June 2020 Showcase

Welcome to the new method of showcasing our members original music, the virtual Facebook performance. Tonight’s performers included Matthew Costello, Jim Pickett and Matt Manion. As usual: Matthew opened up the program with one his songs “All That Matters To Me'” as a way of segueing into our first songwriter, Jim Puckett.

Puckett is a fairly newcomer to the VOCAL family, but is past showcases performances have always been well received. Tonight was no exception. Possessing a strong vocal presence, Jim kicked off his set with “To These Times’ an older song, but relevant to today’s current unrest. Included in the lyrics was this apropos line “selfish stupidity unfortunately follows where we go.” Indeed, “One More Life” wished the singer had more time to live parts of his life again. Reaching for an alternate tuned guitar, Jim presented “The Only Stars” which was a forlorn tale of lost love, where the stars in her eyes now were only the stars in the sky. Switching back and adding a harp to his next song, he gave us “Sleeping In Today” which surely met the apporval of the listeners who would like to get a day off and do nothing but laze around. “In Richmond” was a song he wrote for a radio station contest a few years back, (he didn’t win) which took us for a tour of the city and detailing many of it’s attractions. Closing out his set, Jim picked the tempo up and hit us with “Stand In The James” a rouser that invited her to come and stand in the river along side him and enjoy the view.

Switching screens, albeit sideways, we were introduced to Matt Manion, as the second performer of the night. Matt is a long standing member of VOCAL and appears in showcases throughout the year, especially for the Christmas show. Tonight he kicked off his set with “Power Play” which I mssed due to a screen mishap. Next he performed one of his standard songs “Life Can Be Funky Down Along the Pamunkey” And it could very well be, as he described many of the life forms and attractions that permeate the river area, such as the different birds, flowers and fish. “Devil’s Half Acre” refers to the place where Lumpkin’s Jail once stood in Richmond and was where slaves were imprisoned and sold. A sad commentary on this town’s past history and well told. In that vein of history, “Necessary Trouble, Good Trouble” was a title Matt turned into song, from the speech of John Lewis, a compatriot of Martin Luther King, Jr. and a well known civil rights activist. Sometimes it’s necessary to “rock the boat’ to up end the status quo and make waves for a change in a new direction toward freeedom and justice. Next song “Blue Springs Hideaway”was co -written with Matt and was a picturesque montage of nature, including views from mountain tops and forest floor alike. Saluting a local institution, “Crossroads” (coffee house) Matt delights in wishing he could play and song his songs there, we hope he will. “I Don’t Need To Be Perfect” really means just that in this self anaylyzing lyric where he hopes “I don’t want to be right” “I don’t want to be macho” “I don’t want to be bright”, “I just want to be me”. To close his set, Matt performed one of his standard tunes about the dangers of associating with cheaters “Don’t Stand By Me” as he imagines what might happen to him if he stands on stage next to a philandering trumpet player who could be shot by an angry husband and accidentally get hit instead. Let’s hope it’s only fiction.

And with that, the showcase ended and all that was left was to read the kudos posted along side the video. Great show, guys.

VOCAL May 2020 Songwriter Showcase

The May 2020 VOCAL Showcase was our second virtual showcase conducted via FaceBook Live due to COVID-19 social distancing.
John Ellis opened the show with his rocking signature In My Place, recounting the ex-girlfriend who just couldn’t be pleased, and just always had to put him in his place.

Glenda Creamer then took the virtual stage with her magically choreographed set, opening with The Virginia Lady is Leaving, a beautiful number that involved some talented yodeling. I’m a Witch Today is one of Glenda’s signature tunes that conjures up vampires, werewolves, and seriously dark emotions. She then delivered Lover of Origami, an ode to the art of folding paper (and her daughter) to make beautiful designs. Just Call Me Dumpling is an in-your-face I’m proud to be what/who I am, so don’t call me honey or baby or anything else, just love me and appreciate me for what I am! The Splendor of King Solomon is a very poignant number about keeping your sights on the simple things in life, such as Mother Nature’s beautiful birds, rather than surrounding yourself with meaningless material possessions. The Confessions of a Germophobe is a very fitting and timely song during this COVID-19 craziness. We need to stop hugs, spray disinfectant, and shrink-wrap ourselves! She ended her set with the really haunting Moonshine Sky in dropped-D tuning. Rooted in Franklin County, VA, this is the tale about the moonshine makers and runners back in the day.

