Saturday, December 22, 2012

Rufus and Martha Wainwright's Christmas 101 at Royce Hall: A Holiday Tribute

by Gregg Chadwick

If this was the way the world ended on 12 21 12, those of us gathered at UCLA's Royce Hall for the second night of Rufus and Martha Wainwright's Christmas 101 were being ushered into eternity with heavenly voices. 

Rufus and Martha Wainwright, the son and daughter of  Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle - who passed away in 2010 from a rare sarcoma cancer, both possess extraordinary voices and mesmerizing stage presence. Their combined talents bolstered by musical kin and comrades, including Emmylou Harris, folk singer Maria Muldaur's daughter Jenni Muldaur, the legendary Van Dyke Parks, former Eels drummer Butch Norton, Sloan Wainwright, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Carrie Fisher, Rufus' husband Jorn Weisbrodt, and more, brought holiday cheer and at times poignant retrospection to last night's concert.

Christmas 101 continues a concert tradition begun in 2005 by Kate McGarrigle and her sister Anna. As well as being musical events, the shows are star splashed fundraisers for the Kate McGarrigle Fund which supports cancer care and research at the McGill University Cancer Centre and the renowned teaching hospitals of McGill University in Montreal, including the McGill University Health Centre and the Jewish General Hospital. 

The evening opened with the traditional Christmas carol God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, as vocalists and musicians stretched across the stage beneath a bright blue scrim dusted with images of snowflakes. The hall overflowed with family history as if we had stepped into a McGarrigle/Wainwright Christmas reunion.  

Moving from tradition to contemporaneity, Rufus next crooned his searing ode to unconditional love - Spotlight on Christmas. Rufus' richly crafted lyrics use the Christmas story as a vehicle to examine inequality and consumerism:

People love the working man
Who does the best that he can
But don't forget all the horses and toys
Never could fix the poor little rich boys
People say they love the maid
Who sweats and toils just like a slave
But don't forget all the diamonds and pearls
Never could fix the poor little rich girls

You can measure it in blood
You can measure it in mud
Let us say for these twelve days
Put the measuring away

Cause it's Christmas
And the spotlight's shining on Christmas
And the spotlight's shining on us

People love and people hate
People go and people wait
But, don't forget Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
Once were a family poor but rich in hope, yeah
Don't forget Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
Running from the law, King Herod had imposeth
And they were each one quite odd
And mensch, a virgin, and a God
But don't forget that what kept them aflow
Floating through the desert doesnt take a boat no
Don't forget that what kept them above
Is unconditional love

And, you can measure it in blood
You can measure it in mud
Let us say for these twelve days
Put the measuring away

Cause it's Christmas
And the spotlight's shining on Christmas
And the spotlight's shining on us
And the spotlight's shining on Christmas
And the spotlight's shining on

People love the working man
Who does the best that he can
But, don't forget all the horses and toys
Never could fix the poor little rich boys

The mood shifted, as it would all night in what seemed a conscious reflection of holiday tensions amidst a world soaked in violence and injustice, as Rufus and Jenni Muldaur played wolf and mouse in Frank Loesser's seductive standard Baby, It's Cold Outside

Van Dyke Parks appeared almost as a white haired saint throughout the evening. His passion and musicianship lifted the music and took it into another realm, particularly when he strolled into the audience to play Royce Hall's thundering organ. 

Rufus and Martha Wainwright Perform at Christmas 101
Royce Hall, UCLA
December 21, 2012
photo courtesy @christmas_101

Lucy Wainwright Roche brought the house to tears with her poignant version of Joni Mitchell's River. Many of us remarked at intermission that Lucy's singing brought the haunting lyrics to the forefront:

It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river 
I could skate away on
But it don't snow here
It stays pretty green
I'm going to make a lot of money
Then I'm going to quit this crazy scene
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I made my baby cry

He tried hard to help me
You know, he put me at ease
And he loved me so naughty
Made me weak in the knees
Oh I wish I had a river 
I could skate away on
I'm so hard to handle
I'm selfish and I'm sad
Now I've gone and lost the best baby
That I ever had
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
Oh I wish I had a river
I made my baby say goodbye

It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on

Van Dyke Parks and @WainBright killing it: Trois Anges
photo courtesy @christmas_101

Near the close of the first half of the night, Carrie Fisher delivered a hilariously ribald spoken word routine that LA Underground thought could have been titled “A Very Fisher Christmas.” Suffice to say, it included a riff on self pleasuring Christmas gifts for Grandma and daughter as well as memories of Fisher's childhood yule-tide holidays in Vegas.

Soon after, Rufus and Martha's aunt Sloan Wainwright shook Royce Hall with her gospel fueled Thank God It's Christmas, revving the evening into a communal celebration of birth, life, death and everything in between. 

Before the break, Rufus, Martha, family and friends gathered for a lovely rendition of  White Christmas, which smartly added a nod to the absence of African-Americans in the song's lyrics and the culture itself that many of the holiday tunes rose from.

Gigi warming up Royce Hall
photo courtesy @christmas_101

After intermission, three songs in particular commanded rapt attention. Emmylou Harris dedicated her rendition of O Little Town of Bethlehem to the children and the teachers gunned down in Newtown, Connecticut one week before. Harris' voice  quietly conveyed the fragility inherit in all our lives. She screamed "Enough!" in a whisper.

Later, Rufus asked for the mics and monitors to be turned off before he wafted into an a cappella rendition of the lovely Cantique de Noël - the original French version of O Holy Night. Wainwright's voice carried and echoed around Royce Hall, reminding me of the countless students, educators, politicians, and performers whose voices had also echoed in this room. 

Echoes of Royce Hall - 2008
photo by Gregg Chadwick

Martha Wainwright, brought the entire night home with her haunting singing of her mother's song Proserpina. This musical retelling of the Roman goddess Proserpina's tale was the last song Kate McGarrigle wrote. 

The myth recounts the abduction of the goddess Proserpina (or Persephone in Greek) by Pluto, the master of the underworld. Proserpina's mother Ceres, the goddess or mother of the earth, searched in vain for her daughter. Ceres lamented her vanished girl. Where had she gone? In time Ceres found a clue - a small belt dropped by her daughter in the abduction, but the fate of her daughter remained unknown. In anger, Ceres halted nature's growth. Plants withered and the world touched by her footprints turned to desert. Finally, to end Ceres wrath, Pluto who had hidden Proserpina in his underworld was forced by the other gods to set his abducted bride free. But a price was set. Proserpina could return for six months each year to her mother - Spring and Summer. But each year when the seasons change to Fall and Winter, Proserpina must return underground. 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Before Martha sang Proserpina she remarked that she once thought that her mother, Kate, had written the song about her. That she was the lost daughter. But instead, Martha said that she has come to realize that the song was written by her mother about herself as she prepared to return to meet her own mother - Martha's Grandma. 

Martha carried the song last night in a rich plaintive voice. We were honored to hear her sing and be in the presence of such a remarkable musical family. 

The entire ensemble joined in on John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Happy Xmas (War Is Over) to provide a fitting ending to an inspirational evening.

Christmas 101 concludes with a final performance at Royce Hall tonight. I urge you to drop everything and attend. For me, this concert series perfectly embodies what the holidays should be all about.

Martha Wainwright and Van Dyke Parks at Royce Hall
photo courtesy @christmas_101


Rufus & Martha Wainwright's Christmas 101   

Rufus and Martha Wainwright Host 'Christmas 101' in Oakland

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Luminist for Ana Grace

The Luminist by GreggChadwick

  My condolences and thoughts to jazz player Jimmy Greene and his wife Nelba as they bear the senseless loss of their beautiful little girl Ana Grace who was a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Connecticut.

