Storyhill with Bella and Marrisa opening – 03/24/12
Freespirit Concert Series – Coconut Creek, FL
Sometimes it’s all about being in the right place at the right time. If so, then last night was the right place and time to be at a house concert. Most notably, this was Chrystal Hartigan’s debut of her Freespirit Concert series, and given the smashing job she’s done with her monthly songwriters showcase at the Broward Center For The Performing Arts (www.chrystalhartiganpresents.com), it’s natural she should do so. And to start things off right, she picked the perfect setting for this venture: the home of international concert pianist and composer Koreen Kawalec. With amplification supplied and engineered by master sound technician Chris Koloian, and a nearly one thousand square foot performance room with a twenty five foot ceiling and balustrade enclosed second floor mezzanine atop a sculpted staircase, last night was feast for both one’s eyes and ears.
Now the Kawalec’s are in some ways a modern-day Von Trapp family, with mother and children all having masterful music talent. Thus, they both opened and closed the evening, with daughter Bela (www.facebook.com/belasongs5) and her friend Marissa starting off. First singing two songs as a duo (Fell Out Of Love; Just Us Two), and then Bela performing two additional pieces solo (Your Midnight Is My 3:00 A.M.; Time), this teenaged pair thrilled the audience with their sophisticated harmonics and jazz-blues over-toned original works. Koreen then graciously closed the evening with a Mozart concerto that had we hills here in southern Florida, then they truly would have been filled with the sound of music. But the meat of the matter – and this musical feast – was what happened in between, and that was Storyhill (www.storyhill.com).
Just like Bela and Marissa, Chris Cunningham and John Hermanson have been performing since they were teenagers, sometimes separately, and other times as the duet Storyhill. The last time they appeared locally was during the 2008 South Florida Folk Festival, and while they’ve graced stages from here to Kerrville, and to their own Storyhill songwriter festivals in Montana and Minnesota, it was a privilege to see them in such a grand and intimate setting last night.
Using only sufficient amplification, sans techno-modulation, to fill nearly twenty-five thousand square feet with their glorious voices, Chris and John opened with Avalon, a piece so stunning you could imagine them performing Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells (1973, Virgin Records) a capella, that such a thing were possible. Continuing on through a fifteen song, two set show, they enticed the audience with songs about modern day inhabitants of Never Never Land (The Ballad of Joe Snowboard), of love blinded and dumb by the fear of commitment (Dangerous Weapon), and of our real lives that lie behind the whitewash of home movies (Getaway). Additionally, their play list included Town Talks with its hints of Memphis finger picking blues, Cover Your Tracks which eulogizes Henry Ibson’s A Doll House (1879, Royal Theatre, Copenhagen), and a tapestry of angelic harmonies in Fallen that would make Carol King rejoice.
This was a glorious house concert in a grand setting, and a great time was had by all. With wonderful performances by both the host family and Storyhill, one can only ask when and where are the next right time and place? I for one don’t know. Perhaps we should ask Chrystal and Koreen.