Bill Kaffenberger ended the evening with several of his homegrown tunes. The Lonesome Rider is one of the first songs he ever wrote while in college, about the lone individual riding into the sunset, burning bridges, wondering where he will lay his head. Little Old Man is an ode to a homeless man from years ago who froze to death while sleeping in a phone booth. Most people just walked on by and looked the other way, but this song highlights the compassionate side of the story. Dad was written five years after his dad’s passing, a sentimental tune remembering how much his dad mean to him, and how much he loves him. Many of us can relate to that! If I Asked You to Dance Would You Dance With Me is a number many of us can relate to, sort of a “what might have been” story if we had the nerve to speak out and express ourselves at the time. What am I Doing Here was written by a friend Jim Howard, a tale about never giving up on your dreams, and reminiscent of Don McLean’s Vincent (Van Gogh). He’s sitting on his hands, with no one listening to what he has to say. Things have never been good to him, and probably never will be. You may never strike a chord anywhere near fame, but you can’t give up or you’ll lose the game. She’s So Real describes the girl with a heart a million miles high, and a smile a million miles wide. If only he could get near her to tell her! Misty All Around is a fairly recent song recounting lost love, and the falling tears that followed.

Great virtual showcase, John, Glenda and Bill!

April 2020 Showcase

These immortal words about postmen

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”

would seem to aptly applied to Tonight’s VOCAL showcase.
After all: It would seem the coronavirus, technical difficulties and just plain logistics might put the kibosh on our monthly showcase.

But, noooooooo, nothing could stop it. Thanks to Matthew Costello and his intrepid fortitude, and know how, the showcase made its first ever virtual appearance on Facebook.

After a short intro by him, the first performer to take the stage was our wonderful young lady, Keely Burn. She cranked up her ukulele, for a handful of original tunes, which included a sort of self imaged song titled “Cute girl with glasses’.

She was followed by Prof. Dean Broga, who on guitar, regaled the viewers with some tasty tunes about the road and ended with a bluesy number celebrating (?) the coronavirus or covid19.

Next up, David Atkins, a long time VOCAL member and music teacher, demonstrated his songwriting abilities with songs covering a wide range of subjects from haunted houses to barroom moroseness with “One Drink In The Bottle” .

Capping the evening, which was limited in time to 60 minutes by Facebook, our president Matthew Costello pulled out one of his signature songs “Elvis Blues” with the singalong chorus of “Diggin’ Diggin’ Diggin'” which every viewer participated in (maybe).

As for turnout, a standard showcase at O’Toole’s brings around 20 or so folks out for the night, by my calculation and the figure on the screen, we peaked at 25, which is great for this first attempt a live streaming event. Given the circumstances, that will most likely remain next month, we will be anxiously awaiting the next VOCAL showcase.

March 2020 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase

The March 2020 VOCAL Showcase took place on Monday, March 9, 2020 at O’Toole’s Irish Pub. The showcase had a Spring theme, so performers were asked to perform at least one song with that in mind.

Joan Smith opened the show with Emergence, a Spring-like love song calling for the awakening of her heart. She followed with Pot of Gold, a search for something more in life, possibly even leading to a leprechaun at the end of a rainbow! The Yes Man is a unique a cappella doo-wop style song, giving it back to the man dangling too-good-to-be-true offers in front of you. Let’s see your credit score and I’ll see what I can do!

Gary Luong, who’s only been writing for a year or so, opened with a really cool heartbreak song, You’re the One Who Taught Me Guitar. His next room-quietening tune was a very delicate Ed Sheerin-ish number, recounting the advice from his father (I’ve Got to Give Back My Love to You). He enlisted the grooving help of a looping machine for his last tune, saying we’re still young and have plenty of time to live out our lives together.

