|My Holiday Tour Logbook||1/30/2020
|If you read last month’s entry, you will remember my mom’s health scare. Good news! She was back at her nursing home on December 2nd, the day before my flight out to Lincoln, NE, for The Jim Brickman Celebration Tour, and I could breathe easy.
I arrived the evening of the third with no delays. The following day, Jim, John Trones and I rehearsed before that evening’s performance at The Rococo Theatre. I was drained from the worries of the week before, and didn’t feel at the top of my game. But the audience was lovely and gave me a huge boost. I felt better for the next day’s show, also at The Rococo. Again, the house was all warmth and good vibes!
After the show, we boarded the bus, met our new driver, Chuck, and were soon on our way to St. Louis for a concert at The Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center, on the campus of the University of Missouri.
The next day started out a bit funny, when our bus driver, overtired from his long drive, forgot to wake me for our Lyft to the hotel. Left behind, I was able--after two unsuccessful attempts--to guide another Lyft driver to the area where the bus was parked behind the theatre, not an easy location... He then delivered me to my hotel, where I got to snag a few hours of rest before heading back for rehearsals with Tracy, who had flown in that day. Oof!
Meanwhile, John was coming down with a horrible chest cold that was starting to affect his voice. Like a champ, he got through the show that night, but headed straight to bed from there, skipping the meet & greet after the show. I was on hand, however, to reap audience enthusiasm… and to see my friends Rachelle and Tony, who had brought another couple along. It was their first Jim Brickman Concert and they loved it!
Next stop, Minneapolis, my singing partner John’s hometown… The poor guy didn’t feel any better the next morning, but refrained from talking to rest his voice for that evening’s show at The Pantages Theatre. Again, John got through it, but was very upset with his lack of vocal control, not knowing what was going to come out when he opened his mouth to sing! I totally get it. I have performed with strep throat, sinus infections, bronchitis and colds. It’s just awful and there is nothing you can do but give it your all – the show must go on!
After the show, we held our traditional meet & greet session in the lobby, where I enjoyed seeing personal friends, including Ryan (another first-timer pleased with the show), the son of Cleveland friends, Marian and Glen. I also got to see family members of another Cleveland friend. I met new fans and reconnected with some of our faithful regulars too.
It was a great night, except for John feeling so poorly. He was scheduled to fly out the next morning with Jim for two shows in Seattle, but was really too ill to do so. So Jim flew with his assistant and performed both concerts solo, which went very well, he reported.
According to plan, the next time I would see John, would be in Knoxville, TN on the 22nd of December. Luke McMaster would be joining the tour for our next 12 shows, starting in Cincinnati, on December 10th.
That night in Minneapolis, the crew, Tracy and I boarded the bus for Cincinnati. After nine hours on the bus we stopped outside of Gary, IN : our driver was in need of an all-day break.
We all checked into our hotel, gathered for breakfast, and went to our rooms (I rested a bit and jogged three miles on the treadmill). We regrouped at 6:00 for a yummy dinner at Cracker Barrel and were on the road again by 8:15pm. We pulled into Cincinnati at 2:00 am, Monday morning, for a welcome day off, which I filled with Christmas shopping and errands!
The following evening, we delivered the first of two shows at Cincinnati’s Memorial Hall, a charming venue where we had never performed before. I love smaller and more intimate theatres of 1,000 or less. My Cleveland friend Barb happened to be in town visiting friends and had extended her stay to see the show. She and her three buddies, whom I had met before, had a good chat in my dressing room, before…and after the show! They loved the concert and it was great seeing them all. My sister’s brother-in-law was also there with his son and wife. They never miss us when we are in town and it was fun seeing them.
I must also add that throughout the tour, we welcomed singing “Champion/Ambassadors” from the Children’s Miracle Network, survivors and/or are under treatment for various illnesses. Through CMN and their local hospitals, these champions would join us on stage for a song. It’s so moving to hear these children’s stories and to see them take up the challenge of performing in front of hundreds of people.
Alex was our first CMN guest star in Cincinnati. He sang “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” Like Alex, they always win our hearts, and because they have been through so much in their young lives, they are already champions!
The audience was just as fabulous as the night before, at our second concert at Memorial Hall. After the show, we boarded the bus for Fort Wayne and it was my turn to feel a cold coming on, the start of a bug that would last about a week. I tried to fit in lots of sleep and began taking multiple 1,000-mg packets of emergency vitamin C to keep it at bay.
