March 2023 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase

In March, VOCAL completed its third year of internet showcases, using Zoom, Facebook, and tonight, You Tube as well.

On the bill were Matthew Costello,  Jim Novak and Burke Ingraffia. Jim and Burke are virtually new members who signed up in January of this year and were performing for the first time.

Matthew Costello
To  start the proceedings, VOCAL president Matthew Costello began with a set of his original songs. Using tracks (sans #1) he began with a character depiction of “Walkin’ Willie” who, as the song describes, was a rather odd character in his hometown who walked everywhere including joining in street parades and causing disruptions. The singer one night gets a visitation from Willie post his demise and muses over what he, the singer, remembers about him.  “Walls of the Past” is also a remembrance of  different kind, that of an old love, rues what might have been and brings about “remorse for rent” with which there is plenty to spare.  “Life Is A Movie” ups the mood and analogizes states of mind to various movie tropes, the singer seeing himself in different roles on the screen. “Get Me Some Happy” – What you are is in the “eye of the beholder” as the singer repeats in his song.  Digging into his own personal recollections in “She Made You A Home”, Matthew tells us the story of his mother and her affect on the family she was the glue that held the family together for 46 years. In the “Artist Who Hung The Moon“(Grimshaw) we get a detailed painting of the life and times of the artist in his studio and how he created his visions on canvas. Lastly, the final song of the set, “Shadows of September“, also paints a picture of atmospheric visions and invites the listener to hear “the silent songs” that surround us. Jim Novak
Next up, Jim Novak. A recent transplant from Michigan,now lives in Prince William and also runs his own  showcase on Tuesdays. He began his set with “Blue Star in the Window” which was a tribute to his mother who served in the WACS during W.W.II. In his song, Jim tells us about the tradition of displaying flags during the war to demonstrate either a relative participating or unfortunately, a loss of someone,  by what color flag was being shown.  “Mastodon Conversation” imagines the singer talking to this beast from the past and discussing with it,  conditions for survival that, don’t seem to be much different relative to each’s living arena.  His next song “First Class View”  talked about his father working  in the auto factory in Dearborn, MI. and while not particularly enjoying that work, was dedicated to supporting his family.  This was followed by a musical musing of the erratic nature of weather, especially spring. “Maple Sugar Snow”  talked about how quickly  we can go from warm to cold in March and watch the sap from a maple tree drip and then freeze within a day or two. Jim closed out his set with “Lovely River” a sweet song about the river that flows nearby which could be  about a person as well.  In his observations this line “water doubles the sky”  helps describe the nature of what the river means to him. Burke Ingraffia
Another newcomer to VOCAL, Burke Ingraffia. Formerly from New Orleans, now in the Richmond area, brings another fresh prospective to the showcase. Once living in Independence LA. he titled his first song, “Independence, Louisiana” after that town and brought a vision of his grandfather’s farm, he worked as a child, harvesting strawberries and other crops and  the lessons he learned from that experience. In “Checks and Balances” we get a vision of the difficulty many face trying to survive with “shallow pockets” when trying to stay financially afloat.  Burke’s next song “Dusty Old Clock” reminds him that “time will take me” no matter how hard we struggle in life, the clock on the wall serves as ever present reminder we too, will be dust. Examining creativity is the theme in “Waves” his next song. We are challenged to “Live like it’s your first day and love like it’s your last”. Don’t waste time. whatever  you create, material or ethereal,  give it your all. A memory from his New Orleans days inspired Burke’s next song “Soft Shoes“.  Here he gives us a portrait of of a man dancing in the streets of N.O. probably during Mardi Gras and how graceful he appeared to be.  “Change of Heart” the final set song,  reminds us some things we have no control over, like the weather, the seasons, unintended consequences, but in life, one thing we can change is how we feel inside. The heart is malleable, flexible and exhibits our emotions and our self worth.

Once again: VOCAL performers demonstrated a wide range of subject matter, form and creativity to make this night of music enjoyable and thoughtful.


January 2023 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase

The January 2023 showcase had two veteran VOCAL members and two newer ones scheduled, but unfortunately Dave Drouillard, a new member, had some technical difficulties preventing him from performing (we’ll take a rain check, Dave!).

