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Judy Collins :: Blue Note Milano, 30th September 2006
by Eva Simontacchi
Photo by Eva Simontacchi & Cinzia Casagrande

Judy Collins has thrilled audiences worldwide with her unique blend of interpretative folksongs and contemporary themes. Her impressive career has spanned more than 40 years. At 13, Judy Collins made her public debut performing Mozart's "Concerto for Two Pianos" but it was the music of such artists as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, as well as the traditional songs of the folk revival, that sparked Judy Collins' love of lyrics. She soon moved away from the classical piano and began her lifelong love with the guitar. In 1961, Judy Collins released her first album, A Maid of Constant Sorrow, at the age of 22 and began a thirty-five year association with Jac Holzman and Elektra Records.

Judy Collins is also noted for her rendition of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" on her classic 1967 album, Wildflowers. "Both Sides Now" has since been entered into the Grammy's Hall of Fame. Winning "Song of the Year" at the 1975 Grammy's Awards show was Judy's version of "Send in the Clowns," a ballad written by Stephen Sondheim for the Broadway musical "A Little Night Music."

Released on September 29th, Judy's new book, Sanity and Grace, A Journey of Suicide, Survival and Strength, is a deeply moving memoir, focusing on the death of her only son and the healing process following the tragedy. The book speaks to all who have endured the sorrow of losing a loved one before their time. In the depths of her suffering, Judy found relief by reaching out to others for help and support. Now, she extends her hand to comfort other survivors whose lives have been affected by similar tragedy.

In a recent appearance on ABC's Good Morning America, Judy performed "Wings of Angels," the heartbreaking ballad that she wrote about the loss of her son. The song is currently available on the newly released Judy Collins Wildflower Festival CD and DVD, which also feature guest artists Arlo Guthrie, Tom Rush and Eric Andersen. This extraordinary concert was filmed at the famed Humphrey's By the Bay in San Diego, CA. The concert was the culmination of a 25 city national tour.

Judy Collins continues to create music of hope and healing that lights up the world and speaks to the heart. (quoted from Judy Collinís bio)

The Concert, first set 9:00 p.m. Ė by Eva Simontacchi

This evening Ms. Judy Collins had to change all her plans once on stage, because her guitar didnít reach her on time from the airport. Accompanied by Russel Walden, who switched from keyboards to grand piano every time that Judy Collins herself switched from one to the other, we whitnessed Ms. Collinsí great flexibility, experience and talent. This great folk singer and song writer sang, with her crystal-clear voice a number of songs of her repertoire, relating to very many different projects of hers. The songs that Mrs. Collins performed during the first set are ďBoth Sides NowĒ (Joni Mitchell), ďSomeday SoonĒ (Judy Collins), ďMy FatherĒ (Judy Collins), Suzanne (Leonard Cohen), ďSince Youíve AskedĒ (Judy Collins), ďBorn To The BreedĒ (Judy Collins), ďMy Funny ValentineĒ (Rodgers, Hart) ďThey Canít Take That Away From MeĒ (G. Gershwin), ďSend In The ClownsĒ (Stephen Sondheim), ďBird On A WireĒ (Leonard Cohen), ďIn My LifeĒ (Lennon & McCartney), ďChelsea MorningĒ (Joni Mitchell) ďSong for DukeĒ (Judy Collins), Amazing Grace (traditional), A Thousand Kisses (Leonard Cohen) ďWho Knows Where The Time GoesĒ (Sandy Denny). The beautiful songs, and the meaningful lyrics, the beauty of Ms. Collinsí clear and silvery voice, and the very intimate piano-voice situation made this evening an unforgettable one.

After the concertís first set, we met with Ms. Judy Collins and Cinzia Casagrande who took a few pictures during the interview.

We were sitting in the small courtesy living room for the artists, ready to start the interview, when the Prime Minister of Thaiwan asked to come in and congratulate with Judy Collins after the first set of her one-night concert in Milano. Judy Collins has been to Thaiwan a short time ago and told me she was interviewed for two days in a row: radio, press, pictures, interviews..She adds that Thaiwan is such an interesting place, so into arts and music, and everythingís so interesting and so different. After the greetings with the Prime Minister and a few other people, including some fans, we start the interview.

Eva Simontacchi: Could you tell us more about this tour? Where are you coming from and where are you going next?
Judy Collins: I had a few concerts... A concert in Germany. Iíve never been in Germany before. I went to a particularly big conference called Pop Com which is in Berlin; lots and lost of musicians from all over the world, and I was on a Conference there with a number of other musicians, which was great fun.

E.S.: How did you like that?
J.C.: Oh, I loved it! It was great. I Had a wonderful time!

E.S.: Did you meet any friends or musicians you knew?
J.C.: No. I met new people, new things. We did a lot of business. You know, itís one of those big international things like MIDEM. Then I went to England and I had some private time there, and then I did a concert at the Jazz Cafť in Camden, London which was wonderful. And then we went to Scotland and we were at the Queenís Hall, and then we came here, and now Iím going home in the morning. I have a concert next week in New York.

E.S.: This is your first time in Milano, I gather, and maybe in Italy too.
J.C.: Iíve never performed in Italy. No reason!

E.S.: Itís a pity that it isnít possible to buy your records here at Blue Note this evening. They usually have the records of the artists who are performing, but not this time. Maybe they will have them later on in the evening.
J.C.: I think theyíre probably with the guitar, I donít know! Our distributor is supposed to have the albums here.