Bill Kaffenberger returned to the VOCAL stage with three of his offerings. Early Spring was written by his friend and local RVA songwriter Steve Antonacci, who recently passed away. This is a really touching song about the promises Spring will bring, and Bill plans to play this at Steve’s upcoming memorial service. She’s So Real describes the girl with a heart a million miles high, and a smile a million miles wide. If only he could get near her to tell her! What am I Doing Here has him sitting on his hands, with no one listening to what he has to say. Things have never been good to him, and probably never will be. You may never strike a chord anywhere near fame, but you can’t give up or you’ll lose the game.

Jim Puckett then took the stage with The Sunshine Knows Your Name, where the warm Spring sun trumps all the bitterness that Winter can throw at you. Lenten Roses delivers on the promise of Spring, with the beauty of the blooming flowers, showing the fruit of your labors. Doesn’t the Rain Still Fall had some really cool images of the sun always shining, the wind sneaking down the mountain, babies always crying, etc.

Long-time member Karen Trump graced the stage after quite a long absence. It was great to hear her stellar roots/folk/blues offerings. God’s Redeeming Grace was reminiscent of the Carter Family, a Spring-ish number about falling in love when the flowers are in bloom. Silver-Tongued Devil was a delightfully dark number about succumbing to temptation. No Spring Chicken is something most of us can relate to. While we’re still quite able in a lot of areas, there’s certainly nothing wrong with hitting the sack at 9:30! Welcome back, Karen!

Martin McNeil brought us some fine British muse with Back in Your Arms Again, asking for his lover to hold and soothe him. Give Myself Up to the Night was a poignant number, crying all the tears at the station, and hitting the road on the 8:39 train. He ended with In My Breakdown, receiving an arrow through the heart from his former lover.

Norman Roscher ended the evening of original music as only he can do. My Bitch Lad was a very irreverent (but tender and loving) tune about a young lad walking through the woods when he was “taken in” by a woman for her personal needs. So was there a loser in this transaction? He then delivered a tune written by fellow “Vocal-onian” Bill Wellons, Gonna Take My Baby Dancing. This is just a really happy, feel-good song about kicking your feet up on the dance floor! Waiting for The Moon is a signature Norman tune from the Dog’s New Clothes era, and is always a crowd favorite!

feb. 2020 VOCAL Showcase

Feb 2020 VOCAL Showcase
(due to a complete delete of a full review, I am only listing a set list of each performer. Sorry about that.)

Tonight’s performers included two returning songwriters, Jim Puckett and Steve Nuckolls. who was the featured performer.
Jim went first and did six songs.

  1. Runaway Horizon (a travelling song that ook us from east to west and back)
  2. In the Bargain ( it’s hard enough to love yourself musch less lose the one your love)
  3. On Your Mind ( you can forget me, i’m in your mind)
  4. Last of the Lonely Girls ( he ends up the last of the llonely men when all the girls are gone)
  5. Opalena ( a mountain doula who delivers many babies but has no surviving choldren of her own)
  6. Song of Love ( a song strangely enough, about love)

Steve Nuckolls followed with a 13 song set including the following:

  1. Making My Getaway (doing what it takes to supress one’s pride)
  2. Sitting In With Emmy Lou ( a Saturday session to sing along with Emmy Lou Harris)
  3. Sunrise ( equivaling a sunrise with the idea of hope)
  4. Something About Your Love (She is the singer’s answered prayers and a gift from heaven)
  5. The Flag’s At Half Mast (pondering the reasons why the flag is at half mast)
  6. Open Door ( Being thankful for the things on your life that make it what it is)
  7. Everything’s Just Two Good (body parts as a metaphor for loving someone)
  8. The Gibson Guitar ( a surprising place to see a guitar for sale, in a furniture store)
  9. Praying For a Rocky Top ( hoping good old country values still exist)
  10. Lines Of Love (how the words we say reflect on those we love and those that love us)
  11. Higher Bar (describing the sacrifices made by heroes in war and at home)
  12. Sumanye ( An African term for togetherness and pride in unity of a homogenious group)
  13. Two Hours From Everywhere (living in a town that is 2 hours from all the major cities and their offerings)

As seen by the above: there was a wide range of topics and ideas spun together by the two performers , and highly appreciated by the audience at hand.

