Thursday, October 31, 2013

Jazz, Jesus, and John Brown at Florida Gulf Coast University

Oh how I wish someone had posted a youtube video of the mind boggling concert/reading/come to Jesus gathering that some friends and I attended at the local university Tuesday night. I need a visual for you because my words would be inadequate to express the uplifting nature of the event.

Sadly, there was very little effective publicity about the appearance by author James McBride. In fact, if I hadn't heard about it through the library's grapevine I would have missed it altogether and been the lesser for it. As you know, I met Mr. McBride this summer at the Library of Congress Book Festival where he spoke under a leaking tent during a downpour to about 600 stalwart fans. But his talk that day couldn't hold a candle to the one the other night before a rollicking group of maybe a hundred.

You see, besides being a writer (and current nominee for the National Book Award for The Good Lord Bird), James McBride studied music at Oberlin College and has received a Stephen Sondheim Award and the Richard Rodgers Foundation Horizon Award. The man can get down with the sax! He came to Florida Gulf Coast University with his full entourage, an awesomely talented group of men from all over the country, and conducted a moving and powerful combination of book talk and concert.

First and foremost his words were for the students. He talked about failure and how to leave that baggage behind and move on. He talked about differences and learning to embrace them. He spoke of travel, fleeing one's comfort zone, going out on a limb. I tried to find a video that might incorporate the essence of his wise words and this was the most apropos that I could find.

This was the most innovative book talk I've ever attended. It'd be a shame if he couldn't bring the whole package back in March for the Southwest Florida Reading Festival but I didn't get the feeling that that would happen.  McBride practically channeled John Brown, the abolitionist who believed that God asked him directly to eliminate slavery in the United States.

As he read from Lord Bird, the novel about Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, his musicians took their places on stage and pretty soon the joint was jumping. I thought I had accidentally entered a revival tent touting that old time religion and when Trenton, New Jersey drummer and vocalist, Show Tyme, (yup, that's his name), performed a startling rendition of How Great Thou Art, I was overwhelmed by emotion.

Thanks to Maria Palacio for keeping me in the loop.


Dorothy Schirtzinger said...

Sally, I was so hoping you would get to attend the McBride program at FGCU. Your review was great; next best thing to attending......thanks for sharing. Wish the university did a better job of making the community aware of their special programs...a few years ago I attended some excellent events there.
I continue to read your blogs religiously; you are my link to the book world, now that I find reading a whole book almost impossible.
Keep up the good work! Dorothy

Jessica said...

He is being invited to the 2014 RF - so fingers crossed...

Sallyb said...

Oh Dorothy. So lovely to hear from you. I think of you so often and of the LCLS "glory days." You can imagine how distressing it is for me to hear about your difficulties in reading. I do hope you get to listen to books instead. Sometimes the flavor is even better than the printed word - well, sometimes. Thank you for the kind words.