E.S.: And you also wrote books....
J.C.: Iíve written a number of books, yes. You can find them all on Amazon if you canít find them at the stores. But Iím surprised that there are no records here. Iím very surprised!

E.S.: Well Iím sure we will all be able to find them shortly in the stores. Or maybe later in the evening here at Blue Note.
Iím very happy I had the opportunity of hearing you live because I only knew you from some of your albums. I had never heard you live, and this eveningís concert was marvellous, you really touched our hearts.

J.C.: It was a wonderful audience; very, very nice.

E.S.: Could you tell us about your projects after the tour? Are you writing right now? On what are you focusing?
J.C.: Iím working on another book thatís supposed to be coming out in April, but my editor has not given it back to me, and I should be working on it so I donít know when it is going to come out. Iím always working on a book, and Iím always working on new projects. I wrote a book a couple of years ago called ďSanity And GraceĒ about suicide, and I sort of cover it from A to Z including my own personal loss and what Iíve learned and what I know about it. So, this book is called ďThe Seven ďTísĒ and it has to do with what you do to get through difficult things. And the Tís are for Truth, Trust, Therapy, and one of my sisters said: ďYou canít forget ďTemperance and TenacityĒ. Those were her two Tís..... Itís sort of a practical book. I think that when something happens that is devastating, people often donít know where to look, they donít know what to do, they need some things that are very practical to do, so thatís what this book is about. As far as projects, Iím working on an album, a cd, of other people singing my songs. So Chrissie Heinz is doing ďMy FatherĒ, and actually Leonard is reading, heís going to read, heís not going to do a song, but there are a lot of artists; Dolly Partonís finished with hers, and Emmylou Harris is on the album... Then Iím working on a new album that will be out some time in the Spring, I hope, and that hopefully will be a surprise. Iíve done a Leonard Cohen album and a Bob Dylan album, so this is the work of another artist, but Iím not going to say who yet..... so things are going very well.

E.S.: Are you into teaching? Do you ever hold Master Classes in music?
J.C.: Well, I like to think that what I do is teaching.

E.S.: It surely is.
J.C.: I think that I teach , I suppose, through working, but I also do write about music. And at some point I should write a full book thatís really a whole book about my experience with teachers. In fact, it may be my next book. I had been talking about it to a good friend who is a very prolific writer, and she and I and my husband and her friend were talking about it and I have had a couple of very, very powerful teachers. And I think a book about the experience of what itís like to be a student is really what I would like to do. I wrote a book called ďSinging lessonsĒ and in the chapter is the story of my relationship with my teacher, Max Margolis, who is one of the three men, by the way, who started Blue Note Records. And I finally - after years of hawking everybody and saying ďwhy isnít Maxís name in here? Ė I finally got it on the 50th or the 60th anniversary. Thereís a great big collection, and right on the front in the booklet it talks about Max Margolis. He was fundamental in being my teacher. I studied with him for 32 years.... Thatís how I approach the teaching: I perform, I make cds, I write about the process, and I keep working , which is Ė I think Ė the big lesson after all. And I think to learn about singing or about music itís important to be around people that you feel ..... I mean, I canít listen to bad singing, and I will walk out of anything anywhere no matter how good people say it is, because I canít stand bad singing. If I donít understand the words, then Iím out of there. And thatís really the basic test, isnít it? If you understand what is being said, and thereís clarity and good phrasing...... And if you canít understand a word, then.... who needs it?

Pavarotti told a wonderful story about going to see one of the great Italian singers, Gigli, who has been a great hero of mine. Pavarotti went with his father and his uncle both of whom were singers to see Gigli. So they were sitting there, and Gigli was singing, and at the end, his father jumped up and said ďOh! Bravo, bravissimo!Ē and the uncle just sat there. And Pavarotti said that from that he learned that no matter what you do, half the people are going to hate you and half the people are going to love you. Thereís nothing you can do about it! But I think Gigli was a great singer, and I listen to Gigli, and I listen to Pavarotti in his young years, and I learn a lot! You know, I learn a lot. I think you have to be vigilant about what you listen to. So, thatís what I keep trying to do. Just go forward and stay on the track.

E.S.: After a concert, when you leave the stage, what do you wish to leave or with your audience?
J.C.: Iím giving the journey that I take that night. And end with them, because itís always unique! Tonight I did a lot of different things because I didnít have the guitar, so I switched around, I sang different sequences and and sort of did things out of order, and things that I might not have otherwise done but no matter when you sing or where you sing or to whom you sing, itís always uniquely that experience. Itís never going to be like that again. And we have so much music, so much art available to us packaged, so we can take our little i-pods and we can listen, and we can sit down.... But live music is where people get fed ! Their soul, their hearts get fed, and so for the performer the same thing is true. And if I can sleep that night, I know that Iíve done what I meant to do. And itís very meditative because of the breath and the voice. And as you know, as a singer yourself, you know that. Itís a very elevated state. But also alleviated (Judy Collins chuckles knowingly) I mean, everything disappears except what youíre doing. And thatís very important for any artist, for any person to be totally focused, and to be focused on something, on someone. I go to a lot of music, and I just love the experience that I get to go and be taken on the journey by someone. So thatís really what Iím giving: itís the journey. And itís very personal! Things happen with an audience that are specific to that audience. And there are moments that are just not going to happen again. For either party..... For either the audience or the performer. And thatís very exciting to be involved in the arts. Itís true for all artists in any situation because youíre always trying to re-invent yourself. Itís good, itís exciting. So I feel very lucky I can do this.
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published 12.11.2006 © 2005 jazz news :: home page

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