April 2023 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase

Monday evening, April 19, marked VOCAL's return to live performances!! Well, sort of...

There were over 20 people gathered at O'Tooles' Forest Hill location, to celebrate our first "live" Songwriters Showcase since the pandemic lockdowns. However, the perfect storm of miscommunications and misunderstandings. Due to the confusion, Jeff Wagner, who was scheduled, wasn't in attendance. He was missed.

Hours before the show it was discovered that O'Toole's closes its kitchen at 9 PM on Mondays and were advised that we shouldn't play past that time as the whole restaurant may close down if there's no bar business. We had a good crowd, and some people had driven a some miles to get there, so someone suggested that we just play without the sound system and see how things went.

So what is one to do? You gather in the bar side of the restaurant, place your drink and food orders, pull your guitars out of their cases, and you stage an unplugged, impromptu "guitar pull"! Erik Gaines, Steve Nuckolls, Jim Puckett, and Ken Roller, passed around their guitars and performed before an appreciative group. Before the evening ended, even a few of the O'Tooles regulars found their way over to our side of the bar.

This reviewer gave up trying to identify titles by the third song, because as good as the songs and performances were, that wasn't the point. What caught my attention were the smiles and hugs, the handshakes and laughter, the music and applause. For the first time since March of 2020, VOCAL was gathered together in the same room, at the same time...that was the point!

And a good time was had by all...

Showcase Photos

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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!