December’s VOICEBOX theme was MIRACLE. Surely I am not the only person that has struggled with the concept of Miracles. I was raised Roman Catholic and yet rejected the concept of virgin births and water turning into wine. But based on the phenomenal stories told last night, I need to reconsider my resistance to the idea of divinely influenced events. As the great philosopher Jon Bon Jovi said, “Miracles happen every day, change your perception of what a miracle is and you will see them all around you.” Perhaps Mr. Bon Jovi is right.
I opened the night by reading an original poem called MARVELS IN OUR MIDST. The poem arose from my recent thoughts on the topic of Miracles and was consistent with Mr. Bon Jovi’s approach. Maybe there are more Miracles out there then I had believed. I implored the audience to be open-minded and perhaps find some MARVELS IN THEIR MIDST. While on stage I took the time to introduce everybody’s favorite Rock Goddess, Cathy Richardson, The gist of my introductory words centered around how fortunate the audience is to have CR as our very own musical host. I never want us to take her talents for granted. Cathy followed my comments with her song, MIRACLE, which first appeared on her Grammy-nominated album ROAD TO BLISS, and set the bar high for a great evening of entertainment.
Maureen Muldoon followed Cathy and make some introductory comments and thanked the audience for participating in the children’s toy drive; an awesome display of outreach from the wonderful VOICEBOX crowd. The support for this program was impressive. I failed to get details on where the toys would be sent but I believe it was to a deserving group in Oak Park. Maureen also mentioned an exciting VOICEBOX project called OUT OF THE BOX which is a published compilation of 12 stories originating at VB. Copies should be available by February/March. More details to follow.
Jane Matthie relayed a story called A MUSICAL MIRAGE – AND A MIRACLE. Jane tells her tales in a bold, unabashed fashion. I don’t believe that she delivers her edgy tales with the premeditated intention of shocking the audience, but sometimes that is the effect. Matthie’s story, was complex and difficult to adequately summarize without missing nuance and detail. In essence, she told of a time, early in her marriage, that she considered moving on. She believed that she had the opportunity and that the time was right. And then on the fateful night that she was about to end of the relationship, after years of fruitless attempts to get pregnant, and so many details it is impossible to relay, she feels sick, she gets sick… she determines that she is pregnant… and the events of the night conspire in such a way that she realizes that her and her husband were not done. Call it fate, call it coincidence, call it a MIRACLE. But something happened to save a marriage and to bring a child into this world at precisely the right moment… Matthie told a nutty but heartwarming tale of Christmas joy to a spellbound audience. The songs of Barry Manilow were referenced in the story and Cathy Richardson followed with a campy version of Manilow’s hit MANDY… Good stuff all around.
Emily Culella next presented THE DIVINE COMEDY. Not as interminable as Dante’s original, I found her tale equally as rich and considerably more entertaining In addition to being a regular VOICEBOX contributor, Emily is a writing professor. Her stories reveal her training and education but mostly make clear her abundant talent as a writer and storyteller. She told of a Christmas miracle that saved a family from “too much of too many ugly things”; a miracle that prevented her Mother from succumbing to the many pressures of the Holiday season, including an untimely death, a fire in the family home, vomiting dogs, and hordes of out of town guests….and from tumbling down her private tunnel. The miracle was that her mother, on the edge of despair, found relief in laughter. She just laughed and the waterfall of laughter cascaded through the family. Emily believes some divine hand interfered in the normal human affairs and salvaged the Holiday with humor. A rush of Holiday warmth accompanied Culella’s fine, tender tale of a crazy Christmas seen through a child’s eyes. Cathy Richardson added to the yuletide vibe with her sweet take on the classic HOLY NIGHT. This was a beautiful sequence of story and song.
