Directly in front of me, feet were moving and heads were nodding.
Midways and towards the back of the dining room, I could see arms waving and hands clapping.
To my immediate right, a gentleman was singing – in his own way.
And so it was, with just the very first tune – “Proud Mary” – during today’s visit to Autumn Care of Portsmouth (Virginia), on behalf of Tidewater Arts Outreach (TAO). I was suddenly hoping I didn’t run out of steam before the 50-minute program was halfway over! Why? Because I was trying something new: singing songs. NEW songs.
Until today, my typical set was primarily instrumental, usually with programmed beats and sometimes with a friend playing bass guitar…a mix of danceable jazz & and old-school pop & R&B tunes. On this day, however, I vocally served up tunes like “Proud Mary,” “Bye Bye Blackbird,” “Singin’ In The Rain,” and a couple others while seated at my keyboard. I usually stand; this time, I sat down in a chair, and positioned myself to be closer – and more “as one” – with the audience. By singing and being closer, and sharing a story or two (like the one during “Singing In The Rain” where my wife and I walked home in the rain when our car broke down), my goal was to make a stronger and better impact.
In the mix I did a very impromptu call-and-response tune that really seemed to resonate with the audience…”It’s a beautiful day”…”I’m thankful today”…and the first three phrases from “Amazing Grace” over a chord change motif and melody line that I cannot remember now. I doubt it will ever be duplicated. That was THEIR song, in THAT moment.
I am always thankful when I am not alone and someone else is in the room assisting with the residents. There was a TAO volunteer and one of the facility’s staff there today who were so helpful in getting them engaged (if you’re reading this, “Thank you!!”).
After we almost “had church” with “When The Saints Go Marching In,” I ended the program with “I Can’t Help Falling In Love (With You).” The singing that filled the room was….wow.
As I was packing up, one gentleman rolled up to me. “Can we talk while you work?” he asked. I said, “Sure.” He shared with me some things about his life and today’s program that really touched me. I won’t tell it here…that was OUR moment.