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.
The November 2020 VOCAL Virtual Showcase spotlighted the Songwriters of the Year and writers of the Songs of the Year. There were ties in both categories for the first time, so we had multiple performers. The Songwriter of the Year award went to Jim Puckett, Keely Burn, and Glen King. Song of the Year went to Jim Puckett, Matt Manion and Jeff Wagner. This was the first virtual showcase using Zoom while streaming via FB Live, which brought us the best technical production we’ve seen since closeting ourselves during the pandemic.
Jim Puckett opened the show with Things Happen Fast, an interesting tale of reversal of fortune, falling from grace, etc. Learning How to Say Goodbye was a winner of Song of the Year, a well-crafted tune about saying goodbye to a past lover. Sand With Candy is an ode about not “getting above your raisings”, eating humble pie, etc. “you think you hit a home run, then they throw you out at second base”. I like eating sand with candy, and still haven’t had my fill! Home Tonight is a lovey-dreamy song, where he’s daydreaming and looking forward to getting back home with that special someone. He ended his set with Oh Alena, an ode to a midwife from years ago who delivered 1,000 babies in the hills around the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
Keely Burn then took the virtual stage with Not Afraid, a bold song about learning, maturing, trusting yourself in your own skin, etc. She next delivered Lightning, asking if you could see me now, would you let me stay? Out of Control is a new song reminiscent of the mythical Sirens, where she’s a guiding light that pulls you to the shore, and you are satellite trapped in her orbit now. Come Down Love is a signature Keely song about a smooth operator who refused to call her a lover. Charge me up and turn me on, plant your flag on me!
Matt Manion brought us a few of his well-crafted tunes. Let Me Tell You Mama Things Have Changed describes how dating has changed slightly through the years, especially with this liberation thing! Losing My Hair was reminiscent of the days when he was able to actually grow hair. He never felt so naked in bed! The Last Man on Earth is a David Bowie-ish number, where weekends are bad, the holidays the worst. Boys on the Beach is recounting a memorable summer vacation at a beach house. Don’t Stand by Me is a cool tune about a trumpet player who was cheating on his wife, so whatever he does, don’t stand by me!
Jeff Wagner took the stage with his “Hurricane trilogy”, starting with Wide Open Wyoming and Slow Moving Mississippi being thrown together by a hurricane (they never knew what hit them!) He was pulled to the mountains, she to the sea. Can’t Run Anymore, written for his daughter, describes her situation after multiple surgeries (tough as nails, held together by screws). You can’t run any more, but with that shining spirit, you’ll certainly go far! He ended his set with Sometimes, where he is vividly remembering a love from the past. We used to dance, with no talk of love or romance. Even though I’d never go back again, I miss that joy and pain, sometimes!
Another wonderful VOCAL virtual showcase, and congrats to all the award recipients!
Congratulations to the Contest Winners, Nominees and VOCAL supporters who receive awards for their achievements and involvement.
Song of the Year
Don’t Stand By Me
Learning How To Say Goodbye
Songwriter of the Year
Dedicated Service Awards
- David Atkins
- Keely Burn
- Larry Cody
- Matthew Costello
- John Ellis
- Glen King
- Justin Laughter
- Matt Manion
- Steve Nuckolls
- Norman Roscher
- Gary Shaver
- Dick Upton
- Mel Eichenberger
Nominees Songwriter of the Year
The September 2020 VOCAL Showcase was yet another successful virtual showcase conducted via FaceBook Live due to COVID-19 social distancing.
Our President Matthew Costello opened the show with one of his signature heartfelt tunes If You Knew, wondering how the target of his attraction would react if they were aware of his feelings toward them.
