On January 12, Sunday, I attended the closing concert on the last day of the first annual Cape Cod Songwriters Retreat (CCSR) held January 10-12 in Provincetown. The retreat was organized by David Roth, and staffed by Cosy Sheridan, Reggie Harris, and Sloan Wainwright. All four are brilliant, internationally known singer-songwriters, very talented artists, and wonderful, generous people. I have been privileged to know them for many years, through Penny Nichols’ SummerSongs, and Cosy’s Moab Folk Camp.
I effectively crashed their party, deciding at the last minute to go. Today I summed up my experience in an e-mail I sent out to as many of my singer-songwriter friends as I could reach. Perhaps I can reach the rest of them through this post. What I learned, to borrow a phrase from Cosy, was “a bit of a surprise.” Here is my e-mail message:
Provincetown: An Interloper’s Report
Monday a.m., shortly after deep sleep, I found myself at the Wired Puppy on Commercial St, one of the few coffee shops open in Provincetown on a January morning. Sitting on a window stool with a cranberry walnut muffin and a cup of the house blend (Sweet Puppy Love), I looked out at the nearly deserted street and the town library, drinking it all in and remembering the previous Sunday evening. I thought about my friends at the Land’s End, who would soon be debriefing and heading out. After a few minutes and a few brief conversations, I walked back to the Moffett House Inn, got into my car, and drove down to Orleans before stopping in a filling station parking lot and sleeping for another hour.
I hadn’t been sure I could safely make the solo round trip from Albany to P-town Sunday, but a few of my closest friends encouraged me, reminding me that if I didn’t make the trip I would always regret it. They were right: It had been too long for me, and I could not pass up the chance to see David, Sloan, Cosy and Reggie at the Cape Cod Songwriters Retreat (CCSR), and the final show at the WOMR studios. What a surprise to find so many old friends there too – John and Luanne, Barbara and Graham, Barbara Shiller, Turner, and a few other SummerSongs veterans, some of whom I’d never met.
This was new, arriving at camp’s end — as an interloper, an outsider — and it was quite an experience. The energy and the power I encountered was incredible. The word “amazing” doesn’t cut it anymore, so let me try this one: “transcendent.” Everyone was very good, and every performance special. What’s more, I sensed a deepening spirituality within the entire community. I know I am given to hyperbole, but I kid you not: Without exception, each song spoke calmly and confidently about the rejection of conflict, both in personal relationships and in the world. Everyone in this group is connected and courageous, and each song provided a piece of the puzzle, of the limitless potential power in music.
When I started writing songs and parodies 20 years ago, I wrote for the fun of it. These four heroes of mine, Dave, Reggie, Cosy and Sloan, along with Penny and others, have proved to me over the years that no matter what I thought I was doing, I was writing about myself and about my life. This Sunday, that perception changed slightly from “about my life,” to “about my life.” Sloan brought that home in her powerful song “Live Out the Best of Your Life.” Two decades ago I regarded songwriting as the “retreat,” sort of a hobby; and the idea of a songwriting “community” seemed a bit eccentric. But I have long known, for sure, that it is the perversity of the “real” world that is the retreat, much of it now exactly upside down; for 20 years, it seems, I have been slowly going sane.
All of this is more important, I think, than we can know: I’ve been sensing that 2014 may bring a higher level of spiritual awareness to all of the creative communities in the arts and sciences, and throughout the population. For the first time in years, I’m beginning to think we just might succeed! (fn: For heaven’s sake, do not fail to get Sloan’s new CD! It’s a clear roadmap to the future. Congrats, Sloan!)
Congratulations to David, Cosy, Reggie and Sloan for a complete CCSR success. It was so good to see you again! And congratulations to all involved for what you accomplished. Don’t any of you stop what you’re doing. Turn up the heat: Now is the time, and you are a big part of the answer.
Love you all,