|Wintry tales from the road…and the birthday that kept on giving||3/4/2014
|February kicked off with the first of many celebrations honoring my birthday. It’s quite rare that I am home on my day, which made this one very special.
The morning of the 5th began with a 45-minute phone call from my sister in Paris. It was so much fun catching up and a perfect start to my big day. Her call was followed by a trail of warm wishes from friends on Facebook, a surprise gift card and call from my LA son and a wide variety of singing versions of “Happy Birthday” as the day unfolded.
Early that afternoon, when I arrived at Jim’s Cleveland base to rehearse for The Love Tour, he greeted me with a beautiful vase of flowers (still in bloom today!)! During rehearsal, we skyped with our new male vocalist, George Perris, who would be joining us for several shows. A lovely man with a beautiful voice, and a star in his native Greece—and in many corners of the world—George is trying to build a following here in the US. I was already convinced I would enjoy working with him.
But back to my birthday, right? That evening, my Bunko friends were waiting for me at Marion Steven’s charming home. Bunko just happened to fall on the day and what fun it was! Marion baked my favorite “candle cake” of all: a scrumptious German chocolate recipe that she made from scratch. It was incredible…and I also won most Bunkos—definitely on a birthday roll!
The following week, celebrations drew to a close with a lovely dinner at Cedar Creek Grill, courtesy of my sister, Wendy, and dear friends, Maureen and Kristy. A mysterious admirer surprised us with a round of drinks and we shared all kinds of wild conjectures about who it could be. As it turns out, Abe LaMarca (my good friend, co-writer and duet partner on “Rise and Shine”) was behind this charming gesture: He had called in his special order from the road and made the evening even more memorable!
In a different vein—and getting a head start on creating a Valentine mood, Ben Utecht and I delivered our “Two of Hearts” concert in New Bremen, OH on Friday the ninth. Ben and our pianist, Matt, had flown into Cleveland the day before, which we devoted to rehearsals.
On Sunday morning, the day of the show, another winter storm hit. Hard. Our three and one-half hour drive turned into nearly five, what with all the snow and the icy roads, but Ben drove the entire way like a real pro.
We were late for sound check but all went smoothly for the 4 PM show. We not only performed songs from our duet CD, as billed, but also included songs of our own. For me, that meant my originals "Make It Right" and "Rise and Shine." The folks of New Bremen were grand: in spite of the missing audience members and friends who couldn’t make it through the storm (we missed you!), we received a terrific reception, which made the grueling trip more than worthwhile.
We were on our way back to Cleveland by 6:30. I drove all the way home, but at this point the snow had ceased to fall and the roads were clear. It made for a very long day, but we heartily congratulated ourselves for a fine day’s work! And did I say it was great to see (and sing with) Ben again?
The following week, I was off to Cedar Rapids, for the first of nine shows on Jim’s Love Tour. Singer John Trones was on board with us that evening—old fans will recall seeing him perform when we toured on one of Jim’s first holiday tours. I love John, and this first audience was fabulous, which got our mini tour off to a great start.
But before going on stage that night, we were told that, due to the umpteenth snow storm this winter, our flight to Roanoke, via Atlanta the next day (Valentine’s Day - the biggest day of Jim’s concert year!) was CANCELLED. Tracy’s flight was also cancelled from Nashville, as were the flights from Cleveland, which were to bring our Tour Manager, Will, and Allison, our merchandise manager. Grim.
After endless discussions with our travel agent, it appeared that our only hope was to charter a plane. Will and Allison ended up driving the seven hours to Roanoke, and the following morning, Jim and I made the three-hour flight on a little prop plane. We missed Tracy, of course, but were so happy to have made it and to perform to such a wonderful crowd.
The next day, the weather was co-operating again: Jim, and I flew to Newark for our next show in Morristown, NJ, and Tracy’s flight was on schedule. We were also joined by George Perris, who drove over from Manhattan and who would be singing with us for the first time that evening.
After rehearsing for a couple of hours, the four of us were a team and ready for our performance at The Mayo Performing Arts Center, where the audience was simply fantastic. After the show, Jim, George and I made the drive to Waterbury, CT where we spent the night.
Waterbury is near Hartford, home to WRCH Radio, where Allan Camp and Joe Hann have been so supportive of Jim’s music—and of mine. In fact, I had a phone date with Greg Roche and his WRCH’s Smooth Jazz Brunch that morning, for an on-air interview. WRCH has been playing my new single, “Rise and Shine” in constant rotation and it means so much!
Incidentally, our matinee show at Waterbury’s The Palace was great fun, with an audience that was off the charts!
On a sad note, I received a call from Carol, my best friend from high school that same day. Her dear husband, Greg, had passed away during the night. On the list for a lung transplant, Greg had endured extensive testing the day before and suffered a heart attack hours later. He was a good friend of ours and I’m stunned by his loss. We feel very fortunate to have had a wonderful visit with him and Carol 10 days earlier. Please keep her and her boys in your thoughts.
I squeezed in a visit to Carol during my three days at home before taking off for Abilene, TX on Thursday the 20th. I started to feel run down that very morning, and progressively worse as the day went by. Fortunately, I was able to sing with Jim that night, and the audience was perfect. But I woke up the next morning with head congestion, an excruciatingly sore throat and headache. So that was what this was all about...and it did not look good.
As we flew over Dallas, on our way to Corpus Christi, I was able to get a three-day antibiotic called in from my doctor and started taking it that afternoon, on arrival. I tried to rest as much as I could and continued to drink plenty of liquids. That evening, miraculously, I was able to sing and the audience was FABULOUS. Two shows down and I was on the mend!
The next morning Jim and I flew to Houston, for two concerts at The Woodlands’ Dosey Doe Big Barn. Seating a few hundred, this venue was up close and personal and I really enjoyed singing there. I performed my own “Rise and Shine” and “Make It Right” along with my Jim Brickman repertoire, which made for a nice twist too. And both audiences were wonderful!
After a good night’s sleep, Jim and I flew to El Paso, for the last of our February shows on The Love Tour, at the beautiful Plaza Theatre. There too, we played to a warm and receptive audience.
I flew home the next morning and started preparing for the WNWV “The Wave” Radio Luncheon Concert the next day, with Abe LaMarca, pianist Pete Tokar and sax player Jim Witherspoon. The Wave has been hugely supportive of “Rise and Shine” and it was clear that the crowd was already very familiar with the song. Sooo cool—they were just great! And I loved having my son, Zach, on hand to help out.
I’m looking forward to more shows in March…and hopefully, to warmer weather!