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Archive for the ‘Caroline Preston’ Category

SOUNDTRACK. COME FROM AWAY: Tiny Desk Concert #889 (September 11, 2019).

When I first heard about story of Come From Away, I was intrigued.  Could you make a musical–a musical–about the events of September 11, 2001?

At the end of this performance, the narrator says that this is really a story about September 12, 2001.  And that is true.  And the story is powerful and fascinating and really really interesting.  And yes, the music is fantastic.

So is this story about the attacks?  No.  The story is set

In the aftermath of the Sep. 11 attacks, 38 planes carrying thousands of passengers were grounded in remote Gander, Newfoundland in Canada for five days. The creators of Come From Away traveled to Gander 10 years later and collected the tales that make up the musical.

In Gander there’s an expression that, if you’re visiting, you’ve “come from away.” The people of Gander took in the come-from-aways, and their stories have resonated with audiences worldwide. The Broadway cast recently celebrated 1,000 performances and there are simultaneous productions running in London, Toronto, Melbourne and a national tour.

I listened to the soundtrack when it was streaming on NPR.  I was able to get through about half of it–the songs were great and the kindness shown was incredible.  I have yet to hear the end and I sort of imagine I might try to see the performance someday.  So for now, I’ll just enjoy these excerpts.

Sixteen performers from the Broadway production of Come From Away recently climbed out of a chartered bus in front of NPR and crammed behind Bob Boilen’s desk. They condensed their nearly two-hour show about the days following 9/11 into a relatively tiny 17 minutes. By the end of the diminutive set, there were more than a few tears shed.

In the show, the songs have full orchestration.  But here, the songs are played with great Irish instrumentation: keys, accordion (Chris Ranney); fiddle, fiddle in Gb; (Caitlin Warbelow); high whistles, low whistles, flute (Ben Power); bodhran, cajon (Romano DiNillo) and acoustic guitar (Alec Berlin:)

I don’t know who the lead vocalists are.  But two women take the majority of the songs.  And one of the men narrates the truncated version of the story.  The vocalists here include:

Petrina Bromley; Holly Ann Butler; Geno Carr; De’Lon Grant; Joel Hatch; Chad Kimball; Kevin McAllister; Happy McPartlin; Julie Reiber; Astrid Van Wieren and Jim Walton.

They sing five tracks:

“28 Hours/Wherever We Are” sets the stage–people were on the planes for 28 hours–just imagine that.

“I Am Here” is wonderful. The way the singer has to interrupt herself as if she were on a phone call–it’s a great performance.

“Me and the Sky” is based on an interview with Beverly Bass the first female pilot for American Airlines.  She was flying from Dallas to Paris when she was grounded.  It’s an amazingly personal story–I’ll bet she loves it.

“Something’s Missing” is a song I hadn’t heard before. It’s amazingly powerful–the reactions of people who returned to New York and New Jersey to see what they didn’t know anything about–and to see what’s left.  The most incredible line:

I go down to Ground Zero which… its like the end of the world.  It’s literally still burning.  My dad asks were you okay when you were stranded?  How do I tell him I wasn’t just okay. I was so much better.

They end with the uplifting “Finale.”

As one of the actors explains, “The story we tell is not a 9/11 story, it’s a 9/12 story. It’s a story about the power of kindness in response to a terrible event, and how we can each live, leading with kindness.”

This is a great tribute to not only Gander, but also to the victims of the attacks.

[READ: June 20, 2019] The War Bride’s Scrapbook 

Seven years ago, Caroline Preston created The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt.

I summarized it:

it’s a biography of a lady named Frankie Pratt from the ten or so years after she gets out of high school.  She went to high school in Cornish, New Hampshire in the early 1920s; that’s when this scrapbook starts.  Over the decade, Frankie goes to college, gets a job in New York City, travels to Paris and then returns home.  That is the basic plot, but that simple summary does a grave, grave injustice to this book.

For Preston has created a wondrous scrapbook.  Each page has several images of vintage cutouts which not only accentuate the scene, they often move the action along.  It feels like a genuine scrapbook of a young romantic girl in the 1920s.