Kimberly Duncan ( aka the “TRIPLE THREAT” ) disclosed the thoughts that occurred to her during her mother’s last moments. While her mother lay dying in a beige hospital room, shortly after her father’s death, she contemplated and made choices. She recalled that Einstein said, “ There are two ways to live: You can live as if nothing were a miracle or you can live as if everything were a miracle…” Kimberly choose to live as if everything were a Miracle. The instant of her Mother’s passing she heard the cry of a new born baby, and a series of miracles flashed before her, events that had transpired that led to this moment, good fortune to her Belgian family through the horrors of World War II, of how her parents met, how she was born and raised, went to college and fell in love: a litany of miracles occurred to her. She CHOSE to view her life as a series of miracles. In closing, she challenged the audience to decide whether their stories, their journeys, their lives, were truly miraculous or just a string of connected events….. Duncan’s powerful last words were: “YOU DECIDE” Duncan’s confident style and direct delivery is always a treat to witness and tonight, she made us think…. Her story included references to the love of her parents, and inspired Cathy Richardson to recall the love of her own grandparents for each other so she followed with her original country hoe down of a song possibly entitled “GINNY & CORD”.
The next speaker was the defiantly bold Maureen Muldoon. Muldoon zoomed in on the theme of MIRACLE like a hawk on a field mouse. She told of how her youthful questions were often met with the response, “Maureen, don’t be so bold.” by nuns and other authority figures; in time she curbed her questioning. She told of how she wanted to be a priest when she grew up; not a nun, mind you, but a priest. And how she longed to visit the holy site of MEDJUGORIE, YUGOSLAVIA, improbable as that was…fast forward some years and through some miraculous circumstances she finds her self in Medjugorie, though she is without funds, she gets there, and given the chance to ask a question of the host, she disregards years of censure and asks, “Does Mary ever laugh and if so, what makes here happy?” Uncertain of whether this was a reasonable question or a silly one, another pilgrim turns to her and bolsters her spirit by saying, “Good Question, honey.” Oh the joy… and on the story goes on to include some unimaginably strange coincidences and happenings that could be described as miraculous. Which led Muldoon to certain books in unexpected places. Books and teachings that became her breath…. Muldoon told a stirring tale of how she traversed deep and wild terrain, how she went passed F*#king BOLD , to priesthood … and beyond. Richardson celebrated Muldoon’s courageous independence with her anthem WHAT I AM… a tribute to the spirit of self-satisfaction.
In a special treat Cathy Richardson put aside her guitar for awhile and displayed her considerable storytelling chops as she described a convoluted scenario involving a wedding ring, a wedding, a Hawaiian vacation, the loss and unbelievable recovery of the wedding ring. The facts of this story made me recall the old saying that “TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION”. You could not make up the series of bizarre events outlined in Richardson’s story. After finally finding THE perfect ring to honor her wife Rachel and celebrate their impending nuptials, the ring is lost in the shifting sands of Maui. But some things are just meant to happen, sometimes magic happens, MIRACLES happen, and through the intervention of the divine, dedicated angels and some really fine people… and against all odds……..the ring is recovered! This is also a story about love and persistence.. maybe the persistence of love…..and the fact that the ring was finally returned to Rachel and Cathy on VALENTINE’s DAY… well that’s just an added touch to this lovely story. This was a feel good story that lifted the spirits of the audience.
In celebration of the Christmas Season, the house joined together in a raucous sing-along…Maureen, Cathy, Kimberley “the Imperial” Duncan aka The Triple Threat, Mitch Mayer, Nora Tangora and several others hopped on stage to lead the audience in song. The highlight was a somewhat dysfunctional take on THE FIVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS that left everyone happily exhausted. The regular format of ending the show with FIVE SENTENCES will return in January when the theme will be “Happy Days Are Here Again”.
The night was another hit. A strong lineup of familiar contributors felt warm and cozy during this Holiday season.
When the doors open at Fitzgerald’s on VOICEBOX TUESDAY, artistry takes over and imagination becomes the Universe …… and sometimes MIRACLES happen… Join us next time. You’ll be glad that you did.
Peace, TERRY FALOON