Friday, July 17, 2015

Tom Shamelessly Promotes his December 10 (yes, DECEMBER 10th!) Concert at the NAC 4th Stage in Ottawa

Occasionally I am a bit late in posting news about upcoming performances.  I apologize for this tardiness and am doing my best to improve...   People tell me “with a little more notice, we  might have been able to attend!”  Well, get out your calendars, friends:  here is the first official announcement of my concert scheduled for  December 10th, 2015.  I have booked the room, forked over the down payment, and secured the collaboration of some extremely talented musicians to help me out. Now all I need to do (besides rehearsing) is sell the tickets!

This is also going to be a belated launch (or perhaps an anniversary celebration!) for my new CD, “The Devil’s Day Off.” This delightful product came off the presses last December, but for various reasons organizing a timely launch concert proved too much for yours truly.  As a result, I have been quietly selling the “unlaunched” CD as opportunities arise, but it hasn’t yet had the party it deserves. 

So I’m not saying you need to wait until December to buy your copy, but that will be a very convenient time to purchase copies for, say, Christmas gifts.  Just sayin’... And whether you already have your copy or not, it would be great to see you at the celebration!

Tickets are $20, and they will go on sale at the NAC Box Office on October 1st.  (But if you are really keen, you can get a ticket direct from me before then.)  More details to come!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Song Talk #2: The Polka Of Death

In the words of Monty Python, “...and now for something completely different!”

"The Polka Of Death" is one of my favourite songs, for a variety of reasons, beginning with the title.  The song had a peculiar genesis, but now that I think of it, the process was not so different from the process that led to “The Far Saskatchewan”: in both cases a single phrase started the wheels turning.  Somewhere I encountered the sentence fragment “Every one is equal ...”  and of course I mentally completed it in all the more conventional ways: “Every one is equal before the law. Everyone is equal in the sight of God.”  But then another insight popped into my mind, from wherever these things come from.  Everyone is equal the Polka Of Death.  Of course! It’s beautiful because it’s true. 

Throughout the ages, humans have speculated about what may happen after death. Often these speculations have featured music – the harp, the lyre, choirs of angels.  But surely ethereal serenity is not the whole story.  For truly cosmic exuberance – for an afterlife with some pizazz – you can’t beat the polka. 

For death is not a lonesome vale 
where guilty souls are straying 
It's much more like the Sunset Lounge
And Lawrence Welk is playing!

I had a lot of fun writing this song, imagining a gleeful postmortem party where everyone is a good dancer and no one lacks a partner; where the dear departed polka across the Universe and never get tired.

Accordions and clarinets will sound the cosmic carol
While every spiral galaxy is rolling out the barrel!

If writing “The Polka Of Death” was fun, recording it was a blast.  Of course we had to have  accordion and clarinet, which the supremely gifted Alex Vlamis and Ian Babb supplied with gusto.  We sat around in James Stephens’ studio working out how many polka references and flourishes we could work in, and laughing ourselves silly.  Alex brilliantly (and impudently) transitioned from Bach  to Lawrence Welk in the accordion’s opening sally, and managed to integrate first Beethoven's Ode To Joy and eventually the Dies Irae with the Beer Barrel Polka-ish shenanigans. Ian’s clarinet playfully and brilliantly wove the whole thing into a magnificent polka layer cake.  I think I wept for joy.

Admittedly it’s not everyone’s idea of Heaven, but wouldn’t it great if it were one of the options?

But when at last you’ve passed away
Your soul will shine in gold lamé
You’ll hear the band begin to play

And tears will be forgotten

(from the CD “Practical Man”  – Mylodon Music)

(Piano & Accordion: Alex Vlamis; Clarinet: Ian Babb; Drums: Peter Von Althen; Electric Bass: James Stephens; Harmony Vocals: Alex Vlamis, James Stephens, Tom Lips)