January 2020 Showcase

January 2020 VOCAL Showcase

Tonight was an open mic showcase which invites any and all to perform their original song material.. The evening was filled with music from a variety of performers from the traditional to the unusual.
Opening the night was host and stalwart member Norman Roescher, on keyboard, who began with a soft ballad “A Simle Man” and and followed up with Waiting For The Moon” a song filled with surrealistic images. Next up was Steve Smithson, a longtime VOCAL member, who rarely appears at showcases, but came equipped with guitar and songs to perform for us tonight. “Prairie Cowboy” offered a eulogy of sorts for someone who has passed and for himself as he moves on in life, Next was ” Go On” and then he did two songs written by Mark Fitzgerald “January Song” which had vivid pictures of winter, and “Castling” with the audience singalong chorus “Burn My Bones’. Steve Nuckolls came up to the mic next with “Praying For Rocky Top” a tribute song to those small towns in Appalachia who maintain old time standards like offered in the classic “Rocky Top” song. Where The Morning Glories Grow By The Road’ was a touching song (co-written with Glen King) about a relationship with sad overtones. He concluded his set with “Higher Bar” about aspirations we seek in life. Next we had a small interlude of poetry and flute as performed by Joan (formerly Jen) Smith and Roger Fink.
The poem “Story Of Our Lives” recited by Joan, detailed a relationship of disparate people who came together through a commonness of religion. Adding to the unusual, Joan followed up with a beat box accompaniment to a rap performed by Earl Jordan titled “Resurrection Power” which offered praise to Jesus. The duo of Gene (guitar)and Gayla (stand up bass) Mills, came up next and did a set of traditional country type songs, including “Run Away Like Water” about a restless life that was going downhill all the way. Gayla did the vocals on “Blue Runway Lights” and then Gene gave us a picture of “Forks of Buffalo” the small town where he grew up and left, which was thriving then , but when he returned years later, it had fallen on hard times and was virtually non recognizable. Closing the night’s line-up was Jeff Wagner. He opened with “The Devil Claims Your Soul” followed by “Scarecrow” a tale of love falling apart as the scarecrow in the field falls apart through exposure and age. Eventually, he burns it down as he tries to erase the sad memories
that filled his life. Lastly” I’m Still Trying To Make You Proud Of Me” was a song inspired by his father and remembering him and the influences in his life he left on the singer.
A full night of music was enjoyed by all for it’s depth of material and variety of performers.

December 2019 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase

The December 2019 VOCAL Showcase took place on Monday, December 16, 2019 at O’Toole’s Irish Pub. It was a very festive evening with quite a large turnout.

Glenda Creamer opened the show with a beautiful song recounting all the Christmas memories first as a child, then with being married and having a child. Matt Manion then joined her on a Bible story, where Matt sang the part of the angel telling Mary not to be afraid, that she would be bringing the savior into the world. She then delivered her holiday favorite “The Cookie Exchange”, and ode to fighting your diet during the holiday season. Yes, the cookies are everywhere, so the temptation can be very hard to resist!


Matt Manion then took the stage with his popular song “Quarter til Midnight”, recounting his experience on Christmas Eve heading to Midnight Mass. His experience driving through the toll booth and seeing the attendant is very thought-provoking. He then performed “Blue Ridge Mountain Highway”, a cool tune he wrote while on a camping trip. His friend Richard Ruck (sp?) wrote the lyrics on this, and sang with Matt. He then delivered “Necessary Trouble”, with the message that sometimes you just need to stand up and get in the way in order to be heard and effect change.


John Ellis opened his set with a holiday-themed “Me and My Baby on a Cold Winter Day”, a bluesy number advising us on how to stay warm on a cold winter day. “You Put Me in My Place” is probably John’s signature “anti-love” song and displayed some blistering guitar work!


Gene and Gayla Mills performed a really pleasant “let the snow keep falling” song which conveyed all the memorable images of a deep snow, roads disappearing, etc. Their next tune was a family-driven heart-healthy number about being on a “liquid” diet during holiday family time. Yes, that’s the only way out for a lot of families, good, bad, or indifferent!


Jim Puckett then took the stage with “Snowy Mountain Bride”, a “may or may not be factual” number where he’s hoping his woman is waiting for him on the snowy mountain. “I Left You an Angel” is a very tender song about leaving a Christmas ornament for his child to remember him by. He ended his set with “It’s Christmas Time Again”, where “It won’t be Christmas again until you’ve got me wrapped up in your loving arms” – I can taste your Christmas lips on mine!


Norman Roscher ended the evening of original music with some of his favorites: “Mulberry Moon” (co-written by Glen Habl), “You and Me Baby”, and the very tender winter holiday tune “You and Me”. He then premiered a new song “All I Want for Christmas is a New President”, longing for a president who won’t embarrass him.


A few folks then presented some holiday cover songs, with Glenda Creamer performing “Christmas Time is Here”, and Jenn Smith an a cappella version of “Santa Baby”, with her friend Reuben standing in as Santa. John Ellis then delivered “Merry Christmas Baby”, and a rocking “Run Run Rudolph”, which involved some joyous audience participation.


A great time was had by all in this holiday showcase!

Nov. 2019 Showcase

One of Richmond’s longest songwriters showcase, probably the longest, presented its #340th, this Monday, Nov. 18th, at O’Toole’s Bar and Grill. Two sets of songs were on the menu.

Sherry Heath Wagner and Jeff Wagner

First up, the duo of Sherry Heath Wagner and her husband Jeff Wagner, starting off on two guitars. . They did 7 songs which included the opening number “Reckless Mind”, followed by “She Was Raised On Sad Songs”, “Scarecrow ( Jeff on mandolin), “Ghost Rider”, “Borderline” , “Is It Still You” (again with mandolin) and lastly, Musicland”. The songs ranged in scope from painful experiences to relationship doubts, to a trip to Nashville. Their singing blended well and they instrument playing was exceptional and versatile.
After a brief pause and new setup, the show was back on with Jim Puckett. Jim is an extremely proficient guitar player and he showed off his skills on the set of mainly folk style songs he presented. Beginning with “Breaking Ground’, “I Will Take You Into My Arms”, a rocker “Keep’em Comin’ Around’, “Looking Down”, and followed by “Our Own Blues” Learning How To Say Goodbye”, “Letter To a Friend”, “Riverside” ( with harp accompaniment) and lastly, The Rest Of Our Lives”. A well planned set of songs, which covered wide ranging subjects from heartbreak, love, pep talks, sadness and secret rendezvous’.
The nearly full house showed their appreciation for the talents of these 3 people with hefty rounds of applause and in some cases, clapping along with the song. Be sure to mark your calendars for the big Christmas showcase on Dec. 16th. Lots of good cheer and prizes will be dispensed.

Jim Puckett

After a brief pause and new setup, the show was back on with Jim Puckett. Jim is an extremely proficient guitar player and he showed off his skills on the set of mainly folk style songs he presented. Beginning with “Breaking Ground’, “I Will Take You Into My Arms”, a rocker “Keep’em Comin’ Around’, “Looking Down”, and followed by “Our Own Blues” Learning How To Say Goodbye”, “Letter To a Friend”, “Riverside” ( with harp accompaniment) and lastly, The Rest Of Our Lives”. A well planned set of songs, which covered wide ranging subjects from heartbreak, love, pep talks, sadness and secret rendezvous’.

The nearly full house showed their appreciation for the talents of these 3 people with hefty rounds of applause and in some cases, clapping along with the song. Be sure to mark your calendars for the big Christmas showcase on Dec. 16th. Lots of good cheer and prizes will be dispensed.

Oct. 2019 Showcase

October 2019 VOCAL Showcase

It was a good night for original music at O’toole’s tonight. Though Dean Broga, scheduled to perform, had to miss the showcase due to an accident, his spot was ably covered by two stalwarts of VOCAL.

Norman Roscher

First up Norm Roscher did a set of his songs including “I Don’t Play Doctor Anymore” which is self explanatory, as he transitions from childish games to manhood. This was followed by a sad sort of dirgelike song “Lady of the Poppies’ which had a lonesome air to it, and lastly, he did an upbeat humorous tune about pigs on a garbage binge called “Pig Party”. Tasty.

