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Chris Marston: Perspectives on music

Although a child of the ’70s, my parents did not subject me to the music revolution of the ’60s. God love them, but hippies they are not. Rather than Janis Joplin, I listened to Karen Carpenter. In lieu of The Beatles, I listened to the Statler Brothers. I got doses of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, but they were both diluted and diffused with copious amounts of Patsy Cline and The Osmonds. I got to know Aerosmith, the Allman Brothers and AC/DC later, but never was exposed to them as a child. That time was reserved for Anne Murray and Tom T Hall.

As an elementary and high school student, I was subjected to other various musical groups and genres through church, band, chorus and boy scouts.  I was touched by barbershop quartets as much as I was drum and bugle corps – by Motown as much as Nashville – by violin concertos as much as fiddle hoe-downs.

I have grown to see countless groups in concerts.  Bette Midler, Bon Jovi, Guns & Roses, Travis Tritt, Reba McEntire, Poison, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Hank Williams (both father and son), Metallica, Tim McGraw, Barbra Streisand, Motley Crue, and many others.  I was even fortunate enough to be living in Charlottesville when a little-known entity robbed Boyd Tinsley from my favorite local band and took him to the big time … and I got to see them before the Dave Mathews Band became what they are today. And I would be a fool to not mention my many Mecca-like voyages to see the Grateful Dead and Jimmy Buffett.

There were but a select few acts that remain on my bucket list of music experiences.  I want to see the Harlem Boys choir in person as well as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. However July 6, 2012 will go down as the day I got to scratch a huge item off my list.

I never thought in a million years that I would be able to leave my house in Luray at 6 p.m., travel no more than a mile, and see true kings of the early 1960s folk/bohemian/beatnik scene from San Francisco. David Nelson shared the stage with Jerry Garcia before there was a Grateful Dead. To see him perform for this “deadhead” would have been experience enough, but I got to add Buddy Cage to the my experience. Wow, what a bonus. Throw in Michael Falzarano, Ronnie Penque and Johnny Markowski, and I got to experience the whole New Riders of the Purple Sage and their legendary Ultra-Cosmic country-rock sound. Almost three full hours with a couple hundred other fans complete with an awesome show-ending encore of the hippie anthem, “Ripple.”

And there I was last night sitting quietly with my wife. We shared a table with some friends and their friends amongst the young and the aged. Sharing the experience with us were children of the ’60s with youngsters from the ’90s.  Business owners and the unemployed alike … white, black, Asian, Indian … Christians, Jews, Catholics, Hindu and agnostics … Republicans (although admittedly there were very few) and Democrats … all sharing an evening together.

The room was hot with the heat of the season as well as the riffs of the band. Just sitting still would make you sweat. But it stopped very few from bouncing to the sounds of the music, enjoying a night away from their usual daily grind.

In somewhat of an epiphany, I woke from a sound sleep this morning. It was earlier than I usually get out of bed on a day off – but this sudden insight into the reality or essential meaning of something was waiting for no one on this morning.

Music, as Richard Dreyfuss put it, while portraying a high-school music teacher in “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” is supposed to be fun. It’s about heart; it’s about feelings, moving people, and something beautiful.”

Whether it is in some religious hymn or heavy metal, country or rock, Motown or Dixie, rap or Sousa march, whether it is in some church anthem or opera aria, big band or Dixie jazz, Negro spiritual or Broadway show tune, take some time today and every day and fill just a minute of your day with music.

Music is fun. It is about heart. It is about feelings. It does move people. It is simply something beautiful. It is more than “notes on a page,” as Dreyfuss’s character put it. You can teach notes on a page. You can’t teach the other stuff.

Jerry Garcia captured the sentiment best in the opening stanza of last night’s encore by the New Riders of the Purple Sage.

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice come through the music?
Would you hold it near, as it were your own?

It’s a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken
Perhaps they’re better left unsung
I don’t know, don’t really care
Let there be songs to fill the air

Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow

Chris Marston is the editor of www.LurayPageFreePress.com.


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