JUDY COLLINS, AMAZING GRACE – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Marilyn and I had been looking forward to the Judy Collins concert for months. Marilyn bought the tickets last January before her complicated heart surgery. At the time, I wondered if she was being extravagant given our tight budget. I was very wrong. Marilyn figured the concert would give us something to look forward to in the months while she struggled to recover from the surgery.  It’s taken a toll on her body and spirits.

The concert? She was right.

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It didn’t seem particularly right during the long drive into Boston yesterday. Intermittent heavy rain showers made the usually easy Sunday drive a challenge. Often the traffic looked like something out of “Wagon Train.” Yet, by the time we got to Boston, it was all good. A handicapped parking space was available directly in front of the theater — like on television or in the movies. And the rain stopped, just like that.

judy collins concert

We took a quick scan of nearby restaurants and Japanese got our attention. We chowed down on sushi and tempura with plenty of time to spare to make our 7 pm curtain. Marilyn took pictures and we watched as the crowds arrived for the Collins concert. The audience appeared to be three-quarters casually dressed baby boomers. Our kind of folks.

And suddenly, it was time to pack up the camera and find the tickets. Showtime!

wilbur theater judy collins

The Wilber is an old theatre. Built in 1914, it’s rather cozy inside and they have arranged the orchestra level as a dinner theater. Both of us had been to the Wilbur in the past, though not recently, so it was a bit of a shock to see how it had changed. Instead of theater seats, there were high, padded bar stools. Wait staff brought refreshments.

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Sometimes you anticipate, but are disappointed. The moment Judy Collins walked on stage, the evening turned magical. Judy Collins has — at 74 years old — not only kept her voice, but improved it. I had not realized what a skilled pianist she is, either. Her musicianship was remarkable and it perfectly suited the cozy theater.

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She entertained with a preferred list of her most popular songs. Folk, Broadway and Standards. There was no forced chit-chat but shared stories and memories of professional life across half a century. Most of the audience, including me, were nodding and smiling. It was our story too. The artists and  music of our generation. The music that was the background to our lives.

The songs brought back a flood of memories. “Send In The Clowns” reminded me of my days in TV news dealing with politicians. “Danny Boy,” always a sentimental favorite, took me back to our honeymoon in Ireland where I discovered my Irish roots. I was smiling with tears in my eyes.

theater district judy collins

I thought the concert was over as Judy Collins thanked her pianist-music director while blowing kisses to the audience. It couldn’t be over. Not yet.

It wasn’t over!

Marilyn reassured me as Judy Collins began to sing “Amazing Grace.” Our song. That was the song the bag piper played at our wedding. That our friend sang. Apparently it was everyone’s song because Judy invited the audience to join in and go for the harmony. We sang and filled the 100-year old Wilbur Theater with our voices.

Magic time! We held the last words of “Amazing Grace” for long minutes, the music and our voices echoing through the venerable theater.

A night to remember!



Categories: Boston, Entertainment, Garry Armstrong, Magic, Marriage, Music, Show Business

Tags: , , , , ,

28 replies

  1. Sounds like a great treat to me…and for your anniversary, having “your song” played by someone so wonderfully talented (and the hundreds or so around you chiming in) 🙂 and for the open parking spot and it just sounds perfect. I babble — I’m really happy for you guys. 🙂

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    • It was a big treat. We don’t get out much. I don’t travel well and Garry tires quickly — and the price of tickets has skyrocketed so much that usually, it’s too much to even think about. But these were about as affordable as tickets could be and I bought them 8 months in advance. I figured by September, I’d either be well enough to travel or dead. It was good. Very good. I have no idea when we’ll get another opportunity, so we can treasure this for a long time.

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  2. What a joy to have been able to experience her artistry! 🙂

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    • It was great. It brought back some wonderful memories, too … mostly of when the world and we were a lot younger.

      Liked by 1 person

      • When I read the post, it brought back memories of a few concerts I actually attended in my youth – which were VERY few, like, maybe three. Anyway, I will never forget the sound of Chicago, that big band, blasting away whatever theater we were in, in downtown Chicago (my hometown.) There is nothing that can compare with “being there.”

        So happy you had the foresight to buy the tickets!

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  3. I love Judy Collins. It’s good to see she’s still performing. Nothing makes me feel older than all my heroes getting old. Linda Ronstadt, Joan Baez, Glen Campbell are just a few that come to mind.

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  4. Oh I bet it was a night to remember. You both needed to b pampered and Who better than Judy Collins.

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    • Yes, Cee. A terrific night. We could’ve easily stayed another hour. Judy Collins’ pipes are magical!! I’m also a Joan Baez “groupie”.

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  5. Sounds magical!
    There’s something about the song Amazing Grace that always brings a tear to my eye.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It WAS magical! We don’t get out often so this was extra-special. Marilyn planned it as part of our 24th wedding anniversary celebration. We played a Judy Collins CD on the drive home. The drive seemed much shorter.

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  6. I could picture it all as I read, thank you for sharing your magical evening, I could hear her voice in my head. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Evenings like this nourish soul and spirit – and fate providing the parking space too. SO great to hear that Judy Collins is going strong. She’s one of our favourites too.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Did she sing “Both Sides Now?” That’s a great one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. She sang ALL her great ones. It was a wonderful concert. Just her, her music guy who also plays the piano and a few microphones. And a 12-string guitar and a grand piano. I didn’t know she played that well. Concert quality.

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      • Back in the 70s, when I worked for Elektra, part of my job was to go up to Judy’s apt on the West Side of Manhattan, and set up the tone arm, and cartridge on her turntable, then check out the rest of her HiFi system to make sure it was working properly. I did this at least once a year and sometime more. In addition, I was also asked to record demo samples of songs for possible inclusion on her next albums. She would come into the Elektra studio, at Broadway and 60th St, to do them.

        Not only is she a fine pianist, and a great musician, but she’s a very sweet person. Personally you’d really like her and she you, and you’d probably get along with her just fine. I missed her this time around when she came through Arizona, but I’m glad you guys got to see, and hear, her.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It was a real treat. Food for our old hippy souls. Lots of singing along, so many memories. This has been a total roller coaster week. I’m exhausted and it’s only Tuesday. But it’s — at this point — a good exhaustion.

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        • Ben, I love your back stories. It’s like me and movies. Funny, I was thinking of you and others who’ve shared our love of music through the years. Wish I could do a “Myth and the Music” but that’s just a memory.

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          • Garr, I don’t mean to intrude too much on your blog, but I often don’t realize I have a “back story” until some subject comes up involving my life. It’s during those moments when I realize how lucky I’ve been in my life. It seems that you’ve also had some unique experiences in yours. The ironic thing is that at the time of encounter these events seemed perfectly normal to me. Do you find that to be true as well?

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    • Rick, I don’t remember if she did “Both Sides Now”. It IS a great one. What a wonderful evening!

      Like

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