In Fort Wayne, I met my old friend, another Barb, program director of the Adult Contemporary MAJIC Radio Station for many years, for coffee in the lobby of the hotel. We enjoyed a brief visit before she dropped me off at the venue, located on Purdue University’s campus. Barb is also a good friend of Jim’s and popped in to say a quick hello. But we would see her again that evening, accompanied by her husband, also a Jim, and their friend, Paul, right before the show. We also met adorable Maddie, our CMN (Children’s Miracle Network) Champion of the evening. Her “Silent Night” stole every heart in the house!
Our next stop was Rockford, IL. By then my head cold had gone into full congestion mode. After sleeping at the hotel for a bit, the hotel shuttle driver took me to the closest Walgreen’s, where I purchased vitamin C, a decongestant, a sinus rinse and sambucus immune syrup. I was vigilant with my rinses and again, slept as much as possible.
That evening, my cousin, Tom, and his wife, Sue, brought four friends to the show. They had made the nearly two-hour road trip from Wisconsin to see us and it was so great having them there. I got through the concert and they said that they couldn’t even tell that I was sick, which was reassuring. They loved the show! Sue is an amazing baker and brought two containers of home-baked treats: cookies, fudge, candy cane white chocolate, toffee, and other goodies. The cast and crew enjoyed everything to the very last bite...in less than 48 hours!
After the Rockford show, I went straight to my bunk on the bus for another overnight voyage. We arrived in Cleveland at around 9:15 the next morning. I took a Lyft home, and after greeting my husband, whom I had sorely missed for the past 10 days, ran errands and was home by 2 pm to repack and get down to The Key Bank State Theatre for our 5:00 soundcheck. Such a thrill to be playing my hometown!
My husband, sister, son, daughter-in-law and countless friends were there to cheer me! Although I still had my cold, I felt good about my performance and we harvested so much energy from the audience, it was a wonderful night! We had a couple of special guests that evening: the winner of CLE’s Shining Star, Kristen Lyons, who sang “Mary Did You Know” with great power and beauty, and that night’s CMN Champion, Kara Kuper, who sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. After the show, the lobby was brimming with friends and fans, who had travelled from other parts of Ohio, Michigan and beyond! The love never ended! But before I knew it, I was bidding goodbye to my hubby and my sister. I would see them again in about 10 days, on Christmas Eve.
Soon we set off for Philadelphia for our 3 pm matinee at The Keswick Theatre the next day. The drive took about eight hours that night and I felt rested. Our soundcheck was at noon. Then just before the show we met our CMN Champion of the day, Tiffany Silva, a 19 year old who would bring the house down with her rendition of “Silent Night”.
Our next stop was the charming city of Charlottesville, VA, home to the University of VA. I was dropped at my hotel at around 5 am. I was delighted with my key card: a replica of the student ID of « Saturday Night Live » and University of Virginia alum, Tina Fey! All the key cards were IDs of famous and less-famous graduates of the school. I wanted to keep mine!
Before the show, I received the visit of Bev Warren, the recently-retired president of Kent State University, now Charlottesville-based, and her dear friend, Sharon. We became friends when she was acting president, and she is such a fabulous human being. I also saw Kathryn, a member of the Charlottesville Ballet Co., and the daughter of friend and brilliant musician, Pete Tokar. Pete has produced and engineered some of my CD’s and also plays keyboard in the seven-piece band formed by Abe and me for our concerts. His daughter is beautiful and such a lovely young woman. As I always say, meeting up with friends and family as I travel the country is one of the best things about touring.
After greeting our fans, we took off for Johnstown, PA. We’d never played this venue before but were welcomed warmly. The show was received beautifully, as in every city on our tour.
Next stop, North Tonawanda, NY.
Kasha, from the Cleveland office, drove to Johnstown to pick up Jim, Megan (our merchandise gal) and me for the drive to North Tonawanda, a suburb of Buffalo. To break up the trip after the Johnstown show, we drove two hours and checked into a hotel for the night. I awoke the next morning with the plan of doing a little more Christmas shopping at the outlet mall up the street before heading for Buffalo.
This was our first encounter with windy, frigid winter weather (and snow) this tour. I was able to nab a few gifts before being picked up by Kasha, Megan and Jim. On our way, we stopped at Cracker Barrel for a late breakfast. We then drove the remaining three hours to The Riviera Theatre, navigating some scarily snowy roads, and arriving at 4 pm. Bob, our sound engineer, Tracy and Luke had made the five-hour trip in one go, and arrived a couple of hours earlier. It was 19 degrees in Buffalo!!
