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.