“Don’t let the complexity of the question distract you from the simplicity of the answer.” ~ Nathan Hamm
Any day spent with Marlon is a great day in my world.
Any day spent with Marlon is a great day in my world.
I got home so late last night that I just didn’t have the energy to talk about the incredible evening I’d had. I posted my brief photo of Marlon Hurst at his stereo and a couple of folks speculated that I had been at rehearsal. That wasn’t true, but as you can see, there was much music and merry making involved just the same. A few weeks ago, Marlon asked a few of us if we’d be interested in listening to music, specifically music on vinyl LP. Naturally, we all said yes. Last night we did just that. I had not seen Marlon and Kathy’s new home, so I got the ten cent tour prior to a perfect pita pizza dinner. It set the tone for an evening of artistry and appreciation.
Marlon explained how he and his brother David used to sit and listen to records; really listen, without talking, to absorb the nuanced sounds and the art of compiling album sides. In our hurried digital world, (adulting forces us into some level of this) we don’t take/have the time to listen or perhaps appreciate what we hear. And with CDs and singles being all the rage now, the art of the album is all but lost except to those of us of a certain age or true audiophiles. This was our chance to revisit an act that we had all once embraced. An act that, for each of us, had became a life altering experience. I knew it was going to be a great night the second I walked in and David was playing Joan Osborne and Trigger Hippy, a band I’d never heard of. It set off a discussion about performers we’d seen before they hit it big, not coincidentally, like the time Michelle Shute and I saw Joan Osborne at Phoenix Hill Tavern in Louisville just before Relish hit the airwaves. She wasn’t even on the big stage at Phoenix Hill. She was on the small stage upstairs usually reserved for local bands, which wasn’t weird at the time considering she’s from just down the road in Anchorage, KY. I also don’t think it was coincidence that the last time I remember a deep music listening thing like last night was with Michelle Shute. She and I used to spend hours listening to music, and she’s been extremely influential in expanding my musical palette over the last 30 years. Anyway, if the rest of the evening had been a disaster, it would have been totally worth it just to get turned on to Trigger Hippy.
However, the evening was anything but a disaster. We sat with full bellies in comfortable silence before the killer Marantz stereo that instantly transported me back to Johnny Barker’s room a la 1980 where we listened endlessly to music through a similar set-up. What a great memory. For this night, we had each been tasked to choose one album side to share, and prior to its playing, we said why we chose it. We drew numbers to determine the night’s rotation. Stacy Yelton was supposed to be with us, but she fell ill (likely the same bug I’d had earlier in the week). Still, she sent along her album choice, and as fate would have it, she was #1. She may have also won the night with her selection of Pete Townsend and Ronnie Lane’s Rough Mix. Her original 1977 pressing was pristine, of course, and it was a recording that I don’t think any of us knew about, even David, a long-time Who fan. The music had only the faintest hint of The Who sensibilities but you could clearly hear the coming Townsend solo a la White City choreography. It was a brilliant first selection. David’s choice of Radiohead’s OK Computer followed. Its 180g soundscape expanded our senses with a compressed cacophony of flavors. I drew number three and my selection was 1983’s Synchronicity by The Police. It was this recoding that won me over as a devoted fan. They were at the peak of their craft as a band; their furiously fast paced sloppiness corralled into a masterpiece. Next up was Kathy. She went with Gregory Porter’s Liquid Spirit, which drew a gasp from me because, 1: I adore him, and 2: Marlon and Kathy had actually turned me on to him last year. Again, me thinks no coincidence. If you don’t appreciate just how good Porter and his band are, sit between the speakers, close your eyes, and just listen. You’ll come to understand his beauty before the first cut has ended. Andrew Perkins drew hurrahs from all of us when he revealed his fifth place selection; Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Apparently lifted from his mother’s broad collection, the LP was still wrapped in its original plastic sheath replete with $7.99 Walmart price tag and “Grammy Nominated” sticker. In case you don’t understand the significance of that, Thriller went on to win 8 Grammy’s and sell 60+ million worldwide. As Andrew said, “It’s the biggest selling greatest hits album that isn’t a greatest hits album.” We really came full circle with Marlon’s choice of Jefferson Airplane’s reissued mono recording of Surrealistic Pillow. Though I’d heard White Rabbit many, many times before, I’d never heard it in its intended state or in context of its album side. I came away with a whole new appreciate for Jefferson Airplane. You can’t imagine how good this record sounds for a 1967 release. It had no problem standing its ground beside the other, more modern selections. Interesting that Airplane’s Grace Slick was the only female representation of the evening. I don’t think that means anything except that we all noticed. That in itself is just another reason why I love my people. They pay attention.
Thank you, Marlon, for suggesting we slow down long enough to appreciate the music we love. Thank you and Kathy for opening your home and making me feel welcome. Thank you Andrew, David, Kathy, Marlon, and Melissa (David’s wife and late-comer to the party) for the songs and music and camaraderie. You are my people and I love every one of you from the bottom of my heart. Thanks for including me in your journey. If you’re reading this and you used to sit in your room with friends and listen to music for hours on end, I highly recommend you call those friends, invite them over, turn off the TV and computer, and turn on the stereo and just listen. It’s better than any drug you’ll ever swallow. Promise.
