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 benefitting KEYSmusic.org 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.
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