From Garfunkel to Graceland
Show highlights the work of Paul Simon
WILMINGTON — "Garfunkel to Graceland" will take the audience through Paul Simon's repertoire, from his early work with Art Garfunkel up to his 1986 album "Graceland."
The Friends of Historic Memorial Hall, a nonprofit group that aims to bring affordable live music, arts and performances to the Main Street venue, is putting on Saturday's event from 8 to 11 p.m. Tickets can be purchased before the event for $25 at garfunkeltograceland.brownpapertickets.com or at Bartleby's Book, or for $30 at the door. Proceeds will benefit the hall.
"Rev" Tor Krautter is the program director at Berkshire Theatre Group at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Mass., where he produces three or four concerts annually at the theater. He assembled a group to first perform "Graceland" at the venue in January. He said there was "a full house."
"Everyone loved it," he said. "We're still sort of amazed that we were able to pull it off but we did it. It's kind of an ambitious album to tackle but everyone did their homework and we got it done."
The 1986 album, he said, has "some interesting an unique rhythm styles. There's a lot going on. There's a lot of really subtle vocal parts and some very distinct African guitar parts. And I think all those elements, when you put it together, is what makes it such a unique album."
Krautter said the goal is to capture everything from the album during the show. He serves as lead singer and play acoustic guitar, covering all of Simon's parts. He will be joined onstage by seven other musicians — a bassist, an electric guitar player, two backing vocalists, a keyboardist/accordionist, a percussionist, and a saxophone player. They all hail from western Massachusetts. Two of them play in Steal Your Peach Band, another Krautter project that features songs from Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers Band and The Band.
Preparing for the initial show took about two months of rehearsals and studying, Krautter said.
"With that particular album," he said, "we all immersed ourselves in what it was about."
Simon had recorded with musicians from South Africa. Krautter said many people consider it one of the events that helped end apartheid there, as the South African government did not want musicians of color to be seen as equal to white musicians. That had made the world more aware of what was happening there.
Krautter said the project had come about after Simon heard a cassette tape of a band playing in South Africa; Simon never heard anything like that before and he ignored a boycott against the country when he went to jam with musicians there.
"It was just simply the act of going down there and making music with those musicians that showed the world how messed up it was that they were being oppressed," he said. "That weighs heavy on you when you're playing those songs."
He said the songs represent freedom, equality and justice. They include "I Know What I Know, "You Can Call Me Al" and "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes."
Krautter expressed excitement about returning to Memorial Hall for another performance.
"I love that place," he said. "It's got such a cool, unique character to it. It sounds really good in there, too. And we're lucky to be able to have a done a couple of things in there."
Belle of the Fall, an acoustic duo from Connecticut, will perform as "Simon and Girlfunkel." Tracy Walton plays upright bass and sings most of Simon's parts, and Julia Autumn Ford plays guitar and sings Art Garfunkel's parts. They started learning Simon and Garfunkel tunes while driving on tour, finding it a fun way to pass time.
Walton said the songs can be "super challenging to sing."
"We feel they are the best duo ever," he said.
Whereas harmonies in some songs take Ford and Walton about 15 minutes to learn, those from the Simon and Garfunkel catalog could take hours or days to nail. They eventually learned about 20 songs from the duo and performed mini-sets of their music. Then Krautter contacted them about playing together at the Colonial Theatre. They called the performance Garfunkel to Graceland.
"It's really a tribute to Paul Simon, covering his time with Art Garfunkel up through his time of 'Graceland,'" Walton said. "It's an awesome show. It's really cool. You kind of get the best of both worlds."
The duo will perform about 15 songs in the beginning of the show including "Mrs. Robinson," "Homeward Bound," "The Sound of Silence," and "Scarborough Fair." Ford said the latter had taken them a long time to learn. She considers "Graceland" one of her top five favorite albums of all time. She and Walton are touring in support of Belle of the Fall's new album called "The Bending of the Light."
Joe Levy, interim director of the Friends group, anticipates "a great show" — one appropriate for all ages. He described "Graceland" as having made a big impact on his life.
Levy said performances had not been scheduled at the hall earlier this season due to changes in leadership over the last year. Instead, his group decided to do one big event at the end of the year and hopes to start back up again with a full season schedule in 2020.
The plan is to put proceeds of Saturday's show toward projects at the hall including cosmetic enhancements to the front entrance way and box office area, and the green room downstairs. Levy expects an announcement will be made soon as to who will take on leadership of the group. He plans to stay involved.
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.