Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Little Lame Boy

Halloween season is upon us. It's time to take out all of those great scary stories and songs that don't get near enough exercise all year long.
I love all those fun kooky-spooky stories that don't scare the kids too much, and they get a great work out this tme of year, but it's not often I get to bring out the really scary stories, the blood curdling stuff that earns me a reputation for being too scary.
These are the stories I spend a great deal of time crafting, working up language and imagery, making complex stories with moral ambiguity and adult themes. Unfortunately these stories only get used once every year or two, which is dissappointing when you consider how great they are.

This year I've got a couple of hours-long, adults-only gigs, perfect opportunities to bring out the best of the best. One of my favorite Halloween stories is Pie, the Piper of Out Est Fromage.

Being a musician, I like to tell stories that have a musical component, and a couple of years ago I was looking through a book of musical stories to find some to add to be repetory, and for the first time ever I read The Pied Piper of Hamelin.
I knew the story from cartoons and such, but I had never read it. I liked the story, it had a great musical component so I started to research it - I had absolutely no idea that the story was true!
It blew me away, I devoured eveything I could find on the subject.

My favorite character in the story is the Little Lame Boy. The Little Lame Boy (sometimes the Little Blind Boy) was added by the Grimms. When all the children are taken away by the Piper he can't keep up and is distressed that he doesn't get to go with them.
When the adults ask where they went, the Little Lame Boy is crying, distraught, "Didn't you hear the music, he was taking them away to a magical land of enternal playtime, candy and soda pop!"
In my opinion they were going to Pleasure Island and the Little Lame Boy was lucky to stay behind, but I can imagine this character, growing up in a medieval mill town, unable to work, he becomes a beggar, a raging alcoholic, forever plagued by what he missed. He begs for money, which he uses to buy cheese. The cheese he spreads throughout the town hoping to attract rats so that the Piper will return and take him away.

I decided to learn the story but I needed the right music. I have a recorder, and I figured I needed two songs, one in a major key, for the rats, and one in a minor key, for the kids. I don't really play the recorder very well, and I couldn't come up with two songs that worked the way I wanted, but I do play harmonica, and I had two perfect jazz songs, one in a major key: When the Saints Go Marching In, and one in minor key: Saint James Infirmary Blues.
But they're jazz songs, on a harmonica, they didn't fit the story. So, somehow I decided it would be easier to re-write the entire story around the music then to find music to fit the story. And in the process I turned a Grimm "Fairy Tale" into one of my favorite Halloween stories.

I haven't told the story in two years, but I practiced it up today and it's as good as ever, I can't wait for Halloween time!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

End of the campfire season

Last night was the annual Hobo Campfire at Old Poway Park. I do campfires all summer long, at various venues, but the Hobo Campfire is the biggest and usually marks the end of the campfire season.
Through out the season I'm usually a solo, telling stories, leading sing-along songs and teaching a little astronomy, but at the Hobo Campfire I have a band of some of the best musicians you could ask for and it's a huge campfire extravaganza.

This year the show was the best it's ever been, so many people come back year after year. This year I had gotten a great deal of MC experience at other events, plus I learned to make the fire with a flint and steel which has been met with great applause at fires all summer long, and although we didn't get a chance to do a formal practice, I was able to provide the guys with recordings and music to practice up on (I'm not as good as they are, so the songs I play are usually pretty easy for them). The show was so good people were clambering for an encore, and of course we obliged.

When I shower the morning after a campfire, the scent of the smoke comes out of my hair and it brings back all the great memories of the night before, and all the fantastic times I've had at campfires all over the county, and to top off the season with a night like last night, where we absolutely nailed it with the biggest campfire show ever, it's just makes that smokey smell all the more sweet.

Here's a picture from 2010: