August 2021 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase

The August 2021 VOCAL Virtual Showcase spotlighted the 2021 Songwriter of the Year and writers of the Song of the Year. August is normally reserved for the annual banquet, but we decided to forego that this year due to the pandemic. The Songwriter of the Year award went to Keely Burn, and the Song of the Year award went to Carol “Torch” Torricelli and Glen King for their co-written effort. CONGRATS to all! This was another virtual showcase using Zoom while streaming via FB Live, which has been our standard operating procedure during the pandemic.

Keely Burn opened the show with several songs from her new album Not My Masterpiece. Waltz describes what constitutes love – it’s not a foregone conclusion, and certainly not just a box to check off. Masterpiece tell us that love is a tug-of-war, and we sometimes are left holding the leash. “You’re a work in progress, and I can’t see your conscience”. She then delivered When I’m Acting, where she’s convinced he’ll like her much better if she’s acting, and not being herself. He’ll find her more attractive when she’s less reactive. To Be Loved is yearning not to be a lover, but simply to be loved. She doesn’t care about the promises or diamond rings as she would rather have the simple things. You Were My Guiding Light is a beautiful song inspired by Joni Mitchell, where every cloud has a silver lining, but all she sees is gray.

Glen King then treated us to some of his treasures, all on the theme of love. Miracle of Love is an uplifting tune touting the wonders of being in love. Drops of Your Love is on the other end of the love spectrum and even involved tearing up pictures! Fanning the Flames of Love is a hot number about a love that is still as strong today as it was when it started many years ago. Glen ended his set with a tune he wrote during Pride Week called It Don’t Matter Who You Love, telling us to love the person who feels right to you and what is natural. “The world is like a prism, all the colors you can find, some may run together or flow outside the lines”.

“Torch” finished up the evening with several of her finely-crafted tender tunes. She opened with the Song of the Year, Highway to Your Heart, co-written with Glen King. This is a really cool driving number about a trucker burning up the asphalt on the highway to get home as fast as he can to the one he loves. The genesis of this trucker song was a VOCAL challenge to write a trucker song in honor of long-time VOCAL member John Ellis, who was trucking down the road at that time and couldn’t attend the meeting. She then delivered Come to Virginia, a very beautiful song highlighting the numerous compelling reasons to travel to Virginia (majestic mountains, bluegrass music, etc.). I feel that this song channels Joni Mitchell and Maria Muldaur! Don’t You Slow Me Down (with her self-accompanied whistling) describes her booking her round-trip ticket to Sicily where she plans to discover her roots. There are many picturesque images of the Italian countryside in the lyrics, and no one is going to get in her way of this Italy-bound woman! Roads In Between Us is an older tune lamenting the fact that she was living in New Jersey but all her friends were moving away. She often sat on the rooftop singing to the sunset and placed numerous long-distance calls to her friends to catch up. Torch ended the evening with her dreamy signature song Swinging and Swaying, born on the 4th of July weekend while sitting alone on her back porch. The moon was full, and lovely breeze was blowing, and you know the rest!

Another wonderful VOCAL virtual showcase, and congrats to all the award recipients!

VOCAL 2020 – 2021 Awards

Congratulations to the Contest Winners, Nominees and VOCAL supporters who receive awards for their achievements and involvement.

Song of the Year

Highway To Your Heart
Carol Torricelli and Glen King

Songwriter of the Year

Keely Burn

Nominees Songwriter of the Year

Nominees Song of the Year

Dedicated Service Awards

  • David Atkins
  • Keely Burn
  • Larry Cody
  • Matthew Costello
  • John Ellis
  • Glen King
  • Justin Laughter
  • Matt Manion
  • Steve Nuckolls

July 2021 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase

Once again, due to COVID, the VOCAL showcase for July, was a virtual event, streaming on two platforms, Zoom and Facebook. Viewers who attended both sites were treated to a night of music, provided by two performers, Jim Puckett and Keely Burn.

Jim Puckett
After a brief intro by VOCAL prez Matthew Costello, Jim Puckett  started the show. His first number was “East Coast Trucking” a paean to those who drive route 95 up and down the east coast, problems faced and solved during the  course of their long haul. That was followed by “This World” an older song, which talked about making good out of what you been given. Then “Find the Good” was a song that suggested we look beyond the surface of what we have and where we are, to appreciate the better things of life. “I’ll Never Get Over Your Love”  tells us of a person who was beaten down, taken for granted, getting hurt, yet continues to love the perpetrator of the pain.  Next on the set list, Jim presented a new song “Giving Me Ideas”  which was a tale of two people taking a drive out to the country, in a Lincoln, not a Prius (too small to fool around in), and how the atmosphere of the countryside was inducive to romantic thoughts. “RPM” stands for record playing momma which was his next offering, a rollicking song about remembering  the good old days of vinyl records and the artists we enjoyed. Of all Jim’s songs “Chinese Butterfly” provoked the most comments, as listeners tried to figure out what it was about, describing different scenarios in almost every line, about Emperors, Rabbis, and assorted other characters. Lastly: “For the Bold” a new song dedicated to his wife, offers her words of love and commitment.

Keely Burn
Keely Burn is, as is often mentioned, the youngest member of VOCAL, but comes across as a seasoned veteran of the music wars. Tonight, she performed on ukulele, a set of songs mostly taken from her new CD “Not My Masterpiece” which in itself might have a dual meaning, that being a claim dedicated to a lover, or the fact that a better CD will emerge later on. “I Am Not Afraid” started off her set.  “I’ve Been More Aware” begins with a great line “I am not a doorstop” that sure gets your attention, and then goes on to talk about being overlooked in the world and feelings of discouragement. The next song was a new one titled “Bed of Nails” and describes an affair that has its consequences and is prickly and difficult. “Lightning” describes a relationship that has changed over the years and the singer wants to know of those changes are too radical for the relationship to continue, asking will you stay or will you leave? This was followed by “Come Down Love”  which began with some well done  whistling and then moves to an exhortation of wanting to be loved by someone who is reluctant to commit and hears  the final plea “plant your flag” on me. Switching from tenor uke to soprano uke, Keely did “Out of the Flood” and then closed with  the self described “Cute Girl with Glasses” tune, though not wearing them tonight. No question she fits it to a tee. However, she tells us, we shouldn’t judge a book (person) by its cover (persona)  she may dye her hair blue, play ukulele, only know 4 chords, or act quirky sometimes, but she is a real person with real feelings, not a stereotype of some ditzy young thing. Amen to that.

June 2021 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase

The June 2021 VOCAL Virtual Showcase featured long-distance member Roy Kauffman and longtime-member John Ellis. We haven’t heard from John in a while due to his work-related responsibilities but were pleased he was able to join us tonight. This was the latest of our virtual showcases using Zoom while streaming via FB Live.

John Ellis
John opened the evening with several of his heartfelt and rock-infused numbers. Honestly is a “celebrating anger” song that describes the emotional release that arises when you end a relationship in a not-so-amicable way: Words intended for inspiration became unending agony. He then delivered one of his signature tunes The Stranger in an acoustic fashion rather than the driving rock version he usually does. Love is a stranger I can’t get to know – how can I find what I’ve never known? For many years I’ve lived alone – can’t imagine another spirit living in this home. Winter Solstice is a peaceful, reflective instrumental acoustic number with some nice finger-picking sprinkled in. I’ll Be There for You was inspired by a friend going through a difficult time with a pet. I know you’re looking for me to come through for you, and even in my worst I’ll be there for you. A Band of Silver is a new tune which evolved over several years and was inspired by overhearing a conversation (feminine advice for the future wife). The conversation focused only on the engagement ring (how big, where did you buy it, etc.), which was disillusioning to the observer. A glass stone on a band of silver is all you need when your love is gold. Great job, John!

Roy Kauffman
Roy then took the stage all the way from Seattle with his finely-crafted songs. He had a batch of mostly new songs, and his theme tonight was love. He opened with Any Other Way, a laid-back number recounting easy times hanging out with that special someone – come sit by me Dear, and lend me you light, your listening ear – put on that pretty blue dress, and I’ll play your favorite song. He then delivered a new song Covered in R, W and B, which talks about wanting his country back, to right this ship and get on track – don’t tell me it’s not that bad, ‘cause I remember what we had, Covered in Red, White and Blue. Can’t Let it Go is another new song about just hanging onto stuff you just can’t let go – I know about that! Take me down to the river, my love, wash me clean, help me rise above. I keep thinking about the past, trying to stop the train from running off the track, but just can’t let it go. He added a harmonica for Might Just Keep us in Love, a “Chicken Little looking for a falling sky” kind of relationship. Doing our best to keep our heads above, that part of what keeps us in love, might just keep us in love. I Don’t Know Why is another recent story about when one person is expecting something from a relationship but the other is not. Sometimes the water moves fast, sometimes things just don’t last. I expected so much more from you, I don’t know why, these gray skies won’t turn blue, I don’t know why. Roy closed out the night with another love song, Blue Sky Living, where he’s floating like a leaf in a world without trees – he needs a little bit of blue sky to bring back home. Blue sky living is what I need – they can cut this boy, but he will not bleed. Another outstanding set from Mr. Kauffman!