Jimmy Greene, the American saxophonist who recently taught at the University of Manitoba, has written a brief message following the death of his daughter.  Greene wrote:

"Thank you for all of your prayers and kind words of support. As we work through this nightmare, we’re reminded how much we’re loved and supported on this earth and by our Father in heaven. As much as she’s needed here and missed by her mother, brother and me, Ana beat us all to paradise. I love you sweetie girl. "

Friday, December 14, 2012

Our Nation Cries for the Children of Newtown, Connecticut

by Gregg Chadwick

When Slow October by GreggChadwick

As I write this, an impromptu vigil is forming in front of the White House in Washington DC to mourn the victims of another senseless mass shooting and to call for much needed gun regulation. Today, a quiet school in Newtown, Connecticut was violated by a gun wielding murderer packing semi-automatic weapons with a back up assault rifle in his car.
The shooting was horrific and preventable. This is a national tragedy that needs a national response. Our glorification of weapons and our embrace of the use of violent force to resolve conflicts has led us to a crisis point. Do we continue to let our children be slaughtered in schools and theaters? Will we continue to allow almost unfettered access to military grade high powered weapons? Will we continue to cut funding for preventive mental health care?

Today, we make a decision as a nation. Twenty children and six adults were killed today at a Newtown, Connecticut school. I refuse to allow their memories to be forgotten and will not let this horror continue unabated across the nation. 

Because of their strict regulation of firearms, last year in Japan there were only 8 murders committed with guns in a country of 120 million. The year before there were 6 and during the previous year 11. Today, during one horrific attack in one school, one American gunned down more fellow citizens than the last 3 years of gun deaths in Japan combined.  Over 100 rounds of ammo were fired into children today. According to the FBI, we average 20 similar mass shootings in the US each year. Don't let the NRA fool you the Second Amendment is not unlimited. As recently as the 2008 Heller decision, the US Supreme Court has held that:

Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.

Today is the day to begin the long delayed discussion of gun control and lay the foundation for the implementation of sensible gun regulations across the United States.

President Obama Wipes Away A Tear During His Address to the Nation Concerning Today's Shooting in Newtown

More at:
A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths
Mayors Against Illegal Guns
Fatal Gaps: Can Dangerous People Buy Guns In Your State?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Azure Hour

40" x 30" oil on linen 2012

I'm excited to announce that my work has been featured in today's Saatchi newsletter. Here is a link to share with all:

What a perfect time of the day...."The Azure Hour." Painting by Saatchi Online artist Gregg Chadwick (LA). Learn more about this wonderful piece and view Gregg's portfolio here:

Happy Holidays !

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Study for The City Dreams

Study for The City Dreams by GreggChadwick
Study for The City Dreams
12"x12" oil on linen 2012

Will be exhibited at the Sandra Lee Gallery in San Francisco, California during the upcoming Holiday Group Show which runs from December 4th through the 29th.

Opening Reception:

Saturday, Dec 8, 2012 from 4pm to 6pm

at the Sandra Lee Gallery
 251 Post Street, Suite 310
San Francisco, CA 94108

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Anish Kapoor's Gangnam for Freedom

                 Gangnam for Freedom - Anish Kapoor and Friends 

The British sculptor Anish Kapoor and a group of his human rights oriented friends have released a new video in partnership with Amnesty International and PEN International to bring attention to the ongoing persecution of artists and writers across the globe from China to Russia who have been harassed and imprisoned because of their work. Taking up where Ai Wei Wei's recent Gangnam Style video left off, Kapoor's own Gangnam Style romp combines symbols of imprisonment and torture with the names of many who have been persecuted in their artistic strivings for freedom. Please watch, visit the links, and find out what you can do to help shed light on this growing problem of censorship and oppression.

As an emigré from India to the United Kingdom, Anish Kapoor has often been concerned with the ideas of freedom and dislocation in his artwork. I have posted a few examples below that provide a brief glimpse into his artistic practice. For me, Anish Kapoor is one of the most important and visionary artists working today.

Anish Kapoor.
Dismemberment Site 1

Mild Steel Tube and Tensioned Fabric 2009
Gibbs Farm, Kaipara Harbour, New Zealand
photos courtesy  Gibbs Farm

 In North America, his best-known creation, Cloud Gate, is the centerpiece of Chicago’s Millennium Park:

Anish Kapoor
Cloud Gate
Stainless Steel 2004-2006
Millenium Park, Chicago, Illinois
Photos by Gregg Chadwick

Anish Kapoor, Hole1988sculpturefiberglass and pigment84 in. x 84 in. x 102 in. (213.36 cm x 213.36 cm x 259.08 cm)Collection SFMOMAGift of Mrs. Milo Gates© Anish Kapoor

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

More At: 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bruins In the House Sound Like Boom

Running back Johnathan Franklin of the UCLA Bruins scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter against USC
at the Rose Bowl on November 17, 2012 in Pasadena, California.