The show opened with longtime member Carol Torricelli (aka Torch) who delivered some very intriguing and dreamy tunes reminiscent of Joni Mitchell. Come to Virginia could be the official Tourism song for the Commonwealth of Virginia as it describes all the wonderful sights, smells and sounds of the state. Give Me the Simple Life was the first of two songs co-written with longtime member Glen King. This tune embodies many images and thoughts we could all take away, the many benefits of living a simple, uncomplicated life.  Don’t You Slow Me Down was written about a trip she took to explore her roots in Sicily and featured her signature stellar whistling ability! She has her bags all packed and is ready to go, so don’t anyone get in her way! Tossing Like a Salad Over You is a jazzy-ish tune describing her relationship with an individual, wondering if he would continue texting her and where their relationship was heading. Highway to Your Heart was the second number co-written with Glen and was written fairly recently for the truck song challenge VOCAL had. They’re burning up the highway trying to get back home to the one they love. Saw someone who looked like Jesus standing by the road and definitely had a country station dialed in on the radio. Keep it in the road! Great set, Torch!

Veteran member Keely Burn then took the virtual Zoom stage and delivered several of her signature tunes, presenting a theme that could probably be turned into a musical. You’ll Like Me More When I’m Not Me was the beginning of the journey in the life of the fictitious woman named Blue, where she doesn’t have much self-confidence, doesn’t like the limelight and would be more attractive if she’s just being herself and not acting. “Act II” of this story is someone new coming into the story who thinks they’re more attractive if they’re outgoing.  The next chapter in Blue’s life deals with terms and conditions, where you need to lay the groundwork up front to get on the same page (I may not want you as a companion but would welcome your company). Masterpiece reveals the conflict that often arises in a relationship where you have a misunderstanding of your terms and conditions, and in this case Blue and her companion are not on the same page. Waltz tells us that love is not a written-in-stone foregone conclusion, but that there are ways to fulfill a relationship other than the traditional one. You Were My Guiding Light, the conclusion of the narrative, is a heartfelt number every cloud has a silver lining but all you see is gray. I heard your voice beside me, your song showed me the way, you were the guiding light. Great job, Keely!

Newcomer Erik Gaines then took the stage and treated us to some mighty fine tunes. Drunk ‘til New Year’s was reflective of a recent visit to the ABC store where a customer had a fully-loaded cart and was going to get obliterated for the entire week via his Christmas spirits. About to be three sheets to the wind, he’s ready to just pass out on the couch where no one will notice. Fools Tread Where Angels Fear To Go tells reveals that he’s a fool for her love and will do anything, walk the wire, etc. to win her love. In Bad Dog he portrays himself as a tail-waggin’ somewhat well-behaved puppy willing to do anything to make the girl take him home.  I Only Mean The Best is a new heartfelt song about someone just trying to do the right thing and be the best they can, even though someone thinks the worst of them. The words may sometimes come out wrong, but no harm is intended. I’m Coming Home To You recounts the experiences of being out on the road far away from home living out your dreams but having other people tell you what you can and can’t be. It took him a while to figure it out but he’s finally come around. I’ll Love You Even More Tomorrow is a testament to the value of twenty years of marriage with many more to come! They were able to work through the ups and downs through the years but are in it for the long haul. Way to go, Erik!

December 2022 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase

Our VOCAL Christmas showcase took place on December 19th, and 6 songwriters, some new to our group as well as tried and true VOCAL veterans, banded together to carry on our traditional annual event.

Glenda Creamer was up first. She opened with "Love Came Down At Night", a light waltz filled with Nativity imagery. Next up was a melodic study just waiting for the right words, loosely titled "Song With No Words". She followed up with "After Christmas", its lyric urging the listener not to give up hope when the holiday season loses its glow. Glenda rounded out her set with "Christmas Cookies" - lots of cookies and lots of calories!

Next up was Roy Kauffman. Roy opened with "Dream of Me (Woodstock to Hollywood)", giving us images of memories of love left behind on the highway. His nostalgic set continued with "I'm Not Gone", reminiscing on departed friends. Roy concluded his set with "Any Other Way", an ode to appreciating what one has.

