Bob Cilman, You Rock

I had a great blog planned about Euripides, but that can keep. The big news is about the Young At Heart Chorus, directed by Bob Cilman, which is famous in Europe because of their tours there, but not as famous in the US… yet!

Turns out the Birtish-made documentary about the group is just being released in the US. I predict it will be very successful, but don’t take my word for it.

“Break out the tissues for this superb documentary, ” says The Times of London, “a film of incredible humour and pathos about the sobering realities of life and death.”

All this is a well-deserved tribute to Bob Cilman, the director of the Young At Heart Chorus, and I know him. He arranged the stage debut of me and my daughter Sarah and her singing dog Shucks. We performed in something called “The Really Big Show,” put on by the Northampton (Massachusetts) Council for the Arts, which was a send-up of the old Ed Sullivan Show, which they put on every year, with some very talented local performers taking Ed’s role.

Ed Sullivan used to have animal acts, and Bob Cilman heard about Sarah’s dog Shucks, who sang beautifully (our buddy Joe O’Rourke had a hand in this) and he called us up and we were all set to go. The rehearsals went great, but then in the actual performance, the Young At Heart Chorus popped all these balloons that were part of their bowling number and Shucks got freaked out and I had to take her outside to pee.

Then we went on together, Sarah and Shucks and I, and I tried the two fiddle tunes I had rehearsed with Shucks, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “As Time Goes By” and got only a sympathetic look from Shucks, shared with the audience, as if to say, “Why are we listening to this guy playing the fiddle? He sucks!”

But we had a keyboard for Sarah, and she struck up Amazing Grace, which was Shucks’ party piece, and she came through beautifully, as only that sweet dog could. It can’t be just yowling. It has to be tuneful. And Shucks was at her best, not just tuneful, but sweet and soulful, very hard to achieve in a concert setting, but something Sarah and I were used to all the time at home.

Well then they had a “Best of the Really Big Show,” and Bob Cilman called me up and said we were the very first people he was calling. How cool is that? So we went on again and this time we performed with Kurt Vonnegut, who was rapping Chaucer with his grandson’s band.

We sat around in the Green Room with him for a while, and I finally said to Sarah, “I have to ask for his autograph.” And she said, “Who?” I said, “That guy. He’s Kurt Vonnegut.”

Well, long before this I had given Sarah a copy of Slaughterhouse Five and told her that it was a very important work of literature, as I believe every parent ought to do. But she hadn’t known who he was and had just struck up a conversation and they were old buddies by the time we went onstage.

And of couse, after embarassing me a bit, just for laughs, Shucks came across again – you always knew she would; she loved to sing. And we had just the number to get a standing O: The Star Spangled Banner. She always loved the rockets’ red glare and she gave it her all.

And Kurt was a big hit too, and the drummer from Phish was there…

That was all thanks to Bob Cilman. Thanks Bob! All this adulation you’re getting from all over the world? You deserve it.