Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Songwriters at Sparkytown

Sparkytown is the restaurant where we go for lunch after our writers group meetings. A short walk from our apartment, Sparky's place is a slice of Greenwich Village. Her sign says: the funky place to meet. That tells you almost everything, except how great the food is! Sparky is a gracious host, welcoming everyone with a smile and special touches. She makes a lucious apple crisp!

When asking Sparky's permission to hang up a poster about our upcoming poetry reading, I noticed a poster about a songwriters group that meets there on the first Tuesday of each month. After being told I could attend without having to contribute a song (since I can't carry a tune and play no instruments), I told Chris about it. We expected it to be similar to an event we attended at another local favorite place, The Red House, where songwriters sat around and talked with the audience about inspirations for their music.

The group at Sparky's was so much more. A dozen musicians playing various sized acoustic guitars...including something called a "strum stick" that we'd never seen before and I'd be willing to bet Chris is pricing on EBay today......various ages and skill levels, but all totally passionate about their songs. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that the informal leader of the group, Dana Cooke, is someone we've heard before; we own two of his CDs.

Each musician did a short introduction of the song they played. We were handed lyrics but told not to read them until after the singer had played the song (Dana actually "yelled" at me for looking at it before it was time....). Then they sat back for the critique.

And, was intense. Some of it was over my head: chord progressions and where the bridge worked best, etc. I was able to add comments related to lyrics, though. I had to swallow some guilt about doing so....since I had nothing of mine for them to judge.....but I convinced myself that, as an audience, my comments should be valid to them.

The energy of the evening mirrored that of our writing group: nervousness before it's your turn to share, the cold terror of that moment when no one says anything, the lively exchange of good suggestions, arguments and agreements. Add all the music composition stuff on top of critiquing meanings of was intense, that's the only word that adequately describes it. Again, in such a passionate way. Lots of laughter, too.

I was so impressed that they could do this....with us as spectators; they invited us back again, though. The dynamics of my writing group would shift dramatically if we had spectators....but readers are an audience, too. Maybe next month I'll invite the songwriters to drop in on one of our meetings.

My thoughts today are some you've heard before: follow your passions and surround yourself with others who follow theirs. I tossed and turned most of the night, wanting to get up and write a dozen poems; that's how the group inspired me. We have the same fears and challenges. I found myself nodding when someone said, "I get hung up on one word....finding the exact word I want...." They were great. I learned a ton. And I was thinking, athletes cross train....why shouldn't artists?

If you're one of my neighbors reading this.....drop by Sparky's and listen and learn. You won't be disappointed (even the songs that weren't as good as others were still good). Next session is Election Day....6:30 pm until whenever. We all agreed to still meet, save us the aggravation of watching early returns..........