Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Memorable Evening with Susan Werner

I’d long anticipated having Susan Werner in Springfield and Friday’s concert in the Studio Theatre more than fulfilled my expectations. The cabaret setting helped create an appropriate intimacy for the small and engaged audience.

Susan confided to Friday’s audience that she seems to have recently fallen into a pattern of working on “concept” projects, specifically citing her 2007 release, “The Gospel Truth”, hailed as quite possibly the “first agnostic gospel album.” I have been intrigued by this project since first hearing of it in 2007, and was delighted to hear her perform quite a few of the selections live on Friday night. One of my personal new favorites became “Sunday Morning,” a poignant memory of attending Sunday morning church services as a child.

In addition to selections from “The Gospel Truth,” we were also treated to selections from her new February release, “Classics,” which is a collection of new arrangements of pop songwriter tunes from the 1960s and 1970s. Additionally, Susan performed an assortment of comic songs that are quintessential to a Susan Werner concert, including “When They Make the Movie of My Life”:

When they make the movie of my life
I hope they get somebody beautiful to play me
Somebody eloquent and beautiful to play me
When they make the movie of my life

The song goes on to describe all the burdensome sacrifice of this life:

And everyone will see
How hard it's been for me
How much I've overcome
To be someone
Deserving of a motion picture

But the singer ultimately realizes that her life is no more special than anyone else’s and the song ends (humorously) as follows:

And everyone will see
My mediocrity
How I deserve to be
Forgotten just like everybody else
So please don't make a movie of my life
Don't make a musical or write me into fiction
I don't deserve any portrayal or depiction
Please just let me live my little
Very very very little

To add local flavor to the event, Susan and cellist Julia Biber added mention of Abe Lincoln and …yes…even Rod Blagojevich, creating a tongue-in-cheek “newly-commissioned” (that is to say, “made-up-on-the-spot”) modern musical piece about our fallen governor. Susan herself currently makes Chicago her home, so there is no doubt our capital city happenings are a little more familiar to her than they would be to an East or West Coast artist.

Susan’s closing piece in her encore was a touching song about her own experience in Chicago’s Grant Park on the night of the 2008 national election. I hope we hear more of this song; I doubt it has yet been recorded or released.

I have heard it said several times in recent years that one of the primary reasons many patrons choose to attend arts events is to spend time with people they care about. I attended Susan Werner’s concert with two close friends with whom I’ve enjoyed many “girls’ nights” over the past several years. Many of my memories of the evening will stem from our conversations before and after the concert and at intermission, yet the concert itself really framed the gathering and sparked much of that conversation.

Did you meet someone important in your life at an arts event? Have a particularly memorable date at an arts event with the person who eventually became your spouse? Did a performance you’d seen inspire a memorable discussion with a person you care about? Have you ever surprised someone important to you with tickets to an arts event? I think these are some of the most significant functions an arts event can serve for its patrons.

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