Two weeks ago the Wayback Machine took us to 2001 when Eberle & I collaborated with Judy Anderson & musicians Art Troutner, Barb Dixon & Lois Fry on the McCall-Donnelly drama troupe’s production of Antigone. The play was a success—in some ways, against all odds, because in retrospect I see that we were asking a huge amount of the students to carry this off. But they rose to the occasion: a big credit to them & to Judy. I’d like to think that the music inspired them some, too.
In spite of or because of this success, I had a reaction I’ve often experienced at the end of a big project—a big let down. However, I managed to come up with a solution for this bout of the blues—don’t recall the details, but after some discussion with Eberle, we decided it would be fun to re-form the “Antigone” band as an ongoing group, with the addition of one of the students from the Antigone production, Kati Sheldon, as the singer.
In fact, everyone agreed to this arrangement, & the Alice in Wonder Band was born. Actually, tho, the band didn’t have a name for quite some time—we just couldn’t get consensus on one. There were several proposals, including:
The Wampus Cats
The Wrong Trousers
The Penny Ante 6
The Madrigal Scientists
The Charlotte Corday Jazz Band [this was one of Eberle’s contributions!]
It actually wasn’t until the band’s first gig in July '02 that the band had a name. The person designing the poster for the McCall Folk Festival called to ask what name to put on the poster. Eberle & I made an executive decision & said we were the Alice in Wonder Band, a name Eberle had used when she & Lois & I played music for the McCall-Donnelly production of Alice in Wonderland in ’98. Fortunately, the rest of the band liked it.
You may have noticed that one of the band names (The Penny Ante 6) mentions a sextet, but if your math skills are up to snuff you’ll recall there were only five musicians to begin with. But as it turns out, Lois introduced us to her friend, singer Deadre Chase, a few months down the line, & from that point on we had the very happy dilemma of counting two extremely good singers as band members. Deadre’s role was smaller the first year, but she later became the real front woman for the band. Also, her rendition of Eberle’s composition “The Once in a Blue Moon Waltz” at the Alpine Playhouse show in September was one of the show’s real highlights.
Knowing what I know now, I’d have done a lot of things differently, but we didn’t know any better at the time. By the time of the Alpine show, we had a good repertoire of over 20 songs—mostly originals by Eberle, but a few diverse cover tunes: the hot jazz number “The Jazz Me Blues”; an Mbuti song called “Lukembe”; & Tom Waits’ “The Last Rose of Summer.” But the time we put into rehearsal (weekly, at McCall’s Idaho Academy of Music—and the rehearsals often were marathons) really should have been balanced with more performances (Lois: if you read this—you were right on that score!) That first year we played at the Folk Festival & the Alpine Playhouse, & that was it. The McCall Folk Festival (held in Roseberry, a restored “ghost town” south of Donnelly) was a bit nerve-wracking—our first show, & we played during a windstorm so fierce that it blew over my electric guitar on its stand three times & sent music stands flying (one note: these days I don’t play with music & I REALLY don’t miss music stands). The Alpine Playhouse performance on the other hand was really a rousing success. The crowd was pretty much unbelievable, right from the get-go & continued to be in a kind of electrifyingly supportive mood right thru two sets of music.
I’ve included a slideshow with more images from that first Alpine show; all of the pix in the slideshow were taken by Tim Hohs except for the first photo, which was taken by Michael Richardson. The song is our version of “The Owl & the Pussycat”; Eberle set Edward Lear’s words to a mellow Brazilian background, & she & I played “dueling ukes” center stage next to our singer Kati Sheldon. Eberle wrote the melody specifically to show off Kati’s spectacular vocal range—& remember, folks, she was singing unamplified at this show! There’s a very slight recording error at around 4:15 of the clip—this error is in the original Sony minidiskrecording—sounds like a small skip on an lp. But that aside, hope you enjoy it.
& stay tuned: we’ll be back later this month with more musical history!
Pix from Top
The McCall Folk Festival 02
The Alice in Wonder Band: from left: Kati Sheldon, Deadre Chase, yours truly, Eberle, Lois Fry, Barb Dixon & Art Troutner
Another shot from the Folk Festival - Deadre & Kati duet on Eberle's song Crocuses
Deadre during her Once in a Blue Moon Waltz performance at the Alpine
Lois, Eberle & I at the Alpine
We had a blast & the crowd did too!
(first three pix by Michael Richardson, last three by Tim Hohs)