Dave Drouillard, one of our new VOCAL members, offered two songs this evening. The first, "American Flyer" gave the listener images of post-war America and a lonesome railroad as it made its way past winter on the Great Lakes. His second offering was "Unsung Carol", a child's heartfelt expression of the Nativity, and of faith.

Longtime VOCAL member John Ellis was up next, with two songs as well. "Autumn Hour" was a reflection on transitional themes between fall and winter. "Me & My Baby On a Cold Winter Day" was a sassy, romantic, Christmas blues.

Another or our newest members, Eric Gaines was next to perform. His first song, "Black Dog", used a strong, well developed lyric to deal with the darker side of love. His next song, "Iron Bound", spoke of a commitment as strong as steel and chain. Eric rounded out his set with an ode to commemorate his return to music, entitled "Coming Home To You."

Our final performer of the evening, James Lester, favored us with three of his original works. "Spending Christmas With You" was filled with traditional Christmas warmth, while "Christmas Boy" was a jazzy, romantic holiday number. His fnal song, "Piedmont Blues", was a study in the blues, Piedmont-style.

Wishing one and all a safe and prosperous 2023!

November 2022 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase

In November VOCAL presented three singer-songwriter members in a program simulcast on Facebook and Zoom. Chaired by VOCAL President Matthew Costello, the showcase began with some sample songs by each of the participants while waiting for the live viewers to assemble before their devices.

John Ellis

Once done, the showcase started off with John Ellis who amped up his Taylor guitar and began with the instrumental "Chimes" which was complemented by a nice run of arpeggio chords that suited the title. This was followed by "Sweet Blues" a sad reflection of lost loving. Next came "Honestly" a more honest title would not have sufficed to describe the lyrical content of this song. "You gave me very little of yourself", "unending agony" were a couple of the lines and the kicker was the singer saying "you can go to hell". "Winter Solstice" is a staple instrumental in John's repertoire and this tune rang out with some big chords perhaps describing the darkness that the title suggested. "Autumn Hour" included some picturesque lyrics of the changing season and the declarative by the singer "I find my tranquility" in this time of year. Closing out his set was "Band of Silver" extolling the virtues of an inexpensive wedding ring preferring to offer this rather than a gold one as "there's no such thing as a second had wedding ring, (when) a band of silver will do".

Steve Nuckolls

Steve is a long time VOCAL member and a frequent performer on the showcase. Tonight he offered some old and new material less often done. "Lines of Love" is a tender tale of the connection between two people in love and their means of communication in silent but meaningful glances. Picking up hitch hikers can be a dangerous thing. But, when its Eugene, as Steve tells us in "Much Obliged" it can be an entertaining ride. Full of stories he always ended his travels with the phrase "Much Obliged" no matter who was taking him to his destination. Next " The Gosson Mines" was a cautionary tale to youngsters about the dangers of getting too close to the people who worked the mines and sawmills. Something new, " A Week To Over, Time" described the mundaneness of work as the singer proffered "daydreams are my lifeline" as an escape from the boredom of it all. Closing out his set, was "What If She Likes It". His set offered a nice contrast to John's with less rock musical overtones and more soft pop tones.

Jeff Wagner

Jeff has been in VOCAL for a couple of years and has played his songs for the members in meetings and in a previous showcase. He has more of a folk sensibility. Tonight he began with "House Burning In The Town Tonight" a tale of a traveling musician who vacillates between being on the road and being at home, mostly away from those loved ones at home. This was followed by "Sacred Mountain" a song full of descriptive images of being out in the desert landscape, as something like a rejected lover might feel, living in the sagebrush, under a red sky, cold nights and out where the coyotes howl. Redemption seems like a far away mountain. Aging has it drawbacks, for sure, but it can be fun, as well as Jeff tells us in "The Old Guard" which is a self reflective song in which he and three of his buddies star. They hang out together and each one has a life talent that distinguishes them one from the other, but they have one thing in common: they "Suffer no fools or cheap whiskey". "Sometimes" "how I miss that Joy and pain" gives us an overview of a relationship and the good and bad that can accrue over the years. "Reckless Kind" pictures a lifestyle of difficult choices that put the singer in jeopardy as his life comes on "like a big red storm". Last song in the set "The Devil Claims Your Soul" is a tale of an out of luck cowboy who can't get it together as in this line:"the wind calls your name, but, plans you made are like broken bottles on the barroom floor" Heavy duty stuff.