When the Bruins In the House It Sounds Like BOOM!

 UCLA 38 - Southern Cal 28!

UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks blocks a punt by Southern Cal's Kris Albarado
at the Rose Bowl on November 17, 2012 in Pasadena, California.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Yes We Will Vote for Obama on November 6, 2012

Yes We Will ~ We are Going to Write This Next Chapter Together. 
Watch this Inspiring Spot then Vote on November 6th!

Make Sure That You Have A Plan to Vote:
Are you ready to vote on Tuesday? 

Friday, November 02, 2012

Springsteen and The E Street Band Close Hurricane Sandy Benefit w/ Land of Hope and Dreams

by Gregg Chadwick


NBC broadcast a fundraiser tonight to raise money for hurricane relief for the communities hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy. (If you are on the West Coast the event will be re-broadcast across NBC and its affiliated networks including MSNBC starting at 8pm.)
To donate, visit or; call 1-800-HELPNOW or 1-800-RED-CROSS; or text "REDCROSS" to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

The telethon, Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together, was hosted by newscaster Matt Lauer and included poignant performances by Staten Island's Christina Aguilera, New Jersey's Jon Bon Jovi, and Long Island's Billy Joel, as well as Steven Tyler with members of Aerosmith, and Sting. 

 Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band closed the event with a powerful rendition of Land and Hope and Dreams from his most recent album Wrecking Ball. Bruce dedicated the song: "We're gonna send this out to the people of NY and NJ, and to all those who put their lives on the line with their service this week. This is Land of Hope and Dreams." Then he and the band tore into a crisp five-and-a-half minute rock n' roll train ride across the desolated Jersey shore. A powerful performance that spoke more of rebuilding and moving on than it did of sadness and reflection.  

If you have not read my piece on this song, which I  wrote in March upon the album's release, I have re-posted it below:

Land of Hope and Dreams
(Song by Song Review of Bruce Springsteen's New Album - Wrecking Ball)

People get ready, there's a train a-comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
Don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord
-Curtis Mayfield, People Get Ready

Central Railroad of New Jersey Steam 4-6-2, Jersey City, New Jersey, February 06, 1954 

My grandfather on my mother's side spent his working life as a train engineer on the Jersey Central Line. That itself sounds like a Springsteen lyric and explains part of my great love for Land of Hope and Dreams.  Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band first performed the song during the reunion tour in 1999, a live version was released on  Live in New York City in 2001 and also on The Essential Bruce Springsteen in 2003.  

The version of Land of Hope and Dreams featured on Wrecking Ball is the first studio recording of the song and poignantly includes one of the last recorded performances by E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died in June 2011. 

The inclusion of this song at this point in this album is cathartic. Up to now, hope has been yearned for in Wrecking Ball, but fear and doubt have threatened to overwhelm the lives of those living in the songs. 

The album version of the song begins with a soloist from The Victorious Gospel Choir spiritualizing an echo of Curtis Mayfield's People Get Ready:

Oh, Oh, Oh, This Train

The full choir joins in with banjo and organ accompaniment:

Don't you want to ride?
This train, this train, this train,
Get onboard, Get onboard, Get onboard

An August Dream

Gregg Chadwick
An August Dream
20"x36" oil on linen 2011

Curtis Mayfield's People Get Ready was directly inspired by the Civil Rights March on Washington in August 1963 and Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have A Dream speech which was given from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the event.

By using the metaphor of the train of salvation, Mayfield's inspiring song continues a tradition of American folk music that began with African American Spirituals referencing the Gospel Train and the Underground Railroad that was then continued by Woody Guthrie and Johnny Cash.  As Juan Williams writes for NPR:

"The train that is coming in the song speaks to a chance for redemption -- the long-sought chance to rise above racism, to stand apart from despair and any desire for retaliation -- an end to the cycle of pain."

The amazing thing that speaks to the depth of Springsteen's inspiration is that we are only 30 seconds into the studio version of Land of Hope and Dreams and this much history has been evoked. 