As the Riviera’s dressing rooms are all very close neighbors, I conducted my 25-minute vocal warm ups (admittedly a bit annoying for anyone in range) in the car, kindly pre-heated for me by Kasha. I then joined cast and crew for a spicy Chipotle dinner before stage call. It was bitterly cold outside but the audience inside was incandescent: just what we needed to stoke our energy! We stayed overnight in Buffalo and flew out the next morning at 9:45 am for our show in Columbia, SC.
I took advantage of our layover in Baltimore to scratch a few more items off my Christmas list. It was the 19th of December…
On the flight from Baltimore to Greenville, SC, Luke got up with his guitar in the front of the plane, announcing to all the passengers that it was “Anne Cochran’s birthday on Christmas Eve and (he’d) like to dedicate « Merry Christmas, Beautiful” to her.” Most of the passengers joined in on the Fa La La La’s and he finished to thunderous applause! The only thing wrong here was that my birthday is in February, but I was tickled just the same! Luke has held spontaneous concerts in the air on previous tours and he’s always a hit!
Once we landed in Greenville, and collected our bags, our driver Chuck picked us up with the tour bus. We were very happy to reunite with our holiday home on wheels! Gratefully, we were able to settle in our bunks and take an hour-long nap on our way to The Koger Center in Columbia.
We’ve been to Columbia many times and loved being back. This tour’s performance was no different! My sister-in-law, Jane, who lives in Augusta, GA, made the trip with two friends and all enjoyed the show. It was fun to see her again
Before we knew it we were on our way to The Van Braun Center in Huntsville, AL, another city we’ve played many times in our 23 years of touring. We love Huntsville and are always excited to see our friend Homer Hickman there. Author, Vietnam veteran, and former NASA engineer, he is best known for his memoir “Rocket Boys”, made into the 1999 film, “October Sky”. Homer and his charming wife, Linda, attend the show every time we come to town. Tracy, Luke and I enjoyed a very nice visit with them after the show. They are two of the loveliest people I know.
Next stop on the tour trail: Birmingham, AL, with two shows at The Lyric Theatre. Birmingham is another familiar city due to our multiple visits there over the years. I love the intimacy of The Lyric and both audiences were fantastic, as always! We were glad to see old radio friends there, including Magic 96.5 morning DJ, Rob Conrad, who introduced both shows.
This was our last performance with Luke and we were sad to see him go. After bidding farewell, and pretty worn out after those back-to-back evenings, I went right to sleep on the road to Knoxville, TN. Dropped off at my hotel in the wee hours of the 22nd, I went back to sleep, worked out and took a Lyft to The Bijou Theatre, for our soundcheck and show.
Here’s where a fully-recovered John Trones joined us again. It was back to fun with John: the song list was a little different from the one Luke and I followed, but I like the variety!
My own last stop on the tour was Chattanooga, TN, before heading home. We saw Sunny 92.3 radio friend, Danny Howard, and his wife, Eleanor, before the show. Danny warmly introduced us. It was a perfect last night for me! I would not be rejoining Jim for the shows after Christmas. The tour was great fun, as always, and I enjoyed every minute!
The following morning, our sound engineer, Bob, and I flew home to Cleveland. My Ed picked me up, I ran a few errands and was home just in time to get ready for a standing-room-only Christmas Eve mass at 4 pm. Forewarned, my husband, sister and I arrived at 3:15 pm but the church was packed! After mass, we gathered at my house for dinner and my sister’s son and two children joined us. We were only six that night; but dinner was delicious and it was so good to spend time with my Denver nephew and his darling kids.
We would see more family members, including my youngest son and his wife, my nephew’s wife flying in later that evening and my mom (whom I picked up from her nursing home) the next day, for Christmas dinner at my sister’s beautiful home. It was a lovely dinner and though my mom didn’t have much of an appetite, she was so happy to be with us all.
The day after Christmas, Ed and I picked up my eldest son, his wife and her mother from the airport. On the way back, we stopped at Saucy Brew Pub, for dinner, joined by other family members and friends. It was a lively reunion and a fun night!
The next day, we visited my mom at her nursing home to spoil her with gifts from our latest arrivals, which she loved. Later that evening, we gathered everybody for dinner at LockKeepers, one of our favorite restaurants.
After Christmas, there was no slacking to be had: I had two New Year’s Eve shows with Abe and our seven-piece band at Nighttown to prepare! We have performed there every NYE for the past three years and have been fortunate to sell out every show. My family attended the 8 pm concert and it’s always so much fun having them there! At our 10:30 show, we rocked away the last instants of 2019 and performed a few more songs after midnight to celebrate 2020. Ed and I drove home at around 1 am and partied a little more with my son, his wife and their friends until about 3:00 am. I was tired, but I think you will agree, it was a great way to bring in the new year.
By the way, Happy New Year, everybody!