For this book, take that premise and move it forward twenty years.

This is the scrapbook of a woman, Lila Jerome, who was a bit of a wallflower, who then married a soldier just before he went off to World War II.  The book is structured in four parts: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ISOBEL CAMPBELL & MARK LANEGAN-Sunday at Devil Dirt (2010).

Sarah bought this disc for me for my birthday a few years ago.  I had a hard time getting into it even thought it was supposed to be amazing.  It turns out that it is amazing, but only when I’m in the right mood.

The is a disc of slow, moody songs.  The closest comparison I can think of is Leonard Cohen (even though all of the songs are actually written by Isolbel Campbell)–this disc is at times more and at times less ponderous than Cohen.

The main reason I couldn’t get into it is because the first two songs are really really slow.  “The Seafaring Song” is almost comically slow–as slow as Lanegan’s voice is deep.  And yet there is a very nice melody (and beautiful accompaniment from Campbell).  “The Raven” sounds like an old Western movie.  Indeed, a lot of the disc sounds like an old Western.

“Salvation” introduces the first real up-front melody. “Back Burner” has a very old school chanting chorus which is quite a change for this album (although at 7 minutes, it does drag a bit).

“Who Built the Road” is very much like a Leonard Cohen duet (especially the La la part) while “Come On Over (Turn Me On)” is like a sexy Serge Gainsbourg duet (the album really picks up around here).  “Shotgun Blues” is a big sexy blues (surprising for Campbell who sings lead) while “Keep Me in Mind, Sweetheart” is a country-style ballad.

By the time that “Sally, Don’t You Cry” comes on, I find that I have more or less had enough of the disc.  But that is the last official song.  My copy has five bonus tracks after two minutes of silence. But the bonus songs mix things up a bit more.  “Fight Fire with Fire” is a jaunty piano based song (although it’s still pretty slow-paced).  It’s funny to hear them talking about AC/DC albums in this slow piano song.

“Violin Tango” is just what the title says while “Rambling Rose, Clinging Vine” is probably the most upbeat song on the disc. Finally “Hang On” feels the most like a song from her old band Belle and Sebastian (by way of The Velvet Underground).  It’s also the only one she sings solo.

So yes, I do like this album quite a lot. Lanegan is a perfect foil for Campbell’s sweet voice and songwriting. They made another disc together, maybe I’ll get that in another couple of years, too.

[READ: February 5, 2012] The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt

This was a wonderful book that Sarah brought home and told me I had to read.  And I’m so glad I did.

The Scrapbook is a very simple story–it’s a biography of a lady named Frankie Pratt from the ten or so years after she gets out of high school.  She went to high school in Cornish, New Hampshire in the early 1920s; that’s when this scrapbook starts.  Over the decade, Frankie goes to college, gets a job in New York City, travels to Paris and then returns home.  That is the basic plot, but that simple summary does a grave, grave injustice to this book.

For Preston has created a wondrous scrapbook.  Each page has several images of vintage cutouts which not only accentuate the scene, they often move the action along.  It feels like a genuine scrapbook of a young romantic girl in the 1920s.

Check out the picture on the right.  Every page is like that–full of old photographs or ticket stubs, candy wrappers or advertisements.  And a few words here and there that Frankie has typed to move the story along.  It is a wondrous trip down vintage lane.

Now, as I said, the story is pretty simple (but it is befitting a scrapbook).  It showcases the highlights of Frankie Pratt’s life.  How she meets a man who wines her and dines her and treats her fine, until he reveals a shocking secret.  How she got out of Cornish, New Hampshire and went to Vassar (I admit I found this first section a little slow, but I was so absorbed in the look of the book that I didn’t really mind).

Once she gets to Vassar though, things are much more interesting because Frankie, small town girl with no money, is introduced to the rich sophisticates who attend Vassar–New York and Boston socialites.  She even rooms with one woman (who sends her down a path of debauchery and potential loss of scholarship).

Frankie longs  to be a writer, and she heads to New York to work on a magazine.  There she meets a man who wines her and dines her and treats her fine, until he reveals a shocking secret. (more…)

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