Matthew Costello

Continuing ths substitute players, Matthew Costello, VOCAL’s president for life did a set of his tunes including “Meaningful One Night Stand” in which the singer , tired after all the morning after letdowns, find his true love. “If You Knew’ relates the singer’s reluctant to tell feelings to a would be love. And, his last song, a chestnut in repertoire, an obsession with the King, “Digging For Elvis” had the audience singing along with the chorus.

Gary Shaver

Long time member Gary Shaver followed with his set of keyboard selections helped out by guitarist James Wilkenson. “Somewhere between Her and You” details the singer’s plight of being caught between two loves, seeing her in your eyes etc. “I need A Little More Time” a sort of follow up to the previous song, talks about being in love with someone not the current one. Keeping the thme going, “Why Did You Hold Me Tight” explores falling in love with someone who has left him and wonders what went wrong with the relationship. And, finally in the quartet, is “How Did I Let You Go’ where the singer is stuck with memories of someone he should not have let go.

Gene and Gayla Mills

The main attraction for tonight’s showcase were the husband and wife team of Gene and Gayla Mills. He sings and plays gluitar and she plays the stand up bass and does back up vocals which makes a nice sounding duet. First off, “Hurricane” a new song, describes the results a hurricane and the destruction it has caused. An anti-tech rant “Carburator” bemoans all the technical advances we have made and wishes to return to a simpler time when gadgets, cars and life were easier to deal with. In a change of pace, Gene then performed an instrumental “Dying Fire”. “If Whiskey Had A Voice’ was a hoot of a song, in which while on stage performing, an inebriated audience member decides to make his debut right in the middle of the set and surprisingly, stuns everyone with his honest singing. Gayla then sang the song BITCH (Boys I’m Taking Charge Here) and intoned “It’s a man’s job, but I’ll (a woman) will show you how it’s done.. You go, girl. The final song in their set, was a long tale about the settling and growth of a section of Richmond called “Oregon Hill” which was settled in the 18th century alongside the James River and expanded to where it is now. A nice tribute to an historic area.

All in all, the night provided the audience with a wide variety of the talent there is in VOCAL and was amply expressed by the artists that performed on the showcase.

September 2019 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase

The September 2019 VOCAL Showcase took place at O’Toole’s Irish Pub, and also served as our three-times-a-year Open Mic event. Quite a few loyal original music lovers appeared for the performance.

Norman Roscher, MC, opened the evening on keyboards with a medley of two of his fine songs Waiting for the Moon and Within Your Eyes.

Newcomer Dean then delivered a lovely, tender love song Falling from Love. Jersey is a fine tale of moving to the big city, but regretting most of it. Wishing he was in Montana instead, as he felt lost in the canyons of the skyscrapers in the city.

Another recent VOCAL visitor and local RVA singer-songwriter, Dirty Metal Lefty, then took the stage with two cool tunes, Forecast (it’s gonna be cold!) and Ain’t No Friend of Mine, a bluesy number about someone she thought was her friend who had her back, but then things changed!

Steve Nuckolls then took the stage with two of his creations Sunrise and Praying for a Rocky Top.

Gene and Gayla Mills performed a mighty fine set of bluegrass/Americana with awesome guitar and bass work and stellar harmonies. From running from a Hurricane to the Virginia coal-mining country, they cover all the territory of songs folks can relate to.

Jim Puckett brought us Things Happen Fast, an ode to living in the fast lane and what will result. Alayna is a true story about the remarkable life of a midwife who lived 100 years ago in the Virginia mountains. When the War is Over longs for peace and an end to the loss and destruction going on around the world.

Keely Burn then lit up the stage with Lightning, an in-your-face song of unrequited love. My Friends in High Places takes on the postal service for delays in delivering a long-awaited parcel from a friend in Singapore. Plant Your Flag on Me is my fav, beginning with unusual but very alluring whistling (are you scared of what I’m made of?).

VOCAL President Matthew Costello closed out the show with a re-worked, very evocative Love Will Find the Way, and then delivered the familiar, crowd-pleasing Digging for Elvis. He then turned to keyboards, and play Subway to Brooklyn, a very creative/descriptive tale of two lovers in the big city.

Another very fine evening indeed for original music lovers!

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