We went to Burlington during our Vermont trip and heard my brother, James Hearne, perform in a local coffee shop. James is a talented singer-songwriter from Philadelphia and a terrific performer. He had planned ahead and set himself up with this gig during his vacation, which is exactly the sort of thing I might have done if I’d thought of it.
James has great stage presence and a charming public personality. His pacing from song to song and over the course of the set was spot on, and he has a lot of variety in the songs he writes and performs, from real guitar-pounding barn-burning numbers to very intimate, gentle ones, to narrative songs, to songs with great hooks, and all with clever, interesting lyrics that get even better the more you hear them. He owned the room from the moment he started.
My brother and I live far apart, and this is only the second or third time I’ve heard him play live. I loved seeing that in our very different genres our performing styles are so similar.
Minus the smart lyrics, his is the kind of performance I love to give. I want the audience to hear the variety of sounds I can produce and to be moved in different ways with each number. I want to communicate with them through the music, and also to speak so that they can get to know me. I want the overall experience to be coherent, compelling, enriching, and exciting. And for some reason not all classical recitals feel like that.
I was so impressed that he could arrange a performance like this on his vacation. There’s something flexible about being a guy with a guitar that is not the case for an oboist alone. I can certainly play a program of solo oboe music, but the oboe can get tedious pretty fast, and there’s only so much repertoire. The addition of piano offers a larger variety of color and style options, but then I’m dealing with another person, who needs to be scheduled, rehearsed with, and paid.
Also, the number of bars and independent coffee shops willing to host and promote a folksinger dwarfs the number interested in an oboist. So there’s a huge amount of performance flexibility there that is not available to me.
I cannot complain, though, as what my career has over his is established paying jobs. I make my living playing in the orchestra, making reeds, and teaching (i.e. talking joyously about) my instrument every day, and he pretty much has to work a soul-sucking retail job (my words, not his, James’s bosses!) until he hits it big. Everyone please go to his page and promote him, incidentally – he’s worth it!
I loved the friendly but intense feel of his concert. I loved the smart, elegant lyrics he writes and the compelling way he sells his music. Watching James perform I was impressed by the way he owned the room. Often when attending other people’s concerts I fidget and wish I was up there performing myself. I just know I could be doing it better. In this case, though, it was such a treat to watch my little brother do it so well. I can’t wait for my next show!