British Invasion” songs included. I don’t remember the name of the keyboard player but he was excellent and his play was the key instrumental element to many of the songs performed.

In what I thought was a very touching moment and classy move, the ensemble performed the song “Day Dream Believer” as a tribute to the late Davy Jones. The recent loss of the British born lead singer of the Monkees was quite a shock to fans of 60’s music everywhere.

The concert ended with a performance of “The Air That I Breathe”, my favorite Hollies song. The crowd showed their appreciation for the entire evening with a standing ovation.

The encore song was appropriately one by the group that started it all, The Beatles. With more than 4 dozen Top 40 Fab Four hits to choose from conductor Reed’s choice of “Hey Jude” was a good one. By the time the encore ended the majority of the audience was singing along; some waving their arms holding backlit cell phones.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this concert. It brought back the music of my childhood days (I mean the first decade of my life) back to life. What I mean by that is this. Over the last 4 decades since they were first ranked on the Billboard Top 40 charts I have heard or played the pop music from the 60’s (not just those from the “British Invasion”) many, many, many times. They have taken on a familiarity that makes them almost part of the “musical furniture”  

Experiencing live performances of some of these less remembered “classics” breathed new life into them for me. As every song was performed it was as if my mind was divided into two. On one side, in my mind’s eye, I was watching an old black and white TV set while watching the original artists perform on the Ed Sullivan show circa 1966 or 67. On the other side I was in Van Meter Hall in 2012 watching, hearing, and enjoying the singers on stage.

I knew nearly all of the songs by heart and most of the time I was singing along. All throughout the night I kept asking myself, “Why am I having such a good time?” As mentioned I’ve heard these songs hundreds of times what was different about them now? As the encore number came to a close and I once again stood to applaud, I realized the answer. It’s the songs.

The songs are timeless. They meant as much to me that night as they did when I was young because they are just good songs. They touch something inside and calm the soul.  Perhaps it’s the connection to what I consider “simpler times.”

This Retro Concert was made possible and very enjoyable because of many many hours of hard work by all those who were on stage that night. The reason it was such a great evening is because it started with a great foundation....the songs.

A big “thank you” to Jeff Reed, Orchestra of Kentucky, the Retro Singers, and The Rewinders for hitting the “refresh button” and  reuniting me with those childhood friends who are always there at the push of a button on my IPod but every once in a while need a new “coat of paint”: the songs of the 60’s.

Sunday morning brought me yet another opportunity to minister to the youngsters of my church. It was my turn to present the “Children’s Sermon” part of our Sunday morning worship service. After some prayerful consideration I decided that the storms that came through Kentucky this past week was perfect opportunity to teach the children about trust and God’s protection.  

With the help of a spray bottle filled with water, a turbo fan, and Pastor Mark, our associate pastor, I reminded the children that Jesus once calmed a storm. He did it with just 3 words, “Peace be still.” I assured them that in the future when they are scared because of the storms they can put their hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea.

On Sunday afternoon I went with my son, James to see the movie, “Act of Valor”.  
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this movie. I knew it was it was an action adventure based on true facts and using action sequences from real Navy Seal team operations. But other than that I really had no idea what the movie was about.

The film doesn’t have that great a plot but it does have lots of action. The footage of the Seals going into extremely volatile situations to rescue an CIA agent being held hostage, capture an arms dealer to gain vital intelligence, and finally to stop potential suicide bombers from entering the United States through Mexico.

While I do have to agree with most of the reviews I’ve read in admitting that the acting in this movie is not the best. But the reality that these are American servicemen being dispatched to remote places around the world doing what needs to be done to keep each of us safe and secure here at home.

These are the men who throughout the history of this great country have always been the true American heroes.

From the beginning you know that this story is being told through the vehicle of a letter being written to the son of a fallen soldier but that doesn’t take away from the intensity of the danger and risk these men are facing in the field of duty.

My emotional reaction to the last 5 minutes of this movie took me by surprise. I’ll admit to tearing up at the profound sense of grief and sadness as well as the ceremonial honor shown on screen.

Now the fact that I cried at a movie doesn’t surprise me. I mean I’ve done it before. But the nearly overwhelming sense of sorrow stayed with me even after I walked out of the theater. Even as I was getting into my car I was still a bit emotional. I don’t ever remember happening to me before.

While some critics may say that this movie is nothing but a recruiting film for the Navy Seals; I don’t see it this way. I see it as a very appropriate public portrayal of the actions of a group of a unique breed of men. Men, whose success depends a lot on their identities and activities remaining covert.  

I, for one, think the movie is a moving tribute to those Navy Seals whose names scroll across the screen just before the closing credits. This film is a cinematic memorial to those men who sacrificed their lives for their country. That is the ultimate “Act of Valor”.

So there you have the end of what was a very memorable week for me. Hope you enjoyed reading about it. Come back next time as I write about my recent realization that over the last 30 years I’ve been “jack of all trades”. At least “part-time.” See you then. 

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