Carolyn introduced three musicians as “the house band”. Jake Levesque. I recalled the name from email conversations in our first season. A slim, very elongated guy with shoulder-length white hair and round glasses. Catherine McKinnon. Yes, that’s the name I heard. Which of the two was she? A memory from an album cover surfaced. She had been a lovely, very feminine woman. I remembered long brown hair. The woman I was looking at gave me the same feeling but she could be in her 30s or 40s. So it couldn’t be the Catherine McKinnon I remembered. Maybe her daughter. Sure looked like her though. Must be someone who happened to have the same name. I let it go. The other singer didn’t have that familiar feeling, so she must be the Laurraine Siguoin.
They did a silly little song, which was called ‘a silly little song’. Yes but it was sung so well, the tender little phrases, the hanging words, the pauses, the zips up and down -- stand-up comedy sung so lightly I found I was holding my breath because the sentence of notes just went on and on carrying me along, ready to laugh but no not yet. And the other voices fit in there lifting it further.
But this was still a room full of strangers. I was there with the music but also I wasn’t.
It took little things. Like Jake’s voice. It was the deepest rumble I could remember hearing coming out of a human being. It felt like my chair was about to vibrate. And it didn’t sound at all like he was pushing it down there. It was emanating like a purr from the throat under that long head. But a moment later he was singing higher, a harmony in sync with the women. It seemed just as effortless.
Then there was Catherine McKinnon. As I watched her the memories began to surface. Her long brown hair seemed the same. The shape of her face from certain angles. She wasn’t as slim, but still remarkably young. The voice. That pure voice I had grown so attached to. Yes, this had to be her. And slowly my emotions began to surface from under decades of weight. I must have been a teenager then. She was to me the ideal image of femininity, natural, calm, just there. Then glimpses of later ones, later loves -- Julie Andrews, then Julie Christie in Doctor Zhivago, still my favourite movie.
But I had come to see the legendary poet Stan Dragland. He was reading from something which should be easy for any guy to get into and follow, a humourous little book about penis situations. And yes it was funny. I laughed along with everybody. The way he deadpanned it the whole way, without a single smile, didn’t hurt. An oddly masculine way of reading. Like an urban Clint Eastwood, who had been my model of masculinity most of my life. (I even smoked cigarillos at one point.) In the end, though, not too long ago, I realized those crow’s feet behind his eyes weren’t etched by the desert wind and the hot sun and the smoke from his cigarillo but by smiling off stage, year after year, at all those other actors and directors and accolytes who also passed their hours with smiles painted on their faces. But nevertheless the legendary Dragland had that Man-With-No-Name confidence. As we were all ripped apart in our chairs, Dragland read with the smallest of gestures, the most minute expressions.
But I had laughed before. And again Catherine was right there in front of me singing so perfectly with the other two. Most of the songs were old favourites. There was a Beatles medley. Eleanor Rigby. I knew the words of course so I didn’t have to listen to them. I became lost in how they were formed. How the voices flowed with each other. I couldn’t quite understand what was happening. It didn’t seem to be just a matter of harmonizing. Instead it was harmonizing in the very particular ways that created beauty. It became obvious to me that these minds were unlike mine. They were hugely musical. They must have lived in this musical moment with each other so often that they really were some kind of a unit. I would love to be part of something like that myself, but couldn’t imagine it.
I hadn’t been in this space for a long time, into moments of sheer musical joy, where I let myself go like on a drug. The last time I had been so overwhelmed was several years ago hearing an old tape of Janis Joplin sing Ball and Chain. But this was even better. It wasn’t one big voice in high gear, but three weaving together. Their easy, continuous perfection was at once shocking and exhilarating.
On the way out I asked Carolyn Doyle if that was really THE Catherine McKinnon. She smiled and knew what I meant. “No, Catherine McKinnus.”
Wow. How could I be so wrong? And I even had the wrong woman. The one I thought was Catherine McKinnon was actually Lorraine Siguoin.
The long line of the past changes shape, contracts and expands so easily. Memories reform and confuse. Feelings will simply have their way.
Carolyn said the next Landon Cabaret will be in February. I’ll be there. Early.