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The Gatherings - CD Release Party
Sunday 11 August 2002 - 7:00pm
St. Mary's Hamilton Village (Parish Hall)
Review: Locust Walk and our party
Locust Walk pierces the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. With summer break for Penn students still in waning stage, only the occasional straggler and a pleasantly cool August evening breeze accompanied us along the way Sunday evening. What a contrast compared to other traditional post Gathering night strolls over the University Avenue footbridge, when students populate and somewhat confuse the way; and activity brings to life the beautiful walkway. I prefer this summer version. Sunday night, the sky glowed red while only three stars, those of the summer triangle, succeeded in penetrating the haze. Altair, Deneb, and Vega. Locust Walk offers a sense of seclusion from the city. One becomes occupied only by the shrouded sounds of the city and of the tunnel-like view straight ahead, down the cobbled walk, through trees and dimly lit lanterns, while walking away from St. Mary's. Ancient architecture mixes with sculptures of modern art.
There's a bench situated next to one of those huge modern art structures, this one labeled a "split button" (and that is exactly what it turned out to be), which offered the perfect place for evening reflection.
Refreshments and intermingling had proceeded the musical outset, when Art Cohen, guitarist for The Ministry of Inside Things, brought us all to attention with a slightly inadvertent cue. Chuck van Zyl then joined Art onstage and, after a brief and peaceful musical space interlude, would offer welcome and thanks to the fifty or so of us in attendance, reflecting briefly on the history of Gatherings past, noting events to come, and invite us to intermingle with one another in the audience.
Most of us, I included, seemed content with our own company and space.
The party/concert was held in the parish hall of St. Mary's. This event was much less formal than the typical Gathering affair. The hall lacked the beauty of the church. Pews were replaced by folded chairs. A simple stage replaced our splendid apse and altar. Yet, we lost nothing. This evening would come to equal and surpass many an other. Along with the concert, our hosts provided us with food and drink; and a complimentary copy of The Gatherings CD.
Ah, The Gatherings CD.
Many in attendance had traveled the long road, faithfully returning as a rich and diversified assortment of artists passed by. For those, I imagine, this compilation CD, containing various performances from Gatherings over the years, carries a worth equivalent its weight in gold. So rich in memories; history; and shared pasts.
The Ministry of Inside Things played one hour long set; a continuos flow of sound. Having now seen MoIT perform at least a half dozen times, I find myself feeling rewarded by experiencing the pleasure of sensing the evolution of the group's various compositions. Sunday night, the music seemed familiar to me, yet pleasantly strange, as it progressed from its peaceful onset to a succession of varying sequences, the latter constantly in transition. The final segments of the performance would circle back to beautiful and meditative serenity; to quietness; endlessness...
This would be how we were sent out into the night and down the empty walk, under the fire red sky. Together. Jeff, Art, Chuck...heartfelt thanks.
Review: The Gatherings CD Release Party
Yes, it was indeed a glorious evening for a stroll on the nearly deserted Penn campus. Warm and sultry with a gentle breeze offering some respite from the protracted heat wave. Summer nights are my favorite. Memories of shivering whilst making my way to St. Mary's winter Gatherings in years past made this night's sojourn all the more blissful...to be warm in nothing but a sun dress.
The warmth of the evening extend to far beyond the temperature, however. The night was filled with the warmth of friendships, old and new.
Quite simply, Chuck van Zyl is an amazing man. His tireless work for this music is truly a labor of love. This love and caring is evidenced in everything he does to support the genre. Last Sunday night was no exception. The spirit of Chuck and his faithful core of volunteers filled the parish hall as we entered. Andrea and Jeff Towne were there to greet us at the door. Art Cohen and Chuck were mingling with the crowd. Bill Forcier was setting up his camera. The aforementioned are fixtures at these wonderful events. Their dedication never wavers. Not only did Chuck himself lovingly set out a little spread for his guests to partake of; I do believe he made an effort to personally reach out to each one of us. Amazingly, he thanked *us* for coming out. Chuck even took the time to enlighten my dear friend and I as to the origin of the duo's name during a pre-performance chat.
Those who think of Chuck van Zyl as a radio show host/concert promoter first and a musician second need to hear his music. As a duo, he and Art have evolved into a splendid live act. This was the second time I've seen them play together. Both times, I was delighted by the experience. I do believe that they provide the perfect yin to the other's yang, if you will. Chuck, sitting Zen-like on the floor, nimbly finesses the most exquisite nuances from his synth. Art, arguably the Jimi Hendrix of the ambient world, stands behind him wailing away at his guitar. Their performances and records resonate with the intuitive give-and-take between two long time friends and musical collaborators. The artistic camaraderie between them shines. This camaraderie was reflected in my own experience as I listened to them play. Lovely.
I'd come to this Gathering party with much on my plate, emotionally. As sublime as the evening turned out to be, it was, like the stars, shrouded at the outset. I'd felt, initially, that the evening would have a spirit of 'closure' of sorts, for the Philly ambient scene; cemented in the form of a retrospective CD. Likewise, I'd felt it might represent and echo a much more unequivocal closure of my own. However, the end of the evening revealed an affirmation of faith for me, personally; and, correspondingly, a promise of things to come for the music we love. A great Gathering season awaits those of us lucky enough to live near what is arguably the epicenter of this wonderful, international genre.
...Thanks to our gracious hosts... the music goes on.
by Cindy Lyn
Review: The Gatherings CD Release Party
Time flies. Its hard to belive that its been 10 years since the first Gathering. The idea of turning a radio show into a live venue for one of the rarest forms of music was bold. There was a framework of people held together by a few hard working radio host's in the middle of the night. But the thought of expanding and mobilizing that group seemed far fetched. Those were dark days for the philly scene. Star's End had lost the Friday night show. The station had made moves away from its musical base. The local newsletter was the only other contact we had. And then all the talk was about the "good old days". The occasional show at a local club or a small stage was a major event. Chuck van Zyl and Jeff Towne are not ones to dwell on the past . They set out to show us all that the good old days are the here and now and will only be better if we make it better.
In those early days Houston Hall was the venue and people made there way to a hard to find auditorium on the second floor, in all kinds of weather. But they saw artists they knew by name but had never dreamt of seeing live. The sound got better, the lights got better, and the crowds got larger. Today, with the Internet and website, people world wide know of the Gatherings. Pilgrimages are made to these shows. And now with the release of "The Gatherings CD Vol.1" they can own a little bit of the early days of the shows. The music is timeless. The mix is perfect for listening. I see it as yet another stepping stone laid out but Chuck, Jeff and Art Cohen for all of us to follow towards more of the "good old days".
The release party was made even better with an hour long set from the Ministry of Inside Things. Chuck and Art put together an amazing set of (what was to me) all new material. Chuck held the sequences together and took the rhythms into other worlds. While Art took his guitar to new places right in front of us. I got the feeling that Art has really put his heart into his role in the group. He has expanded his sound and made their dynamics truly exciting. As in the past, I felt that the most interesting moments are the transitions between sequences. "These guys really know how to space!" I thought to myself. They have created a new sound since becoming a 2 person act. While I do miss seeing Peter Gulch in the band, the new sound has lots of room to grow. Thanks for the show and for the great night.
by Bill Forcier Tue 14 Aug 2002
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