I suggest that you put on a pair of headphones and listen to the song with the music up loud because at this point the musical train thunders in with rumbling guitar, drums, mandolin and swirling keyboards. Every time I listen to this moment in Land of Hope and Dreams, I remember a photo of me as a little kid standing next to my grandpa Desch as he guides a Jersey Central steam engine down the tracks. It was in the 1960's, but the photo is in black and white tones that give the image a timeless quality that hovers somewhere between memory and dream. 

Springsteen urges us onboard:

Grab your ticket and your suitcase
Thunder's rolling down this track
You don't know where you're goin' now
But you know you won't be back
Darlin' if you're weary
Lay your head upon my chest
We'll take what we can carry
And we'll leave the rest

Well, Big Wheels roll through fields
Where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of hope and dreams

JMW Turner
Rain, Steam, and Speed - The Great Western Railway
36"x48" oil on canvas 1844
National Gallery, London

I will provide for you
And I'll stand by your side

I also think of my Dad's parents and the time we took a road trip deep into the South during the Civil Rights era. At a road stop somewhere along I95, in Georgia I think, my Grandma Chadwick saw me staring at a crude racist, epithet scrawled on a sign. She put her arm around me and said to me "Don't mind about those words. Those words aren't true. God loves everyone one of us - equally."
It was one of the first, and one of the best lessons about civil rights and equality that I have ever learned. 

As Springsteen sings:

You'll need a good companion now for
This part of the ride
Leave behind your sorrows
Let this day be the last
Well, Tomorrow there'll be sunshine

And all this darkness past

I think of the more recent past and how much I needed to hear this song when I saw Springsteen and The E Street Band on the Reunion Tour in 1999. I took BART in from San Francisco to Oakland with a copy under my arm of Eric Alterman's recently published, It Ain't No Sin to be Glad You're Alive: The Promise of Bruce SpringsteenOn the train over, I read the epilogue about a new song that Springsteen had written which was the initial live version of Land of Hope and Dreams. A relationship that I had thought was real was ending and I found myself in a place similar to the despair found in Michelle Moore's rap in Springsteen's Rocky Ground. I needed to get on board. That night in Oakland, my faith was rewarded in Land of Hope and Dreams. I was one with the crowd and the band carried us along.

Clarence Clemons and Bruce Springsteen
from the Born to Run cover shoot
June 1975
photo by Eric Meola

The next time I heard the E Street Band play Land of Hope and Dreams, the whole country needed the spirit that Springsteen's music at its best can provide. The Rising, with its call to national unity after the horrors of the September 11 attacks had been released in July 2002 and a month later I stood close to the stage by Clarence Clemons throughout the entire concert in San Jose. I had met Clarence at a private dot com gig in San Francisco a few years before and warmly remembered the giant hug he had given me after the event. In San Jose, during the bands homage to Amadou Diallo - "American Skin", Clarence Clemons' face was streaked with tears as he intoned the refrain "41 shots". The music roared that night. The crowd around knew the words to every song and sang them as if their lives depended on it. And maybe they did? 

That August night in San Jose, the concert ended with a gospel fueled, steel engined, crowd propelling version of Land of Hope and Dreams. Now as I listen to the recorded version, with my headphones on and the music up loud, I can still see Clarence but the tears are mine as I listen to his last sax solo. 

This Train
Dreams will not be thwarted
This Train
Faith will be rewarded
This Train
Hear the steel wheels singin'
This Train
Bells of freedom ringin'

As Clarence Clemon's last recorded solo fades, Springsteen slides into Curtis Mayfield's People Get Ready. As the train pulls into the final station, The Victorious Gospel Choir joins in with a musical epitaph for the Big Man.

All lyrics from Land of Hope and Dreams -  Copyright © Bruce Springsteen (ASCAP)

Debris In Belmar, New Jersey After Hurrican Sandy Inscribed With Lyric From Bruce Springsteen's Song Sandy
Photo Courtesy Backstreets Magazine

To donate, visit or; call 1-800-HELPNOW or 1-800-RED-CROSS; or text "REDCROSS" to 90999 to make a $10 donation.