Tonight represents the first of three church performances on this tour
Yesterday was a day off. Everyone traveled to Charlotte, but Frank, Sugar Rob and I stayed in DC to attend the American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation Gala at the Russian Embassy. The great Russian tenor saxophonist/bandleader, Igor Butman, and I jointly received the (ARCCF) Foundation Award for our cultural diplomacy. He is my brother from another mother and I absolutely enjoyed seeing him and the ever beautiful Oksana. Igor will always say something insightful and hilarious and play all kinds of horn, and he did. The Gala, chaired by Susan Carmel Lehrman, was classy, communal and comfortable. Many culturally engaged DC citizens and friends were present including Wayne and Catherine Reynolds, Murray and Lisa Horwitz, and Washington Performing Arts Society Board Chairman, Reggie Van Lee. It was festive – with or without vodka.
The legendary Frank Stewart and I are on the road to Charlotte and it’s 4:12am as I write this. Frank is making the drive longer by periodically understating how many hours we have to go.
Today, we are going to hear about the group’s day off from a young person with an old school work ethic. When you see him, you are washed in a wave of comfort because you know that the most meticulous details will be executed with the utmost precision. Whatever the task, he is professional, proactive and is enthusiastic about being thorough. Frank is telling me to add that he works with pride and integrity (those two words because they work together a lot). We all love him….and that’s not a gimme. Road production associate, driver, wrangler and part-time librarian, Mr. Jay Sgroi:
It takes a lot of energy to perform day to day (or work any everyday job for that matter…). When you put so much into every performance, it is only natural to become run down. On tour, work has a tendency to take over, and it’s easy to forget that balance is the key to a healthy life.
A day off provides an opportunity to achieve balance. Whether you are an introvert seeking a moment to be with yourself (a precious commodity when traveling with 90 people) or someone who is nourished by the camaraderie of sharing stories over a meal and a drink, this day is a chance to re-energize and “take in” from the world into which you have been pouring out so much each night. It also allows us to, even if only for a moment or two, step outside of the nightly mental pressures of putting on the best show possible, in order to take care of ourselves.
For some of us, that means catching up: paying bills, Skyping with children, or recouping lost hours of sleep from the nights before. For others, it means getting ahead: practicing music, hitting the gym, or working tirelessly on an outside project. And there will always be those who just relax and recharge with a movie, a night on the town, or an old favorite recording, while the diehards, who are so in love with what they do, chose to go to a jam session ‘someone said’ was a short walk from the hotel. Most importantly, whatever the case, everyone is able to CHOOSE to do something for themselves.
I used the day off to partake in a little bit of most of the above and, more importantly, to enjoy the company of the people around me – not just as co-workers figuring out what needs to be done next, but as the patchwork second family we’ve become.
Each day, I am grateful to be a part of a production that transcends individual talent to present a show that brings such palpable, positive energy to every place we go. But today, I also feel grateful for the pause. We all do. I look forward to seeing (and hearing) how these fresh breaths of individual energy will come together to bring a new interpretation and intensity to tomorrow, on and off the stage.
This evening we will perform at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC. This is the home church of our good friend, Anthony Foxx, the former mayor of Charlotte who was recently appointed as the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.
Tonight represents the first of three church performances on this tour and everyone is approaching it with great anticipation. We are grateful to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Dennis Scholl for partnering on this project with the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte, Blumenthal Performing Arts Center and Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. This is a true community event and we look forward to uplifting everyone at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church tonight.
“Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration”, will be on tour on October 3-23, and will be webcast live on October 24th, 25th and 26th at 8PM ET on wyntonmarsalis.org/live