There aren’t many things that stop me in my tracks. But earlier this year, as I was walking through the Wednesday Night Market which fills the main thoroughfare of town one summer night a week, a trio of men on a small stage did just that. This is what I heard:
Standing on that street I was transported to the Delta and a bygone time. I saw old men sitting on porches, tapping their feet. I heard the faint echoes of a jazz funeral winding its way through wide avenues. I felt shivers at the wail of a Voodoo Queen in a trance and the shouts of a Gospel preacher in rapture. I was mesmerized. And I wasn’t the only one, judging by the crowd that had gathered for the performance of these three young men, one with a fiddle, one with a double bass, and one with a steel guitar and soulful voice. Unfortunately, that summer night, I was headed somewhere and had to shake myself free of their spell. But I made sure to get their name before I moved on. They called themselves, Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra.
It’s months later, and I’m focusing today’s post on this brief encounter for two reasons.
Picture a courtyard, candle-lit, draped in strands of fairy lights, smelling of wood burning in fire pits and a feast spread upon tables, and there in the midsts of it all, a gathering of souls. That’s where I was last night, and so was Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra. You see, when I found out their name, I told a friend who has a way of making things happen. Finding himself as bewitched by their music as I had been, within twelve hours of first hearing them, he had booked them to perform at his annual Autumn Equinox bash, which was last night. Now, autumn is my absolute favorite time of year, and the Autumn Equinox more of a New Year celebration for me than the Julian Calendar’s January 1st. It’s life in its last throes with vibrant colors and harvests, balanced by darkness creeping in with lengthening shadows and gray mornings. It’s a time for stories and magic and possibility, for all the things that stir the soul, for endings and new beginnings (to include new blogs!). In my mind, there could be no better herald to this season than Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra.
I’ve said in the past that writers need writers. We are often solitary creatures, sitting at our desks or in coffee shops, faces aglow from laptop screens, wrapped up in worlds of our own making. Some of us foolishly think we can exist and continue to create, indefinitely, in this solitude, but most of us soon realize that we need each other…to be challenged, validated and inspired. I want to expand on this now. As writers, we are part of a greater community of artists, and we need other artists (of all mediums) for the very same reasons. Perhaps we need them even more, as they force us to push the boundaries of our craft and see our work in new light, or sound, or colors. We can learn from filmmakers how to bring drama to our work; we can learn from painters and visual artists how to capture the senses of our readers; we can learn from dancers how to drop ourselves into our characters’ bodies; and we can learn from musicians how to add rhythm to the composition of our words and orchestrate their many voices and story lines. And why not? After all, each artist is telling a story in their own way, hoping to transport the souls of others while bearing their own. So it makes sense that last night even Marty talked about the collaborative methods of the group, and how their songs are inspired by everything from gospel sermons to historical boxing matches. Speaking for myself, when my artistic soul encounters another, it reverberates with them across mediums. I cannot be the writer I want to be without this connection.
For these two reasons, sitting there at that wrought iron table with a glass of wine transfixed by Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra for three glorious hours was, most certainly, my writerly act yesterday.
As for today? Today I met with a small salon of women writers in an old Victorian house in San Francisco for a Read-About. But that’s a story for another day…
For more on Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra, including upcoming performances, check out their website below.