I’m too tired to go into what an incredible evening I’ve had. I’ll save it for tomorrow. For now, let this photo tease you a bit. It involves the Brothers Hurst, a lot of music, a lot of laughter, and more love than words can express. Squeeeeeeee.
When Marlon Hurst isn’t playing trumpet with Four Leonards (and a fifth), he’s conducting the Kentucky Bach Choir. I had the chance to photograph them during last year’s Christmas outing, but I shot mostly from the balcony. This year, though, I was able to work a bit more up close. I was able to get a good look at Marlon whose back is to the audience for the entire concert. I loved it! I could tell he was having a really good time. There’s just not much better in life than people who love what they do.
Marlon Hurst is one of the coolest people I know. You’ve met him before. He’s the music director at First Presbyterian in Lexington, and he spearheads the Music for Mission series that helps raise funds for various charitable organizations like Glean KY that benefited from last night’s Leonard Cohen tribute. Marlon is an exceptional musician, and last night I learned that he’s played trumpet since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. He did an awesome solo with his brother David and sister-in-law Melissa’s band. You see, Marlon isn’t alone in his musical capabilities. His brother David is an excellent bassist (with a seriously cool Rickenbacher bass), and Melissa taught herself to play drums especially for the Cohen gig, which was approximately two months ago. She’s my shero: fearless and cool. She did a great job, too. These Hurst boys and their wives and kids are just the sweetest people ever, and I’m so lucky to call them friends.
Stacy took part in the exquisite Leonard Cohen Tribute this evening at Good Shepherd. She read lyrics to – oh gosh, I don’t remember now – but she read them as the musicians reassembled to sing what is unquestionably his most famous song Hallelujah. As expected, she was a pro. A total pro reading lyrics like the poetry they are. I’ve never seen anything more natural than Stacy in headphones behind a mic the way God intended. I’m so proud of her. What an excellent night of music.
I mentioned last year (I think it was last year) that Advent has become a time for introspection for me: A time to calm down when everyone else is ramping up with parties and shopping and such. It’s not that I don’t participate, I do and I enjoy it very much, it’s just that Advent has helped make me aware of things in life that are more important. It just helps me to stop and be grateful for those things. Today was the second Sunday of Advent. It was also Communion Sunday. Marlon (above) led the choir in beautiful song as usual, and Associate Pastor Caitlyn Foeshe (below) delivered a good message with a few laughs along the way (always a plus in my book). Meanwhile, I sat in the back snapping away. That, and Advent at First Presbyterian in Lexington, makes a happy combination for me. However, I have yet to capture First Church in a way that reflects how I sense the place. I’ll keep trying as long as they let me.
I had the great honor to photograph nuptials between Marlon Hurst and Kathy Waa Fleming this evening. Marlon’s niece, whose name I can’t remember to save my life, was the hit of the party though she didn’t much care for the camera. It took quite a bit of coaxing to get her to smile. Her mama helped her photo bomb the happy couple. I love this kid and her Uncle Marlon and Aunt Kathy. What a blessing to be part of such a joyous occasion.
For years I’ve been captivated by the cross at First Presbyterian Church. It stirs something in me. Its shadow against the ornate pipes of the organ is intriguing. The cross is especially noticeable at night when the lights are low and moody. Tonight I had the privilege of shooting the Bach Choir Christmas program, and it gave me the chance – thanks to Crystal Heis loaning me her long lens – to shoot the cross in the right conditions.
By the time we were ready for the group portrait, the altar steps were a mass of mic stands and enormous flower arrangements. The choir were willing to change locations, but I’m hoping we can manage another shoot without the accoutrements of performance for a better, more colorful grouping. They’re all such beautiful people that I want to see them in their glory. Plus, the church is just beautiful this time of year.
The choir was, of course, stellar. The music inspired. There were few empty seats, and I could hear people whispering words of praise for a job well done. I truly enjoyed the performance, and I was especially honored to snap a few shots through the night. I feel so fortunate to know these talented, beautiful people.
I had a guest register available at the reception. I didn’t realize I’d forgotten it until I went to bed Friday night. I attended All Saints Day service this morning and picked it up afterward. Sixty people attended Friday’s reception. Sixty people took time out of their lives to come see my work. Some I’d never met before Friday. Some sneaked in and out without my seeing them though they were kind enough to leave their signature. Some drove nearly two hours to be there. Some took off work. Some were recovering from major surgery. Some couldn’t stay long, and others stayed the whole time. Someone pointed out how many segments of my life were assembled in that room: family, close friends, old friends, new friends, co-workers, writers, actors, artists, musicians, librarians, bankers, software developers, railroad men, professors, social workers, therapists, pathologists, nutritionists, the list goes on. They’re not all represented in this collage, but I couldn’t think of a better way to have a group hug in the outhouse. Sixty people. I may be speechless for a week I’m so overcome with gratitude.