James Lester took the virtual stage from Halifax after a bit of an absence from the VOCAL scene but jumped right in and never missed a beat. It’s always good to hear from this bluesy guy with all the tales he has to tell. He opened with Whiskey and Yoga, an attempt to justify drinking your life away. He followed with These Hard Times, another drinking song stating that down in Mexico living on Tequila is a hard way to go. Beautiful Day is a touching, Gospel-sounding song touting the greatness and wonder of waking up each day and enjoying the simple things in life. Coatesville Blues is one of James’ signature tunes about life in this rural area of Hanover County. You know times are sad when you have to sit on the porch drinking warm beer from the can! Some help from the Doctor is needed here. Going Home was written in honor of Mother’s Day describing the pull sensation you feel after being away from home for so long. Working Class is a newer tune influenced by Merle Haggard and Steve Earle, where sleep doesn’t come to a worried soul – Lord won’t you smile on the working class? Friendship Ended is a new song reflecting a situation in social media when your online “friend” you thought you knew so well turns out to be a totally different person. Lileth, based on Jewish mythology, is a cool, haunting tale of the mysterious Lileth, asking why you left me all alone here in Paradise. When Will The Killings Stop is an ode to current times we all are aware of, where we seem to be in a cycle of needless violence, too often taking lives away. The World Ain’t Broken is a newer bluesy number giving hope to this world, despite the many bad things going down today. Great set, James, and welcome back!
Roy Kauffman is a new member to VOCAL, but has been in the writing scene for many years and is a collaborator with Matthew Costello. His welcome set came to us by way of Seattle. The harmonica-driven Running Scared had a really cool vibe – I want to see you one more day, I want to see you for a little while – I’m not running away, I’m running scared. Reno describes the lure of a casino where you can easily gamble away last week’s paycheck in one night – when the river runs, that’s my redeemer, but the light just fades away. Dream of Me tells the tale of the intersection with Memphis, Woodstock and Hollywood, two small towns just north of Memphis – 20 miles from Memphis, 30 years too late – they want me in the studio, they want to hear me play. Clouds of Dust had some good imagery – I couldn’t turn left or right, but when I found you it was all green lights. However, you don’t understand me, and all you do is abuse me. What did I do? No one else can thrill me like you do. Better to be Blind is a sometimes-misunderstood song, according to Roy. Being in love is like being insane – all those great memories have lost their shine. I was looking for love, not a fight. Any Other Way starts at the breakfast table, with the coffee brewing a breakfast song, the radio tells me Sunday is gone – put your pretty blue dress on, I’ll play your favorite song. A Few Important Parts is a very touching song in memory of a young friend who passed away much too soon. Now that you’ve gone and left us, floating off some place – tearing up the Great Beyond, a mission on your face. I know that we will miss you, and feel you in our hearts – as we put things back together, it’s a few important parts. Roy ended the evening with the minor-tuned Twelve Grains of Sand, a self-described spaghetti Western about revenge about to be taken on someone who did him wrong. Blood on my hands, a pistol in my hands, I’m ready for a fight! Great set, Roy, and thanks for the long-distance delivery.
Great virtual showcase, Matthew, James and Roy!
The August 2020 VOCAL Showcase was yet another successful virtual showcase conducted via FaceBook Live due to COVID-19 social distancing.
Our distinguished President Matthew Costello opened the show with one of his finest tunes, A Meaningful One Night Stand. Those clever lyrics just draw you right in to this experience!
David Atkins treated us to some of his older tunes, but we enjoy hearing them anyway! Fly Air Jamaican entailed the fun and unpredictable times you may experience while flying this airline. You’ll fly on island time after the pilot wakes up, fly by the seat of your pants, not knowing where you’ll land and get to spend the night. Here in My Office, First Table from the Bar is a number many folks can relate to. You’re certain to get some great advice and treatment for addiction and social disease from this doctor! Gray is a new social commentary song offering a way to describe human situations when various color/ethnic/origin are involved. The truth isn’t always black and white – there’s a lot of gray in-between, and we don’t always see things the way they do. Put Down the Phone and Drive may be a bit dusty but is definitely relevant today with all the distracted drivers. If this were required listeners for youngsters learning to drive, maybe our roads would be a little safer!
Bill Kaffenberger then took the virtual stage with several of his heartfelt tunes. He co-wrote several songs with an old friend who recently passed away, and now he’s digging up some old tapes, and putting music to the words. In the Morning was one of those, reflecting a new start with the new day, no regrets, no blame, just remembering what we had from the evening before. 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. 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! The Long Goodbye recounts an autobiographical relationship that never happened but was more of a fairy tale dream – maybe she’ll see, maybe she’ll know she was meant for me. 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! Bill ended his set with The Dogs of Midnight, which included Harry Gore on electric guitar on the recorded version. This is a mystical tale of being in a hot and muggy New Orleans during Mardis Gras, and a desire to be taken where the dogs of midnight howl and the cats are on the run!
