Rockin' the Front Row! Play the Music Inside You!

Sean McCann at the Starlight in Waterloo, May 11, 2011

Jeremy Fisher, Sean McCann

Jeremy Fisher

Last night I sat at the front of the stage at a little table with a Guinness and a good friend and we watched Sean McCann and Jeremy Fisher perform.  Sean had a guitar and his bodhran.  Jeremy had his guitar and a harmonica.  That was it.  It was perfect.

For those who don't know, Sean is one third of the band Great Big Sea.  Back about 15 years ago I became a huge fan of GBS and travelled all over Ontario, into the US and even Newfoundland to see them play.  I spent all but one show in the front row(I was in second row for that one).  This was an entirely different thing though.  Sean is a folk musician and songwriter in his heart and the desperately wild shows of GBS back in those days consisted of long lines with no bathroom breaks and squished hands and feet, a little molestation by drunken concert goers and much frantic fun and excitement.

Last night we were in a line up of about 8 and only then because the doors were about to open.   My friend didn't want the front row but the table was open and, well, I'm a front row kind of gal!

It was amazing.  Because we were right at the stage it was easy to chat back and forth with the guys and Sean McCann was in the mood for conversation.  And since I rarely shut up it was a match made in heaven.  The highlight was when he asked if there were any Newfoundlanders and I spoke up yes. He was telling about where he came from and then asked where I was from.  When I said Change Islands his eyes softened and he said "Wow, gorgeous place, it's beautiful there" and he told the audience "she's from a much more beautiful place than I am" and I had to agree with him somewhat.  In my opinion, Change Islands is the most beautiful place on earth.

Lately I've been caught up in music a lot.  Live music.  I always have music playing.  And recently a few of my poems have been set to music, the first in February by my friend April Lindfors and then recently two more by Canadian folk musicians including well known Newfoundland entertainer, Terry Rielly.  Whether they will be recorded is yet to be seen but I love that my poetry is considered good enough to be made into a song and it's particularly gratifying since I have no particular musical skills at all.  I do have a deep love for music though, and I guess, being a poet, a great admiration for great songwriting specifically.

I've always been a small venue girl, preferring bars and pubs and outdoor festivals to theatre performances.  I've seen Jim Cuddy at the Horse Shoe in Toronto and enjoyed the intimacy of that and the opportunity to chat as well.  And oddly enough, seeing Sean all those years ago at all those shows, I never talked to him.  Last night it was like seeing an old friend and when I received a tweet from him this morning saying "Carolyn, thanks for rockin' the front row" I smiled, remembering all those long ago front rows I've rocked in the past! 

Songs are also like old friends.  I cannot hear Sweet Caroline without thinking of my friend Dona who sang it to me every time we saw each other after a separation.  Some people have many songs that remind me of them and give me a smile. Great Big Sea got me through some hard times and I can't hear their recording of "Lukey's Boat" without tapping my toes and smiling.  I think music is the human race's best gift.  Not everybody enjoys art or reading or hockey or any of the many other creative pursuits we all have inside but almost everybody loves music.  We may like different genres but we all love music. So many of the special times of our lives are bookmarked by the song that was playing at the moment.  So often songs transport us back to that place, that time, the emotion we were feeling while it played as a backdrop for whatever we were doing and whoever we were with.  It gets embedded like a gemstone in a special piece of jewelry that you take out and admire and wear, then tuck away until you're ready to remember again.

I remember once reading somewhere that we all have music inside us.  But in this quote it meant the music that we were meant to play in our lives. We are meant to do that thing that makes our heart dance and sing.  For me it's writing, for others it may be painting or sculpting or photography and, yes,  even actual music. 

I had a face book friend who used to spend his days and nights playing his guitar.  Last night his face book wall said "I can't believe I gave up playing guitar for years".  How many of us give up those things we love the most because, well we're grown up now and we  must be responsible.  No we don't have to quit our day jobs but we have to incorporate our passions into our lives.  Those who have a drawing in their heart must draw and those who have a book in their heart must write.  It is how we become satisfied.  It is our own personal song that we have to sing to be happy in this life.  Find your song and start to play it.  It's not about being good.  It's not about doing it so others can admire it.  It is to get the joy in the doing!

I'm finished with my musical excursions in Ontario for a while and in about six weeks I'll be leaving here.  My next big adventure will probably be the George Street Festival in St John's this summer.   Sean will be back with his band mates and Great Big Sea will perform.  It's been ten years since I've seen them live, an entire decade and I've missed them.  I'll be a resident then. 

Sean tweeted me this morning and said "It will be good to have you back home" and it sure will be good to be back.   I certainly looking forward to rockin' the front row  once again! 

Play the perfect music that's inside of you.  You were meant to sing your song and we were meant to applaud!
Carolyn R. Parsons