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Holiday Jam in Verse

by Bruce Simon Blake

A dream come true, my friends.
         Lots of folks ascended SF’s Nob Hill this last Thursday night
         on a brisk Fall early evening
         the full moon Rising Up,
         about to eclipse in only hours
         we were told
         but who could have known the eclipsing nature of the gathering about to unfold?
         It would feature a Who’s Who of motivated souls
         Rising up the steep hill to the ornate, enigmatic Masonic Temple

         finding their way from so many isolated and uncertain mini-worlds
         sheltering out-of-place on this now-stressed now-blessed, still nourishing planet
         meanwhile… backstage
         its now TIME!
         the Glide Ensemble
         masks down
          all dressed UP
         in unaccustomed order we quietly fill the onstage risers
         out into the bright lights of the Temple Auditorium
         The buzzing near-capacity crowd hushes
         just a bit…
         Lots of excitement in the fully vaccinated air
         Lots of anticipation
         At last
         We all IN…

         From stage left
         The Change Band jumps OUT
          with our beaming iconic long-time Drummer Eddie Hall
          for the first time in forever(?)
         shouting out the tempo
         ONE TWO THREE !
         Our brilliant band of virtuosos fills the room with its soulful stagesetting intro
         blazing brass
         keyboards holding it all

        Now the assembled choir
        Rising up
        like an arrow springing from a bow increasingly tensioned over the last year.5
        releases a unified Gospel shout

        hands clapping
        onstage and throughout the Temple
        Audience standing, shouting
        the Ensemble’s exuberant voices take up the gospel anthem
        DOWN IN MY FEET!
        everyone feelin it
        Change Band horns blazin in support
        DOWN IN MY
        What a way to come out of our communal malaise
     Such a true medicinal epiphany in this gathering of Greathearts!

     And so it moves… through other stirring songs and welcoming speeches.
     Vernon Bush holding the Ensemble with completely embodied joy and focused intention on each of our 
   rehearsal-honed songs

     Intermission in the warm ornate lobby is a briefly chattering din
     a jubilant, delicious reunion
     of elbow bumping, fried chicken lip-smacking delight

   and then.. back into the darkened Temple.
   the buzz now is more tempered,
   yet still electric with anticipation

   Trailing a small band of beloved friends/fellow singers
   He at last appears

   Bobby McFerrin slowly and purposely strides onstage
   the crowd almost hesitant to cheer too loudly
   as his presence compels our rapt attention
   riveting all of us gathered there
   He is older, wizardly in graying dreads,
   moving without hurry,
   there is just a hint of tension beholding the Grammy-crowned Singing Star
Bobby McFerrin
   he exhibits the piercing gaze of a Master Teacher,
   of a supremely focused orchestra conductor
   demanding attention from all the assembled instrumentalists.
   His will and presence is palpable to all in the room
   a musical master
   Heartfelt, relaxed
   Quiet, focused, intensely aware
   Bobby begins with the softest, highest notes,
   sung almost imperceptibly into the mike,
   like a birdsong
   like an opening invitation/invocation
a rhythmically playful offering to us all

in the first of many fencer-like moves he wields the microphone like a
Jazz Jedi sound-sabre
cueing the eager crowd
to sing with him
to match his genius
Our Glide ensemble matches him
step for step with one-pointed enthusiasm

Then it is OUR time to Shine
Bobby turns to the clustered Ensemble and implores us to watch just his face
as he directs us in his signature arrangement
of the hymn “Psalm 23”
Unbeknownst to the Ensemble
years ago our leader Vernon had been tirelessly practicing us
for this very moment

out of the stillness
we rise up in a most inspiring
quietly moving prayer/song:

The Lord is my Shepherd
I have all I need
She makes me lie down in Green meadows
Beside the still waters she will lead

She restores my soul
She rights my wrongs
She leads me in a path of good things
And fills my heart with song.

Bobby looks pleased
maybe even a little amazed?
Our harmonies are more impeccable than I can remember
I hear lovely voices all around me
Strong low resonance from my Bass Brothers
The Altos, Sorpranos, and Tenors
with rich precision, BRINGIN IT
the full sound seemingly coming from everywhere,
from the Earth
from the Sky
Bobby pauses and starts us with the most subtle of gestures
to the final polished
gleaming note.

Silence in the room for a moment

Then a roar of affirmation from the crowd
And what a relief for me:
It’s hard to sing when crying

Who could have known that next we would all soon be
taken to school by Rev Bobby
returning us into the inclusive voice orchestra
As always, in his “performance”
Channeling from some source
he brings every soul present along on the ride
Rising up
in a musical embodiment of Glide’s intention :
Radically Inclusive

for the entire short remaining time we are together
the music evolves into different vocalized beats, textures, melodies
but beyond our Psalm 23 prayer/hymn
no words have appeared yet, long into the set

Not one spoken word has he presented to us worshippers
Even that is a statement!
And then surprisingly
in the middle of another undulating vocal symphony
he subtly weaves in a word chant that is particularly moving,
growing and seeming to take its own shape
while everything before was sung in a shimmering frequency Aurora
of Scat song sound shapes ,
now he guides the room into a compelling wordsong phrase,
appearing to many of us as a many-leveled reminder:

“Take care of it
take care of it
take care of it.”

over and over, sliding into different tempos, harmonies,
a mesmerizing wave-like chant

Take. Care . Of. It

we surf that wave as it breaks into one directive word:


Are we singing this as a reminder
of the preciousness
the present moment we are experiencing?

to remind us
of the urgency?
All of us riding the waves on this storming Earth
All of us storm-tossed, in the harbor of this breath-taking Sound Church tonight?
All of us Rising UP
Awakening with feeling The Presence and Power
The Spirit
The Glory of this gathering of singing survivors
together with our fierce and tender
open-hearted MysticMaestro Bobby McFerrin
helping to fill our hearts with song