For today’s special Tuesday edition of Sunday Brunch, TGNR interviews musician, Beatles historian, and co-founder of the ensemble SUNS OF WALRUS: Celebrating All Things Beatle And British, Philip A. DiCostanzo. Philip shares his experience playing the benefit concert on November 21st, 2015 held in honor of the late Don, Ledell, and Katherine Mulvaney, as well as his late wife, Maureen DiCostanzo. Philip also tells the very special story about an incredible and unexpected gift of film, as TGNR debuts filmmaker David Sporn’s concert film of that unforgettable evening.
By Paul K .DiCostanzo Managing Editor
TGNR Paul K. DiCostanzo: This was an intense evening, and the gravity and grief surrounding it was genuinely palpable. Set the scene as you remember that incredible show.
SUNS OF WALRUS Philip A. DiCostanzo: It was intense in more ways than one. It was overcast and rainy on that Saturday night, November 21st, 2015 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. It was the perfect place for a Rock and Roll band. The show was held at The Acoustic, a musical venue reminiscent of the famed New York City Rock and Roll clubs like Kenny’s Castaways and Max’s Kansas City.
TGNR PKD: How were you personally feeling that night?
SOW PAD: The mood was somber. Our drummer Don Mulvaney had passed tragically from injuries sustained in a car crash, along with his wife and daughter.
If that wasn’t bad enough, my wife Maureen passed away suddenly eight days earlier.
I was devastated. I didn’t know what to do. I was overcome with grief, my fellow musicians offered to reschedule the show. But I knew in my heart that doing the show was important to Maureen. We promoted the show together, making posters, selling tickets. She even had a dream about the night of the show.
TGNR PKD: What was the dream?
SOW PAD: In the dream, Don Mulvaney’s spirit appeared on the side of the stage. Don dressed up as always, looking dapper, and smiling as he observed the playful banter of the band.
I thought to myself even if we did reschedule, there would never be a right time to do this show.
TGNR PKD: What is the show SUNS OF WALRUS performs? What are you really doing on stage?
SOW PAD: SUNS OF WALRUS is a consortium of seasoned musicians, playing in the genre of All Things Beatle and Brit Pop. That night we banded together to play a benefit concert in memory of our lost comrade. All the proceeds were given to KEYSMusic.org, an organization that Don believed in and supported. It felt right.
TGNR PKD: The opening of the show was exceptionally moving. Why did you choose to open with the song “Love” by John Lennon?
SOW PAD: I knew we had to change the set list in light of what happened. I decided to open the show with the song “Love,” as a loving tribute to my wife Maureen. In a last ditch effort I scribbled the words and chords of the song onto two pieces of paper. One for pianist Matthew Detroy, and the other for myself.
In years past we had covered the song during practice sessions, so I knew we could pull it off. Of course when I handed him the last minute notes, it took him a few minutes to recall the nuances of how the song was played. I played a few bars for him, and as always he came through.
Once I started the song on stage it was truly difficult to maintain my composure. And I nearly did lose it. It felt more like a nervous break down than a performance.
The other last minute song added was “Woman” by John Lennon. A beautiful ballad and sincere testament of my love for Maureen.
TGNR PKD: Though despite the world sitting on everyone’s shoulder that night, there was an unsung factor at play. How did David Sporn come to film the show?
SOW PAD: Well, I knew David was coming to the show, and I remembered he was a young and upcoming filmmaker. So I asked him if he would come and tape some highlights from the show for YouTube. Of course this was three hours before the show, and an unrealistic request in hindsight. In reality, that was an effort that required a weeks worth of preparation.
TGNR PKD: Yet David was undaunted. Tell me about how he fulfilled your wishes?
SOW PAD: David showed up with his assistant, Paul Coleman, and taped with only one camera. A Canon 5D Mark III, I believe. Including a zoom audio digital recorder.
Afterward he spent countless hours editing the raw footage and creating a one-of-a-kind surreal montage of the concert. The audio track got a little help from our friend, Andy Able. Little did I know he would make a live concert film of our show.
All I can say is that I was deeply moved by the gift of the film. It captured the essence of the Irish Wake being held that night, and the individuals we honored. He filmed no one individual performer or audience member, and in a very emotionally and intellectually challenging way, he filmed the emotion and the music itself. A task as difficult as trying to film the wind.
TGNR PKD: Why could only David Sporn have made this concert film?
SOW PAD: The film captures all of the emotions, complexities, and intangible elements of a live performance so immersed in the pain of our loss, and the joy of celebrating their incredible legacy. Truly music and creativity honoring their own. He captured the lifeblood of our Irish Wake on film. What more can I say?
TGNR PKD: Looking back, what are your final thoughts on that night?
SOW PAD: This concert film is dedicated in loving memory to my wife Maureen, and friends Don, Ledell, and Katherine Mulvaney. I am grateful to all of the musicians who took part in this tribute. Namely Matthew DeTroy, Dave Webster, John Konya, Hans Broeking, and photographer Neil Swanson.
