Don Conoscenti, The Chouse (Norman, OK.) 7/15/12
The Chouse is a former church that has been converted into a private home and for many years a post Woody Guthrie Folk Festival tradition has been Don Conoscenti’s concert in these wonderful surroundings. With people still around after the festival it means that not only does the audience swell to bursting but so too does the band!
Starting off with a tribute to the late Tom Lee (former co-owner of the Chouse) Conoscenti accompanied by guitarist extraordinaire Terry Ware played Only The Truth ‘…it’s peacetime again, you’re here among friends…’ after which Conoscenti’s three-piece band joined the pairing – Patrick Turnmire (percussion), Cliff Collins (bass) and Jennifer Petersen (vocals). They were further complemented by Butch Morgan (guitar) and Dan Duggan (accordion). Still on a high from ‘WoodyFest’ you just knew that these musicians who revel in playing together were going to deliver a tour-de-force and that’s exactly what they did!
Extended jam sessions were a feature of many songs and when I tell you that the first set which lasted an hour and three quarters featured eleven songs, you will get a flavour of what I mean. The musicianship really was second to none; three songs in, drummer and percussionist Dean Brown added to the ensemble cast. Further additions were made in the form of guest vocalists – Audrey Auld, Susan Herndon and Mary Reynolds who each sang one song before the first set ended with Conoscenti’s Beautiful Valley.
With it being a Sunday night, some had to leave during the interval but no one could complain of being short-changed as the first set was longer than many full shows I’ve attended over the years.
After the break, during which everyone took the opportunity to chat, eat and drink, the second set started off with Conoscenti’s My Brilliant Masterpiece for which every single person was up on their feet and dancing ‘like nobody’s watching’. Conoscenti observed that everyone looked ‘so free, so beautiful’ and it was that kind of night. The warm summer evening, a spirit of friendship, the joy of being ‘in the moment’ and the backdrop of a stellar cast of musicians playing their hearts out created a magical experience. At just over an hour in length, the second set and the evening finished with Drink Another Round a sentiment that seemed to express the exuberance on display.
Sadly, with the Chouse being marketed for sale, this was the final concert to be hosted there and we all wonder how Conoscenti and his talented cast of characters will celebrate next year. All I can say is ‘watch this space’ for wherever and whatever he does I plan on being there! Jela Webb