Three different singers, three different styles of music, great variety.



If the video below doesn't play when you click it, follow this link to watch it on Facebook: October 2022 VOCAL Showcase Facebook Live

October 2022 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase


The October 2022 VOCAL Songwriters’ Showcase took place virtually via Zoom and FB Live on Monday, October 18, 2022. Two of VOCAL’s long-time members, Glenda Creamer and Jim Puckett, shared their well-crafted tunes with the group.

Glenda opened the evening with a spook-filled set and she was dressed for the occasion with her black witches hat! She opened with Saurena’s Song, describing the melodic hook reeling her in – swallowed the bait – he’s the best fisherman, and she’s waiting to see if she’ll get thrown back in or if she’s a keeper. Lazarus recounts the Biblical tale (a bit creepy/spooky) where Lazarus awakes from the dead. Scary, indeed! She then delivered her signature (and timely) song I’m a Witch Today, conjuring up evil emotions, vibes, etc. that you don’t want to come your way! She then brought us Ghost House, which was inspired by a crazy dark dream. They had just moved to a rental house and started experiencing really weird things, realizing then that the house was haunted. Moonshine Sky is another one of Glenda’s signature songs, a minor-keyed haunting number inspired by the moonshine-making days in Franklin County, VA during the Depression. Fortune Teller is a cool song she co-wrote with former VOCAL member and UofR Speech Professor Jerry Tarver. It “tells” about his love foretold, which then he stupidly betrayed, so he’s now asking the Fortune Teller to tell him a lie – he’ll even pay her double to reward her for her trouble! Glenda ended her set with another haunted tune Never Sing About the Moon (the crescent moon is for the witch, the full moon for the werewolf, but no moon is when all the creepy things come out!) If you don’t want him to fall in love with you, then don’t sing about the moon when you’re looking into his eyes, and don’t act pleased when he gives you a surprise.

Jim Puckett then took the virtual stage with his numerous guitars, swapping them depending on the desired tuning. He opened with Mabscott, an ode to the old coal-mining town, remembering his grandad driving the grocery truck around the mines. The Only Stars is a cool number about not only seeing billions and billions of starts in the sky, but also seeing millions in the darkness of your lover. Mississippi Line reveals a current theme of standing in line for assistance in some form or another, whether it’s food, gas, or most recently bottled water in the case of Jackson. You never know when you may be the one who has to stand in line, especially when your life and dreams have suddenly dried up. In Richmond is a tune where the city is calling out and waiting for you from all corners of its rich and sometimes dark history. From “Hollywood on the James” to the church on “The Hill” there is something for everyone. Jim brought his harmonica for Giving Me Ideas, where he and his lover are taking a drive in the country, the music cranked up to free them. Don’t have to tell me twice, she’s giving me ideas! It’s Okay is a new song from Jim with a “don’t worry, be happy” attitude to life and what comes along. Doesn’t matter what it is, someone borrows and wrecks your car, someone crashes on your sofa, etc. there’s always room at the Inn! Into My Arms is another cool song in alternate tuning that Jim describes as an “apocalyptic love song”. Regardless of all the gloom and doom and despair, I will always be there with arms wide open to take you in. Riverside is one of Jim’s signature tunes, a dark “Appalachian Murder Ballad” tale of taking your lover down to the river where the cool water feels good on a hot summer night. What begins as young passionate lovers trying to get away with everything they could ends with her being shot by a jealous lover who is then “taken to the water”. When The War is Over was written several years ago but is very applicable today with the situation in Ukraine. The parent compares the noises of war to the weather, with the rain and thunder – it will all be better when the war is over. Things Happen Fast describes the situation of many when they are living high on the hog, taking things for granted, when suddenly they find themselves in a free fall and lose everything they had. Jim ended the evening with Winter Town, where he initially is inclined to get out of town when the cold and snow arrives, but then realizes that is where his roots are, so decides to turn around and stay.

Great sets, Glenda and Jim!


If the video below doesn't play when you click it, follow this link to watch it on Facebook: October 2022 VOCAL Showcase Facebook Live