Fall 2001--Building to a Crescendo
What an unbelievable fall this has been! Things are going so well in so many ways, despite the tragedies. I have once again had more fun than ever with my latest group of kids. I feel like I say that a lot, but it seems to be true. One group might even be my favorite class of all time--they really want me to say that sort of thing. September 11th caught us all off guard. Classes more-or-less stopped for a week, while faculty and students watched CNN together and tried to assimilate what had happened. I spent a lot of time filling in my classes on aspects of world politics and such things as seemed relevant. It was eerie in that the day before I had been explaining guerrilla/terrorist tactics as part of a lesson on the First Jewish War. Suddenly, it seemed to be happening in front of us. Unknown to me at the time, my sister was suddenly questioning her and her husband's intention to have a child at this time. She finally struck a bargain with God and conceived later that week. If it's a girl, her name will be "Grace." I didn't know any of that at the time, as she waited until November to make her announcement.
Over Labor Day weekend, I had the pleasure of hosting Mike McGlinn--a friend of Kevin's who had been a fixture of Kev's stories for years--along with others for a weekend of festivities. This included pizza and wine at Bruno's, a jam session over at fellow teacher Phil DePauw's place, mass at the Basilica, and late, late talk. Francesco, Mike's Italian student friend, and I particularly swirled around some theology of the church at length while Mike listened keenly and Kevin snored. An unexpected result of the weekend, though, was when I mentioned to Mike that I intended to plop $300 down this fall to quickly record some fleshed-out versions of my music just for fun and he made a startling counter-offer: he said that he'd been so blessed by people helping him out on his own album project, Virtues, that he really wanted to return the kindness. He then immediately made me set a date for recording with him in Nashville, where he was gracing me with the best studio equipment in existence. Unbelievable.
The fall rolled on with preparing to record becoming my key focus. I assembled what was almost my ideal band, losing only Erik Goldschmidt on guitars, as he couldn't fly out from Boston College because of finances. But Mark Lang was there on guitars, with J. P. Hurt dominating the scene on bass. That filled out the old Freek contingent. Kevin Fleming was the only choice for drums, of course, and my fellow teacher P.J. McCurry was the wild card in on keyboards. Mike McGlinn would be producing and engineering, with the occasional contribution on the guitar. Things began to look promising. I recorded a ludicrous demo one evening with Mark for everyone's benefit, which was promptly ignored by everyone but Mike, who thought that it was one of the funniest things he'd ever heard. Not exactly reassuring, I suppose.
In other doings, two great loves of mine were united in October when U2 played the Joyce Center at Notre Dame. The band was opening the third leg of their Elevation tour on campus, playing the smallest arena that they had since the middle 80s. One of my more recent resolutions has been to go see more live music, and this certainly was not to be missed. I had tried to see them during the first leg of the tour last spring, but miscommunication left my friends going and me staying. In an unusual display of balance, the universe allowed the band to come to me, as it were. How's that for egocentric? Anyway, Mark went to buy tickets for us and then balked at the $86 price, so he bought my ticket alone. This gave me an opportunity for much eye-rolling, as only Mark would assume that I apparently would want to go to a concert by myself. He easily could have gotten me to buy him a ticket to celebrate his being Mark. Music for me is an almost entirely communal experience. Perhaps that comes from being a bad instrumentalist, but when I make music and attend musical events, I want to share the experience. So I sat by myself and did my best to lose myself in the experience. Along with seeing Simon and Dylan together the other year, this was perhaps the most ecstatic musical event I've attended. Ecstasos: it took me out of myself. At least at those points where I didn't start writing frantic notes to myself about arrangement ideas for Nashville that I was getting by watching the world's greatest band. What use is it to try to describe the experience? They were U2 playing for Notre Dame.
Some guy at the Associated Press took this pic of Bono and me. Cool, huh?
I did get a cool souvenir of the whole thing, though. A former student of mine was given a backstage tour and scored one of Bono's custom-made guitar picks for me. That definitely came to Nashville as necessary equipment.
Kevin came up for a Notre Dame game where he and I had fun enjoying a victory and talking with the wildly precocious 11-year-old St. Louis girl who sat in front of us. She, in turn, was puzzled by guys who claimed to be a psychologist and a theologian, and were musicians who currently worked as pirates. Arr! I then witnessed one of the toughest musical performances of all time as Kev discovered that drunken, victorious football fans are in no way interested in hearing original folk music. Hell, they aren't interested in music, they want familiar, loud noise. Nevertheless, Kev graced them with more magic than they deserved and then we fled to a night of laughter at the Vine and the Chocolate Cafe with a pair of funny, lovely ladies named Tracy and Paula. We later joined the two of them for a fabulous dinner at their place and then a Halloween costume party that will forever rank as one of the odder nights of my life. Jen swung by early in November to visit, which was a bit surreal as we now saw each other for the first time in two years (although we talk fairly frequently), then went off to join a bunch of old Folkheads at the annual Folk Choir Concert for the Missions. We were even asked to join them for a few songs, so the entire experience was oddly like stepping back in time for a few hours.
November rolled on and the recording date in Nashville came closer, but that deserves its own page....