Open Mic, December 16, 2017
Beethoven and Christmas
"Tonight is an important night for musicians," said Arts Center president Ron Hackett, "because it happens to be Beethoven's birthday." The famous composer and pianist, Ludwig van Beethoven, was born is 1770, and he remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers.
The last show of 2017 started with recitations from host Taylor Hoch. She began with the opening soliloquy to Shakespeare's "Richard III" that included a brief explanation of the characters and the situation surrounding it. She followed that with Hamlet's speech to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern which is also from another Shakespeare play. In the spirit of the Christmas season, she finished with "A Visit from Saint Nicolas," which has been attributed to both Clement Moore and Henry Livingston, Jr.
Next, the audience welcomed newcomer Evelyn Warden to the stage. Warden began with "My Funny Valentine," a 1937 show tune by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Next she played "My Ship," from "Lady in the Dark" by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin, on her saxophone. She finished her introductory set with a bit of jazz improvisation.
Elliot from Petersburg, a regular at our shows, began his set with "Frosty the Snowman," a Christmas song written by Walter "Jack" Rollins and Steve Nelson and first recorded by Gene Autry and the Cass County Boys in 1950. Next he performed "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," a song by Johnny Marks that was based on the 1939 book published by the Montgomery Ward Company. Autry also made this song famous. Elliott finished with "I'm Gettin' Nuttin' for Christmas," a novelty Christmas song written by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett that became a hit in 1955.
Hackett's instrumental guitar set began with "Jingle Bell Rock," a song by Joseph Carleton Beal and James Ross Boothe that was first released by Bobby Helms in 1957. Next he performed "What Child is This," the Christmas version of an old English song named "Greensleeves." This song is often misattributed to King Henry the 8th, but it is written in an Italian style that didn't reach England until well after Henry's death. To finish his set, Hackett invited Elliott and Warden to join him for an impromptu rendition of "Winter Wonderland," written in 1934 by Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith.
Avant-garde songwriter Thunderbyrd Newman's set included three of his original songs that included "Play for Real," "Lucy," and "What Would Jesus Do?" His second song was written and named for his granddaughter.
The first encore typically goes to a newcomer, so Warden was invited back to the stage. After three quick tunes, Hackett and his guitar student Travis Leimer joined Warden for an impromptu jazz jam. They started with "All of Me," a jazz standard by Seymour Simons and Gerald Marks. Next, Warden and Leimer improvised melodies over a chord progression played by Hackett.
Hackett and Elliott started the last set of the night with a rousing version of "Jingle Bells," by James Lord Pierpont. It was published under the title "One Horse Open Sleigh" in 1857. Next they played "Lulu's Back in Town," a popular song written in 1935 by Al Dubin and Harry Warren. They finished the night with "Goodnight Irene," an American folk standard, written in 3/4 time. This song was first recorded by American blues musician Huddie 'Lead Belly' Ledbetter in 1933.
Photos courtesy of Ron Hackett