Monday, March 17, 1997

Concert Review: Greg Greenway and Lucy Kaplansky

Published in the Mountainview

The house was almost full at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Merchants' Row in Middlebury on Saturday night, March 8, for a folk music double-bill. Greg Greenway and Lucy Kaplansky shared the March installment of the After Dark Music Series, and provided excellent evening entertainment.

Greenway opened first, the result of his winning a backstage coin toss. Holding his guitar silently in front of him, he began the a capella opening of "A Road Worth Walking Down." After two verses, his guitar leaped to life for the remainder of the song. As promised in the introduction, the second song was a sing-along. It was "folk music with a groove," and the audience loved it.

His fourth song was "a sing along dedicated to people who hate to be asked to sing." called "Don't Make Me Sing," The audience sang along - though not everyone did - and laughed along with the reasons given for why the audience should not sing, and do the work of the performer on the stage.

Two other highlight songs were inspired by current events. The first was his own reaction to the firebombing of a Turkish family's house in Germany, called "Race is a Myth," a warning about the human tendency to react violently to fear and ignorance. The second, "Free at Last," was an expression of the energy Greenway felt in the crowd which welcomed Nelson Mandela to Boston when Mandela visited that city.

Greenway's fingering, strumming, and hammering on his guitar drew out more sounds from one instrument than most know exist. An excellent entertainer and comfortable with the audience, Greenway had the rare pleasure of doing an encore even before intermission!

Kaplansky took the stage after the break, and seemed intimidated by the crowd, which had responded enthusiastically to Greenway's performance. She sang a number of covers and took quite a bit of time finding a niche in the audience's hearts, a task she never fully accomplished. She sang a number of songs with dense and convoluted lyrics, though with exquisite vocal range and expression. (She sang the only song this reviewer has ever heard which used the word "renege" - "Don't Renege On Our Love.")

In addition to performing her own songs, Kaplansky covered songs by Paul McCartney, Richard Thompson, and her father. Irving Kaplansky wrote some songs front the 1930s through the 1950s, and his daughter shared two of them with the audience at the Knights of Columbus Hall. He wrote an intriguingly prescient love song about space in 1951, long before we knew much of anything about interplanetary space. Called "On an Asteroid With You," it was the song her father wrote for her mother on their honeymoon, and included references to the not-yet-invented spacesuit and weightlessness, which had not been discovered.

Most of her songs were about love and relationships, though she approached from different angles from song to song. Kaplansky's own background is tightly tied to the human experience and intensity of feeling. For ten years she was a clinical psychologist. Only a month ago she finally closed her practice and is singing and performing full-time again. She felt, after years of being a therapist and in therapy herself, that she was avoiding singing because she was scared of it. She has now "jumped off the cliff," as she puts it. Her encore was indicative of this: called "Still Life," it was about no longer running away.

The pair was an odd match, though each was an impressive performer individually. The audience enjoyed both performances, though Greenway was clearly better at working with the audience than Kaplansky.

The After Dark Music Series is sponsored by many local businesses, including Main Street Stationery, the Middlebury Inn, and Otter Creek Brewing. The April concerts will be the final ones of the 1996-1997 season, and will be Garnet Rogers at 8 pm on Friday, April 11, followed by Mustard's Retreat at 11 am on Saturday, April 12, both at the Knights of Columbus Hall. Tickets can be purchased at the Middlebury Inn or Main Street Stationery. The 1997-1998 season will begin in October.