Also everyone at The Acoustic, their staff, our family, our friends, and fans.
TGNR PKD: Thank you for your time.
SOW PAD: You are welcome. Thank you.
“The Don Mulvaney and Family Benefit Concert for KEYSMusic.org.”
– Filmmaker David Sporn
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Never Before Seen John Lennon Doodles – And An Afternoon on Central Park West
Today TGNR shares an incredible story about John Lennon, an exclusive TGNR release of never-before-seen work of his famous autobiographical doodling, and the determined young musician who inspired the drawings. It is a warm story on this very bitter anniversary.
TGNR was approached by a perennial follower of the site, a musician, who had a remarkable story about a singular inspiring exchange with his musical icon John Lennon. Through his story we take a peak into one of the greats of rock and roll, the man behind the legend, and some pieces of his famous doodles never before shown to the public.
On a gentle Sunday fall afternoon in 1976, James (name changed for privacy) was on the corner of 72nd and Central Park West in Manhattan. It is the address of the legendary residence known as the Dakota. This young gentleman had but one goal that afternoon: to meet John Lennon. The former Beatles star called the Dakota his New York City home during the final years of his life.
When this high spirited and ambitious young man approached the Dakota gates, he encountered the doorman. When asked if he could meet John Lennon, the doorman very politely responded that Mr. Lennon wasn’t home, but that he could deliver him a message. At that point this Good News Reviewer picked up a piece of paper, and left John Lennon a set of song lyrics and a return address. The lyrics read as follows:
“In Central Park headed west, on a Sunday afternoon.
I did all I could to get my message through.
Through all the years I had to wait, now I couldn’t get past your gate.
But it’s alright I guess, I’m just one to reminisce.
Back in 64′, life was such a bore, until I bought your records at the local store,
And we didn’t have a care, but now you’re a millionaire.
And we’re waiting outside at Central Park West.
And we traveled 50 miles just hoping to see you
Pass the time and just say hello
But there are so many people who do the same,
Play the game, it’s so insane, all in vain,
I hope you get to read this by your birthday,
Before the cards and letters wash this all away,
And though it’s so remote, let’s try to cross the moat,
At the Dakota, on 72nd Street…”
A little over one month later, James received an unexpected letter with a return address of 72nd Street and Central Park West. Enclosed were doodles that John had constructed as his response to this young man’s very thoughtful lyrical “message.” For a young musician reaching out to one his great musical idols, and a figure who revolutionized music itself, it was a watershed moment.
For any one person who aspires to greatness in their field, none could have been as touching and meaningful than a music maker creating a personal connection with the legendary Beatle. One can only imagine the effect that would have in their own life and ambitions. James was kind enough to invite us to share his incredible story, and take photos of the doodles he received.
During the period between 1975 and 1980, John Lennon had entered a period of retirement. He and his wife Yoko Ono had dedicated this time to focus on raising John’s second son, Sean. Lennon did little song writing during this time, though it was a period that generated many of his autobiographical doodles. It was also during this time that John was able to communicate with his fans unlike any previous time in his career.
Though the story does not originate in this period, Al Pacino’s “Danny Collins” (2015) focuses on another instance of Lennon’s personal encouragement of fans. The film was based on the story of Steve Tilston, an aging British folk musician who in 2005 found an unread letter written to him by Lennon some four decades previous. The contents of the letter encouraged Tilston to resume his songwriting. Moreover, Lennon’s letter motivates Tilston to reassemble his life and further pursue his career in music.
(Article Continues Below…)
John Lennon is a legend for many reasons. Like any great legend, he means something a little different to every person. Like any larger than life figure, it is never easy to parse the legend from the realistic personal aspects of their manner.
As such, John Lennon’s immense legacy can sometimes obscure the nature of the man to the outside world. This example of his thoughtful reply to an ambitious and creative young artist does speak to the man behind the figure, and one must “draw” their own conclusions. Mr. Lennon certainly did.
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Melody, Molly, Manhood: A Chris Webby Interview (Part III)
[Exclusive] Hip-hop star Chris Webby and TGNR’s Paul K. DiCostanzo sat down for an in-depth, three hour interview; Webby opens up about some of the most rewarding aspects of his celebrated music career.
Following much technological ado, TGNR is pleased to present part three of the exclusive interview with hip-hop star Chris Webby. In part three, Webby discusses everything from the deep connection he enjoys with his fans, to his thoughts on the most recent Star Wars film, and more… If you have not yet read part one, or part two, please click the provided links before proceeding.
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Melody, Molly, Manhood: A Chris Webby Interview (Part II)
[Exclusive] Hip-hop star Chris Webby and TGNR’s Paul K. DiCostanzo sat down for an extended, in-depth, three part interview; where in part 2 Webby shares major change.
In the second installment of TGNR’s interview with Hip-Hop artist Chris Webby: he discusses the personal changes and strides he has made in his lifestyle and career to better focus on his music, and aspirations. Webby’s newest mixtape, Webster’s Laboratory II, is available for download.
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