Tuesday, August 20, 2019

I have spent my entire life as a lover of music, both as a performer in the past, as someone who enjoys listening to good music of all genres and now as someone who loves to photograph the musicians and other performers who play to and entertain the crowd.  But there is much more to this than just the performers.  What about those who work behind the scenes and those who introduce the performers to the audience, and lastly, what about an audience, without which the music would be just another time for the musicians to jam together and practice what they love doing the most.

What would music be without the MC for the evening... introducing each performer or group of at the nights comes alive with the sounds that stir our souls.

MC Introducing the Performers at Gordie’s Wang Dang Doodle Extravaganza Open Mic

At any concert, private musical performance or festival, you always have to have an MC who introduces the performers and keeps the music flowing perfectly during the entire time that the musicians and other performers are entertaining the audience.  Without this person, there would be utter chaos and no one would know when it was their turn to play to the crowd.  Every MC that I have heard in my life has a certain “je ne sais quoi” or in plain english, something distinctive or attractive that draws the audience and performers both to them.  One of the best I know is the vivacious MC from Gordie’s Coffee House in Winnipeg.

The Sound Man works quietly behind the scenes, bringing everything to life and making sure the music is an enjoyable listening experience for all.

Sound Man Bringing it all Together

Long before the musicians and other performers take to the stage to play for us, the sound person is present, setting up the equipment and making sure that everything is working as it should be.  We often forget about this unsung hero of every performance we go to, but without him or her making sure that everything works properly we would not be able to enjoy the performance that we take for granted.  And while the performers are entertaining us, this sound person has to be ever present in the background, taking control of the different mics, speakers and running it all through the sound board ensuring that we the audience have a great listening experience.

The emotion that is felt by the audience is directly related to the expression on the singer's face.

Emotions of a Singer Show in the Expressions on His Face

At every performance, concert or festival I have ever been to, I am totally mesmerized by the emotional expression that I see on the face of each singer or performer who is entertaining at that moment in time.  I don’t know about you, but I can actually feel this emotion deep inside my soul and have a better understanding of what the song is all about.  With my decreased hearing, I don’t always hear what’s being sung, but it doesn’t matter, because the emotions that I feel, give me a better understanding of what the song may be about than any words can ever say.  So the next time you go to listen to a musician or band, try listening with your eyes and your soul and see how much more you take away from this performance.

The sound of the banjo, gets the audience tapping their toes to the music.

Nothing Gets Your Toes Tapping like a Banjo

Not every band or performance has a banjo player, but any bluegrass concerts that I’ve been to sure do have them, and many other bands today include these musicians in their lineup along with other non traditional rock and roll instruments, like violins, bassists, etc.  A good banjo player gets the audience hopping like no one else who is performing and if you watch the audience as I often do while photographing them, you can see toes tapping, hands drumming and whole bodies bouncing around in their seats or dancing around in the aisles, while the banjo player performs for them. 

The Basist adds soul to the music and gives all he has, while working with the drummer to keep the beat of the music alive in all of us.

Bassist Grooving to the Beat at the Winnipeg Jazz Festival

And speaking of non traditional instruments, I have seen and heard more full sized basses being played on stage recently than in times past.  I used to see them solely at Symphony concerts or as part of a Jazz Ensemble, but now I have had the pleasure of seeing them as part of various bands and accompanying many solo performers.  As part of a Rock Band the Bassist, works with the Drummer, giving him that deep base that we all love to hear, which in turn helps the drummer stay on track to give a full tempo for the rest of the band to play to.  So you tell me, is a bass player a percussion instrument or what?  I know how I feel about this, but have you ever thought of it this way?  Well now I’ve got you thinking and obviously have done my job well. 

The Saxaphonist keeps everyone on the edge of their seats as he performs for the crowd.

Sax Player at the Winnipeg Reggae Festival

As a former Saxophone Player, and yes I played one of these in a band in my younger days, I have a love of all things Saxophone, with my favourite being a Baritone Sax.  There is nothing like the sexy sounds or often mournful wail of a Sax, to bring the music deep into your soul and allow you to close your eyes and put yourself into the music that is being performed by the Sax Player.  You can hear and feel every single note from the top of your head down to the tip of your toes, as the Sax Player reaches for those high notes and then quickly changes down an octave or two to reach those bone crunching low notes, taking you on a trip to places you may have never been before.  Who needs drugs when you’ve got a Sax being played by a professional who knows his stuff? 

As the Drummer plays his Kit, he gives the rest of the musicians a beat to play to, ensuring that everyone is in perfect synch.

The Drummer Keeping the Beat for the rest of the Band

Drums may not be a part of every performer, entertainer or solo singer, but they sure are a part of any Rock Band that I’ve ever been a part of.  I always tell people I was born a drummer and have been playing drums all of my life, trading in my full set of traps a number of years ago for various hand drums that keeps on growing as the years pass by.  My latest addition is called an Ngoma, which is like carrying around a small tree, but has the best sound of any of my other hand drums.  Some say that it is the sole job of the drummer in a band to keep the beat for the rest of the band and keep them on track, but I don’t quite agree with this.  In part this is correct, but the drummer has to take his cadence from somewhere and this is why I always say that the Bass Guitar is a percussion instrument, because that is where the drummer turns to get his initial beat and set the tempo for the band.  Agree of don’t agree, that’s up to you and who am I to tell you how to enjoy your music or what you think about it?

Music without an audience is like fishing without any bait, and the look on this man's face says it all.

A Member of the Audience Enjoying the Music

What would a performance be without an audience, and preferably one that is active and enjoying what they are listening to.  Without an audience, for a musician it would be just another solo practice or jam for a band, in order for them to perfect what they do best.  With an audience, a singer, a band, a musician all perform better and even though they may get those nervous “Butterflies” right before going on stage, an audience always sees them performing better and playing to the house.  The more excited or exuberant the audience is, the more raucous the audience is, the more the musicians perform to their very highest quality and engage the audience as they become a single unit of musician and audience enjoying one another in a way that non music lovers will never understand.

So that’s my take on the many faces of music and I hope my audience has enjoyed this blog as much as I have enjoyed writing it.  As you my listening audience read my blogs on music, photography and writing; along with the odd rant about life, I will keep coming back to give you more. 

Until next time… Smile