Mark Daniel finished out the lineup with several of his finely-crafted numbers. Burning the Grass was a mighty fine tribute to Doc Watson and bending those Black Diamond strings. I Ain’t Got Started Yet is a heartfelt number about missing out on a loving relationship and having regrets – this can’t be over, ‘cause I aint’ got started yet. He followed with his up-tempo toe-tapping truck driving song, with ten days back behind me and nothing left but a downhill run. He then donned his cowboy hat for his “wear the hat song” The World’s Richest Man. This is a very poignant number about picking up a toothless hitchhiker who imparts some really good advice and wisdom and finds richness in the very simple things in life. Mark then swapped his guitar for his 1962 Mosrite and delivered a very picturesque story of Franklin, TN called Back in Franklin. This is a really cool little town in central Tennessee that time forgot, where the stoplights still blink, the neighbor’s dog still barks, and the Civil War goes on. He then switched to a jazzy number, telling us how he’s had a bad day, nothing’s gone his way, but that will all be taken care of when he finally holds his special love. Everything is a “forever love” anthem he co-wrote with his friend Ann Marie, where “everything” is the price he would pay for true love. He ended his set in a dropped-D number I’m the Real Thing, a song about his sweetheart. This is an ode to his true love and dedication to this special person.
Great virtual showcase, Matthew, David, Bill and Mark!
VOCAL July 2020 Virtual Showcase
Keeping the tradition alive, a continuous monthly showcase for over 30 years. Though, of course, we are now in virtual territory, that is, presenting songwriters on Facebook, rather than live. Tonight was no exception.
Introducing the showcase was the president, Matthew Costello, who began the night with his song, “train Of Thought”.
Following that, we switched to the home of Keely Burn, one of our very talented younger members. She kicked off her set with “You’ll Like Me More When I’m Not me”, a request to the singee to be tolerant and understanding of her pecadillos. One such as she’d be more attractive if she were less reactive. This was followed by “Sky Song”. And, then, she closed with her new offering “The Flood”. She states, “nothing else matters when the world is in tatters,” which is pretty much a true reference for today’s problems.
Steve Nuckolls is a frequent showcase performer who is a great songwriter. He popped on the screen next with a set of 5 songs. One his classics, “everything is Just Two (Too) Good”, eas thte first, and it describes the attributes of the his love, such as two good arms to hold me” “two good eyes to see me” etc. on most of her body parts. “Higher Bar’ salutes two young high schoolers who became unlikely heroes. “6 Feet Away” capitalized on the current pandemic, doing his part to social distance and keep all safe with the line “rather 6 feet away than 6 feet in the ground”. Amen. “Rocky Top” another one of his classics, wishes there were more towns that had that country feeling of his own hometown. Lastly: “Black and Blue” a new song, tells the story of a (black) kid and (white)cop who learned to appreciate their differences , through getting to know each other.
Filling out tonight’s bill, was Russell Lawson, a long time VOCAL member who’s been sorely missing from the showcase stage, this tonight on his 46th anniversary. He began with “Suddenly My Life Has Changed” referring to the changes love causes in a relationship over time. “If You Call Me Now” gave us a tale of broken love, she left, he hit the bottle and now he’s in a bad state and if she should call, she would hear him crying. The “Tunnel Song” tells the story of hwat happened when the Church Hill railroad tunnel collapsed on a train that was passing through and the fact that rather than excavate and retrieve the engine, they just buried it in the tunnel and there it lies today. This was followed by “Any Port In A Storm” which was composed of various pictures of weather conditions . “Mission Trip to the Blackfoot Nation” had detailed descriptions of the Montana Wide terrain, while the singer went about spreading God’s word to Native Americans. Back to a bottle song, Lawson told is the story of family woe precipitated by “Jack Daniels Was Daddy’s Best Friend”. Taking inspiration from his daughter’s wedding, “together Forever From This Day On” presented a compendium of vows that were presented on that occasion. Matthew Brady was a famous Civil War photographer, and Lawson along with Co-writer Josh Jones, took us a journey through the photo records that Brady captured in the 1860’s. Last song in the set was “Days Gone By” and in it, we are advised to forget about all the past in our lives and we will be welcomed when we reach Heaven’s gate.
Closing out the showcase, Matthew bid us all a good night and thanked us for viewing.
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.
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!
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.