May 2021 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase

Continuing with pandemic controlled activities, the VOCAL showcase was again a virtual affair simulcast on Zoom and Facebook. The two performers were Matt Manion and Glenda creamer.

Matt Manion
Matt’s set list included some of his seldom heard songs like “Raw Roach M otel” which depicted conditions living in a 3rd rate flophouse. “No. No, No, No” told about a friendship that goes awry. From the 1980’s he did “Job Hunting Blues” about all the drug tests he had to go through to get a job. That was followed by “Life Can be Funky Down On the Pamunkey” with pictures of what one sees along the river such as birdlife, and foliage. “I Just Want To Be Me” was his confession about not being the perfect person, but accepting who he is in reality. “This Getting Old Is Getting Old” is another reality check about aging. His last song of the night, “God’s Rhythm” tells us, where you are now is where you were meant to be. Put your faith in god.

Glenda Creamer
Glenda Creamer is on a mission to tell bible stories with her music. She has created a musical piece called “The Path”. Tonight she played the second half of that work. The collection of songs t follows a seeker as he walks along a road and confronts various voices along the way. This is told in short narraitve songs that starts with “Slow Down” answered by “Get Back On Your Feet”. In “I’m A Witch Today” she warns “watch out for me, if I get angry I shoot green darts and conjure up your dark emotions”. Then, “Share Your Burdens With The Lord’ followed by a prayer “I Want To Follow You” she cautions him not to take “The Easy Way Out” but in an a capella she advises the man to “Keep on Keeping On” along the road. To follow the straight and narrow path ahead do not climb the “Stairs To Nowhere”. He hears the voice of god saying “I Will Come To Your Aid, I Will Calm Your Fears, I Am By Your Side.” finally the man climbs the stairs and he is saved. He sees moses and the burning bush and hears “Let My People Go”. Finally he realizes he has reached the promised land and is rejoiced in “You Will Always Be My Child” and “Make A Joyful Noise”.

Two very different performers, each with their own approach to music making.

The video of the showcase can be viewed at the VOCAL Facebook page Videos section.

April 2021 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase

The April 2021 VOCAL Virtual Showcase featured our esteemed President Matthew Costello and longtime-member Dave Pollard. This was the latest of our virtual showcases using Zoom while streaming via FB Live. You can see the video of this performance at VOCAL’s Facebook Videos page.

Matthew Costello
Matthew opened the show with Matters To Me, co-written with Roy Kaufmann, a touching song about that special someone you think about all day. The Artist That Hung the Moon is a brand-new song from Matthew, one of two inspired by his recent classes with Harriet Schock. It has very colorful phrases about a landscape painter of the English countryside, with the light of night flowing onto the canvas. Train of Thought is a crowd-pleasing standard from Matthew that always draws audience participation when we’re together in a group. Another co-write with Roy Kaufmann is Dark Eyed Mystery, a haunting number about a girl who’s running scared – is it another guy, or is it me? If You Knew is a song we can probably all relate to, wondering how the one across the room would react if your true feelings were revealed. She Made You a Home is another new and very touching song from Matthew about your Mother caring for you through the years, with you returning the favor in her last years. He ended his set with his true signature song Digging for Elvis, another number co-written with Roy. Even though we were virtual via Zoom/FB, I could feel the roar of the room and foot-stomping on the floor with the audience singing along. Great job, Matthew!

Dave Pollard
Long-time VOCAL member and supporter Dave Pollard then took the Zoom stage with several of his love-found and love-lost songs that only he can spin. He was joined by fellow Whiskered-whiskey-er Jim White. The duo performs as Whiskey Business and have some mighty stellar harmonies. Comin’ Home to You is an ode to a loved one who provides that homey comfort, and someone you want to stay with forever. Goodbye asks when did your heart turn cold, and the Winter settle on your soul. How can I move on without any answers, better just say Goodbye! Better Man is a tender tune written in honor of his love Carol, saying you make me believe I can be a better man. Could it be that you see your heart in me? I’ll See You in the Fall Sometime is a vintage signature tune of Dave’s which audiences always enjoy. In the “love-lost” category, this is a very beautiful song with rich images and poetry. You went your way and I went mine – right or wrong, we paid the cost. Reach Out Your Hand is a touching, personal song about his sister when she was going through a rough time. The advice offered is fitting for us all at some time in our lives, that love will see you through, friends and family, too, so just reach out your hand! You Can Trust Your Heart is a really cool minor-chord number about the desire to bring someone into your life – You can’t trust the moon to be full on your face, or the stars to shine, but you can trust your heart with mine. Church of the Mind is another one of Dave’s open-tuning standards that will have you swaying in the breeze. Born while vacationing in Ocracoke Island, it was written by request for a church. Things are pretty loose at this church, worship when and where you like, no idols worshiped, just bring the God you trust, every Wednesday at 10! Dave ended his set with Kaleidoscope, a new song that channels the late John Prine. There’s some mighty fine finger-style guitar in this tender song which features dome really cool images and rhymes, and I think John would be proud. Happy songs in minor keys, horseshoes with no luck – the words tumble out of you and settle in the stars, so Johnny won’t you play on your guitar. Great set, Dave and Jim!

Another wonderful VOCAL virtual pandemic-defying showcase!

March 2021 VOCAL Showcase

For the first time, tonight’s showcase was present on dual platforms simultaneously, Zoom and Facebook. This may account for the small numbers on each, but probably the usual amount of showcase viewers when combined.

VOCAL president Matthew Costello welcomed everyone to the showcase, talked a little bit about the tonight’s process and then introduced the presenters. On the bill were Keely Burn and Steve Nuckolls.

Keely Burn
Keely played first. She is one of VOCAL’s younger members and an extremely talented performer. She has played before using various instruments in her repertoire such as ukelele and keyboard, which was her choice tonight.

She is about to release her new CD on various music platforms, and happily shared some of the songs that will appear on it. This was the lineup: “Not My Masterpiece” “Guiding Light” (no title) new Break up song “Daisy” ( inspired by The Great Gatsby) “When I’m Acting”

Steve Nuckolls
Steve has been a long time member of VOCAL and performs frequently on the showcase. A lot of his material is based on his formative years growing up in western Virginia. His singing has a plaintive quality about that is well suited for the heartfelt material..

This was his set list for the night. “Taking MY Kid Away” “Grayson Lady” “When The Flag Is At Half Mast” “The Future Is Us” (new) “Praying For A Rocky Top” “Six Feet Away” (Covid song) “Two Hours From Anywhere” “Sunrise”

Both performers received well deserved applause and positive comments while playing their songs. Further up the road, the next showcase in April will feature the songs of Dave Pollard and Matthew Costello. Not to be missed.

February 2021 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase

The February 2021 VOCAL Virtual Showcase featured longtime-member Glenda Creamer and our Entertainment Attorney friend Justin Laughter, two very-talented songwriters. This was a virtual showcase using Zoom while streaming via FB Live, which has proven to be a very effective means of delivering a performance during this crazy pandemic.

Glenda opened the show with a lovely operatic “The Path” about her journey with God, making friends, and helping one another. Hearing a knock on her heart, she embarked on a journey of enlightenment. Listen was her answer to the knock, indicating that she wanted to know the way to go. I Want to Follow You reminds her that the sand is slippery beneath her feet – it’s easy to stumble, but don’t be discouraged, I’m with you all the way. The Path of Destruction is the wrong way to go, so let me help you. I’ll accompany you along the narrow way. All The Good is Gone asks if I can ever love again – I need strength to get me through this day. Jacob’s Well takes us to the fountain to drink when the sun is high, next to the stranger with kind eyes. He says God has a well that will never run dry, and will give you eternal life. God is with you during good times and bad, and you never have to be alone when he’s holding your hand. We Figured it Out tells of the numerous people who came from far and wide to witness the second coming. Unexpected Ways explains how you can find God in almost everything during your daily life travels. Lover of Origami explains the magical mystery and energy expressed as folded lines, and asks that we may be the paper in God’s hands.

Justin Laughter then took the virtual stage with Dishes, something he’s done a lot of since the pandemic began. We can relate to that! Benedict is a really cool “historic” song about Benedict Arnold, asking if maybe he was incorrectly portrayed as a traitor. The fallen hero ex-pat was passed over by the Continental Congress and the rest is history! The brand-new song Premonition asks why we set our clocks to the days and months, and why do we sit in front of a computer all day. We were never meant to be simply machines and work our fingers to the bone on the grindstone. Amen to that! Believe finds him trying to brush off the silent weight of the world from his shoulders. Stay Calm has a really infectious vibe featuring some really cool chords channeling Neil Young’s Harvest Moon: stay calm, stay strong, you own the cards. Sue is a tune of true love, where he is with his newfound love on a Ferris Wheel in the town square. He wins a bear, which she names Sue after the Johnny Cash song. Sue stays on her nightstand, as if keeping their love together – please take me before she goes, as I couldn’t stand to live alone with her gone. Unraveling captures the reality and agony of a relationship destined for failure, with no hope of recovery. Paul Revere is another awesome “historic” song wondering how the patriot felt and was he scared as he warned the town of an invasion: one if by land, two if by sea. Listen, children, and you will hear the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. If I had Justin singing my history lessons when I was a kid I wouldn’t be so history-challenged! Weak is a fast and furious guitar-driven tune about taking the hard stuff, thinking/feeling for myself, etc. Hug is a very peaceful lullabye providing a fitting sendoff to the audience at the end of the show. He was channeling Neal Young on this one like Stay Calm, and it almost has a gentle Baroque feel to the melody. What a soothing way to end the evening!

