A random brief posting on a social networking site reared 20 lucky fans and one guest each a clandestine performance in a small obscure art studio in Yonkers, NY last week. Communication via email and telephone requested confidentiality to assure and retain the integrity per the artist’s request.
From varying parts of our country, spanning Seattle, Washington to Bangor, Maine 40 fortuitous guests gathered for a private performance with the 71 year old musician/artist, Art Garfunkel. I was one of those fortunate guests!
The small gallery offered wine and hors d’oeuvres while we mingled and waited in anticipation for his arrival. He arrived dressed in khakis, a white v-neck t-shirt, baseball cap and cotton windbreaker. The only external evidence of his financial success laid in his short black, soft leather shoes which zipped up the inside. They screamed moola!
Delicately recovering from throat and vocal chord ailment, he graciously thanked us and welcomed us as he practiced performing. Showing visible signs of nervousness, he removed his baseball cap and joked about being bald, a far cry from the red afro that he sported for decades.
With surreal anticipation and all eyes fixated on this musical icon, he settled closely, positioning himself to his guitarist, tuning his voice to the guitar. Sipping water and confessing that he has always been a nervous artist, he read an excerpt he had written in which described how he was feeling at that moment, revealing the perfectionism in him.
With all eyes on Art, his first song was “The Boxer”. With nuance in his voice, partially reminiscent of younger years, other times very soft, still nonetheless beautiful he sang to his small audience. His facial expressions revealed disappointment as his voice sang out of tune just a couple of times. What was obviously frustrating to him sounded ever so beautiful to his small intimate audience. Quintessential lyrics and song flowed eloquently. High notes were so gracefully achieved as if guided by angels flowing out of his vocal chords, releasing through his reaching arms. His passion shined brightly. As we applauded following his first song there appeared to be tears in his eyes as he so graciously thanked us and gestured that he was reaching out and hugging each of us. You could see the relief, renewed self confidence as he took a few deep breaths. This was an important performance for him, and for the incredibly fortunate and grateful guests, it was absolutely amazing!
He went on to sing “The Sound of Silence” which evoked tears not only in my eyes, but other guests. He then sang “Scarborough Fair”. At times the position of his head and face to the microphone it was as if he was still young, that the Art Garfunkel whose music I grew up with, was standing red haired and all. By the end of his fifth song he announced that his voice was tired and his performance was coming to close. He coughed softly which was quickly dispersed with a glass of water and a lifesaver.
Following his spectacular performance he sat and answered questions from the audience. The first question asked by a gentleman with a heavy Irish accent. “Did you meet the Beatles?” Art’s faced smiled largely as he replied “I met Paul Simon!” During the 30-40 minutes of questions and answering topics varied from the walks he takes all over the world, to what he has on his ipod (asked by yours truly), Other questions were asked to clarify the meaning of particular lyrics, events, moments from his past, pointed questions from fans that knew a whole lot more about his history than I did. The most fascinating for me, however, was the concert in 1981 at Central Park. As he spoke of this I sat, spellbound, listening to and imaging all the wisdom, knowledge and stories he must have. What an absolutely fantastic experience, what a blessing to be one of the few chosen. I was sitting talking with Art Garfunkel! Other names mentioned included Joan Baez, Randy Newman, Bob Dylan, Billy Holiday, The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly. He spoke of his young son in such a gentle loving manner, as he shared his pleasure and desire to spend time with him.
As Pam and I were leaving the inconspicuous venue, we walked outside in awe and almost disbelief of what we were just witness to. I said to Pam as we looked around at a younger crowd “I bet to many he just appears to be an old man”. It was then I started to think about the stories, experiences, wisdom we can gain from the elderly, if we are astute enough to listen. As we walked to our vehicle there were many moments of silence, we were speechless, mesmerized by the gift we had been granted. My friend and I shared stories of telling a few younger friends who we were going to see and their response was “Who is Art Garfunkel?” (No worrying of confidentiality there!) I’m not sure which came more as a surprise to me, younger generation who did not know who he was, or one of the two guests from Seattle who hadn’t heard of Vermont! I must admit, I was a bit embarrassed when my friend Pam took off her coat and had a sweatshirt on that had giant glittery letters saying “Mrs. Robinson”! (Joking)
With sincere intention to offer what will sound like a cliché, this evening, this opportunity, the hap and circumstance manner in which it came about really did serve as a bridge over troubled waters of my own soul which has been struggling of late. I was reminded that life can change on a dime, we never know what tomorrow will bring, and my heart and head are facing with all the possibilities.
I am still coming down from this incredible event, as is my friend Pam. As we drove the long road home we both concurred that this night will be an immeasurable highlight of our lives. We had been in the presence of greatness. I will forever treasure and savor every moment of this clandestine performance in that small obscure art studio in Yonkers, New York.