Monday, November 27, 2017

A Christmas Memory/Winter Song—Portland Center Stage at The Armory—Pearl District

Sweet Songs of Yesteryear

This poignant duo is directed by Brandon Woolley, with music direction and pianist, Mont Chris Hubbard.  The first piece is a monologue by Truman Capote and delivered by Leif Norby and the second one is conceived by Woolley and Merideth Kaye Clark and performed by Clark and Norby.  It is playing at their space, 128 NW 11th Ave. (parking is a challenge in this area, so plan your time accordingly), through December 31st.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-445-3700.

Memories can be funny things…they are fleeting…and yet, some stick in your mind, like honey to Pooh’s tongue.  Holidays are an especially vulnerable time of year for such lingering moments.  Why reminisce nostalgic at these specific avenues of thought?  Possibly because they should evoke joyous segments that “dance in your head,” so that you can navigate through the more turbulent times we live in now.  They remind us of what was, and can be again, if we just try harder…if we believe…if we clap our hands together so that Tinkerbelle might live!  Those are the times of Hope.

Capote’s story reminds me so much of Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales;” Earl Hammer Jr.’s of the 30’s & 40’s in the hill country of Virginia in “the Homecoming” stories; and of my favorite Ray Bradbury book, “Dandelion Wine,” of a magic summer of the 20’s in Greentown, Illinois.  It is interesting that they, like Capote’s story, wax nostalgic with me, although they have little semblance to my own actual memories.  Maybe because these are the times we wish we had experienced.  The only specific relationship to my own musings, from those forgotten fields of yore, are lying on a snowy hillside in back of my grand-parents house as a young child, and watching distant trains go by in the valley and contemplating of who these people might be, that I saw fleetingly through the compartmentalized windows, and imagining their lives.  I know then my writer’s Muse was born.

Did such a thing happen with Capote, too?  Perhaps.  His memory as a child of about seven, living with a female cousin in her sixties, in a rural house during the early parts of the 1900’s, spurned this bitter-sweet tale, all beautifully narrated by Norby.  It is a story of making fruitcakes, with real whiskey, and picking the pecans yourself, buried under dying leaves and frost, from a neighbor’s grove and sharing them with relative strangers.  It is musings about Queenie, her dog, who would have to sample all the morsels morals ate, and drank.  It is about a passion for kite-flying, with entities that reached up and kissed the accepting clouds.  It is about lying in the country grass at night, fresh with Nature’s smells, and gazing at the stars, and dreaming.  It is about a boy narrating the tales of recent movies to an old friend, who would rather hear this child tell about the films than see them for herself.  It is a story of…being alive!

The second half the show consists of songs around the holidays, full of jazz, ballads, pop, classical and folk selections.  I can’t tell you what songs, as the program didn’t have them listed for some reason, but they were all very well presented by Norby and specifically, Clark, who has a voice that could raise the roof on the theatre, especially when she belts one out, or could lull you into a pleasant slumber, both amply accompanied by Hubbard.  They also took requests for winter/holiday memories from the audience, which was a real crowd-pleaser, and they all deserved and got a standing ovation by the end.  Woolley, Clark, Hubbard and Norby have put together a real treat for you for the holidays and I recommend these productions.  If you do choose to see them, please tell them Dennis sent you.


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