Another wonderful VOCAL virtual pandemic-defying showcase!


Once again, due to pandemic restrictions, VOCAL’s monthly showcase was a virtual affair on facebook. However: This did not deter two fine musicians from performing their songs to a viewing public. In case you have wondered what happened to good music these days, look no further than this showcase. These performers don’t use computer generated tracks, featuring instruments nobody can play, auto tune their VOCALs, think a lyric is best repeated over and over again, or write melodies that can fit under a pancake. Theirs is humanly generated and heart felt composed. Consider the following:

David Atkins

First up tonight was David Atkins, a music teacher, and songwriter extraordinaire, (note: His first four songs featured backing tracks which added to the fullness of the presentation). He opened his set with “Wish You Were Here”, an upbeat tune that described how his cheating wife taunted him by sending post cards from wherever she was with her lovers. This was followed by one of David’s classic tunes, “The House on Leaksville Road”. In it he revisits his old abandoned house and relives memories of his past wife, sadly looking back as he drives away for the last time. “Gray” reminds us that all things are not as they seem, not necessarily black or white. We should consider the subtleties in life, look underneath the surface. This was followed by “Songs” a rundown of various types of songs, but settling on the best are those from people who sing their own songs, much like himself. Finally: To close out this half of the showcase, David in acoustic mode, presented “Only One Drink In The Bottle” a country song about trying to drown bad memories of a past love in alcohol.

Doug Patrick

Next up on the program was Doug Patrick, a long VOCAL member and truly a fine mostly folk songwriter and performer. His guitar picking is extraordinary. “House On The Mountainside” tells the tale of the singer wishing to settle down with his love and find a peaceful life in country home of his dreams. The song title “Full Time Love” pretty much details what the singer is attempting to achieve. In it he says “don’t want to be on your short list, not a part time lover”. Hopefully, he succeeds. Next up on his set was a song which ( I thought) very much emulated John Prine. “A Special Place In Heaven” dedicated to his wife, in which he says she’s got to be an angel to put up with his shenanigans, he also hopes she will be there with him at the end. “Together” was a new song describing two lonely souls who try to put aside their differences and find common ground in their mutual experiences. The environment is a big issue with Doug, and he cares very much about the future of this planet. This is exemplified, in his song “Leave It Like We Found It” a song reminding us to be aware of what he’ve done and what we can do to keep the earth from disintegrating into ruin. Recycle. For those who came before us, life was much more difficult, and Doug tells us about the lessons he learned in “At My Grandaddy’s Knee” Listening to tales of farm life and how tough if was for his grand father to make his way in the world. Lastly, but not forgotten, was an old song from around the Vietnam era, “News From Home” in which a soldier is relating the stories he hears from letters sent to him about what is going on at home. Unfortunately, the news isn’t that great. His brother is running with a rough crowd, for example, and mom and dad are have problems, as well. Which of course, isn’t good news for him either.

The variety of songs tonight was astounding. the performances stellar, and they show us that real music still lives and is being created today by real people not machines.

Dec. 2020 showcase

December 2020 VOCAL Showcase

Once again, due to covid19, VOCAL presented it’s monthly showcase via a Zoom/Facebook virtual meeting.

Playing tonight were six songwriters. As it was a Christmas showcase, it was suggested that each songwriter do at least one holiday song.

Up first was Jeff Wagner, who along with his wife Sherri as accompanist performed two songs.

He was followed by James Lester, who did a set of four mainly blues songs including a tribute to Leon Redbone.

He was followed by Glen King, who seldom performs, with a set of three songs, including a New Year’s Eve song,

Matt Manion performed next, and did 3 songs including a take off on Chuck Berry,

Carol Torricelli, aka “Torch”, shared two songs, one inspired by her experience of the pandemic.

Long time member and frequent showcase performer, Steve Nuckolls followed with a few of classic songs and after him, Glenda Creamer did a pair of numbers.

All in all, it was a great night of excellent music and cheery greetings.

A blog for and by the members of the Virginia Organization of Composers and Lyricists