Lonesome Pine Specials

SPECIAL? YES. LONESOME? NO.

By Jean Metcalfe

The performers for The Lonesome Pine Specials Summer Festival 1989 at the Kentucky Center for the Arts on August 1-12 were never lonesome. Each event was well attended, and several were sell-outs. Although we were unable to cover all ten of the concerts (that's a lot of concerts!), we were very pleased with the caliber of entertainment that we found in the three specials that we did attend.

Television cameras were seemingly everywhere, hand held, on dollies and on cranes. All of the specials were being taped for airing later on. That should be welcome news to a lot of people who missed some or all of the excellent talent that Dick Van Kleeck and his staff had gathered.

The Masters of Percussion on Wednesday, August 2, were just that -- masters. Well, there was a little bit of the zany now and then (actually there was a good deal of zany), but zany does not translate bad.

Wrestlers Jeff Jarrett and Dirty Dutch Mantel, rising from the orchestra pit in a boxing ring and going through their carefully choreographed body slamming and other pseudo-violent didos during the "Warm Games" finale -- now that was truly wacky. Although it was fun, the novelty wore off after a few minutes, causing the finale to be somewhat anticlimactic. I must admit that I did get a kick out of the campy good-guy vs. bad-guy match.

Dick Van Kleeck is to be commended for daring to take chances, and he did warn us at the outset that "you might say it is the most outrageous thing we have ever done." He also mentioned that it was the "most technically difficult of anything we've ever had on this stage." I do not doubt it for one moment! The production must have been a nightmare that turned out all right. The Lonesome Pine Specials personnel surely deserve many kudos for their accomplishments. The audience really got into the tongue-in-cheek hissing and booing that goes on in "real" wrestling matches of the television variety. It was fun.

The entertainment that proceeded "War Games" was excellent. Trevor Ferrier and Ian Forsyth, who comprise the Kerr Drummers, started off the evening's entertainment midst a mind-boggling collection of percussion instruments. The stage was eerily enveloped in a man-made fog and the constantly-changing lighting was spectacular. I felt a real rush of adrenalin just being in the Bomhard Theater that evening; and the entertainment was yet to come. Five television cameras of all sorts (crane, dolly, portable, et al.) were recording the evening's happenings for airing later in the year. They were as unobtrusive as they could have been considering that they constantly moved about, both on stage and off.

Ferrier and Forsyth, attired in stark black and white costumes that fit right in with the other trappings of the production, were constantly entertaining. They displayed their considerable expertise on all manner of percussion instruments that this writer will not attempt to provide a complete list of, but which did include snare drums, roto-toms, chimes and others.

Between the first and second acts, Van Kleeck promised the audience that it was going to be a "Monty Python kinda show," and he was right. Talented Dave Samuels' Woody Allen-like demeanor (except without the whine) came in handy when his performance was interrupted mid-number by a taping glitch. "Uh, sometimes technology gets in the way ... I'll walk back on," he said, and the audience engaged in a little good-natured hissing and booing at the interruption. Samuels made another entrance but was stopped before he could strike the first note by the need to remove the emcee mike that had been inadvertently left in place after the re-start. Samuels was an especially good sport and he was superior on the mallet instruments, causing my husband (who is stingy with his use of superlatives) to exclaim, "I've never seen anyone play like that!"

J. C. Combs and Ed Soph, in formal attire, did a clever and humorous bit of business in which Combs assumed the role of director to percussionist Soph. It was a one-on-one situation; there were no nother orchestra members. Comedy is very difficult, but the talented duo pulled their "skit" off in a most enjoyable way. The director turned many pages of charts and occasionally could not resist the temptation to sneak a turn on the lone performer's high-hat cymbals. The percussionist kept his eyes constantly riveted on the director, and he wore an "I've gotta do this right or he'll kill me." No Buddy Rich style here. I believe it was my favorite set of the evening, although it would be hard to select from among the plethora of talent performers.

Percussionists Djimo Kouyate and Aidoo Mamadi exhibited an abundance of talent, and the highlight for me was a number employing a "welcoming drum" that is played on special occasions (births, weddings, etc.) in his native Africa. They explained that in their country if a woman has been married for a year and has not had a baby, a special dance at which the welcoming drum is played is held. If the woman participates in the dance she will become pregnant. "It's not only helpful," they explained, "but it's a lot of fun." They laughed and so did the audience.

Andy Narell is a true master of the steel pans -- what wondrous sounds he can coax from them! His first number was a lengthy one, and the audience listened intently; they were as quiet as the proverbial mice. After a bit, Narell was joined onstage by Samuels for an outstanding display of their wonderful talent, and the entire set was "totally awesome" in the truest meaning of the expression.

Keith Terry cannot be explained. He must be experienced. Billed as a "percussionist, rhythm dancer and/or body musician," he is all of these as well as a comedian. Terry has performed with Robin Williams, Tex Williams, Bobby McFerrin, the Smothers Brothers, and the list goes on. Next time you get a chance, be there! And hope Terry does the bit with the shopping bag of "musical instruments."

"War Games" was the finale. Totally rad!

(Watch for a story on the "Strength In Numbers" concert in our October edition. Time limitations do not allow us to do it justice in the last-minute rush to the printer.)