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Spyro Gyra at the Blue Note May 28, 2016

Posted by Mike C. in Basketball, Jazz, Music, Personal, Photography, Sports, Travel.
4 comments

I was back at Blue Note on Thursday night to see Spyro Gyra‘s 8:00 show. This is a recurring expression in these recaps, but it was Spyro Gyra’s third night of a six-night engagement at the famous jazz club in Greenwich Village. It was also the first time I’d seen the band in nearly three years. This was the first time seeing them on land since June 2007 at the YMCA Boulton Center in Bay Shore.

My original plan on Thursday afternoon was to take the 4:27 westbound train from LIRR’s Wantagh Station (currently in the first phase of renovations) to Penn Station. But I was bored at home, so I left the house an hour and a half early. I walked 20 minutes to the train station and boarded the 3:09 train. I use a backpack, so I must have looked like a high school student to some fellow adults I passed. (Wantagh High School lets out at 2:19.) Wantagh Elementary School had a fire drill as I walked past it on Beech Street. I was glad to hear it was a whooping siren and buzzer instead of a ding-ding-ding bell. That’s why I dreaded fire drills as a kid. I don’t like surprises and I like those big bells even less.

The train ride was longer than scheduled due to a delay at Jamaica, but I still got to Penn Station within an hour of boarding. My girlfriend took Metro-North and the S and 1 trains, and we met at Penn 15 minutes after I arrived. We then took the A train to West Fourth Street. We walked up the stairs at West Third and killed time by watching basketball games at the West Fourth Street Courts. At 5:20, we decided walk up the block to Blue Note and wait for the doors to open. There was no line at first, but about 15 minutes, a line began to form.

Shortly after 6:00, the doors opened and my girlfriend and I chose our usual table at center stage. Our seats were the last before the stage.

Through dinner and dessert, 8:00 came, Spyro Gyra walked on stage, and the show began.

As he has been for all 40 years, Jay Beckenstein was on saxophone. He mostly played alto:
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…but was briefly on soprano:
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Tom Schuman, also with the band for all 40 years, played keyboards:
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Julio Fernandez, with the band for 29 of the last 31 years, was on guitar:
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Scott Ambush, in his 25th year, was on bass:
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…and newcomer Lionel Cordew on drums:
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Each night’s shows were at 8:00 and 10:30. Here is the set list from Thursday’s 8:00 show:
1. Catching the Sun
Originally heard on: Catching the Sun, 1980

2. Stolen Moments (Oliver Nelson cover)

3. Havana Moonlight
Originally heard on: Got the Magic, 1999

4. Morning Dance
Originally heard on: Morning Dance, 1979; Access All Areas, 1984; Road Scholars, 1998

5. Cape Town Love
Originally heard on: Original Cinema, 2003

6. Harbor Nights
Originally heard on: Incognito, 1982; Access All Areas, 1984

7. Good to Go-Go
Originally heard on: Good to Go-Go, 2007

8. Funkyard Dog
Originally heard on: Good to Go-Go, 2007

We’ve reached the part of the recap with various shots of each musician. We start with Jay Beckenstein:
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Playing alto and soprano simultaneously on “Funkyard Dog”:
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Tom Schuman:
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Julio Fernandez:
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Julio’s vocal intro to “Havana Moonlight”:
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Julio was born in Havana.

Scott Ambush:
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Lionel Cordew’s drum solo before “Funkyard Dog”:
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Scott and Tom:
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Julio and Lionel:
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Scott, Jay, and Tom:
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My girlfriend and I had a wonderful time. We couldn’t have asked for a better show. I can only imagine what the 10:30 crowd saw.

Spyro Gyra are still at Blue Note tonight and tomorrow night. So, if you haven’t seen them yet and you’re free either night, come on down to the Village and see them live.

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SJFS 2016 Night 2 recap May 4, 2016

Posted by Mike C. in Football, Internet, Interviews, Media, Music, Personal, Photography, Radio, Sports, Travel, TV.
19 comments

Other SJFS recaps: 2008, 2008 meet-and-greet, 2009, 2010, 2011, 20122013 Night 1, 2013 Night 2, 2014 Night 1, 2014 Night 2, 2015 Night 1, 2016 Night 1, 2017 Night 1, 2017 Night 22018 Night 1, 2018 Night 2

Day 2 of my weekend in Milford, Connecticut, began at sunrise. I went right to sleep when I returned to the hotel the night before. So, the first thing I did when I woke up was move the pictures I shot from my camera to my laptop. After that, I took the elevator down to the lobby and helped myself to breakfast. The day progressed from there. To pass the time, I watched episodes of Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show while editing Friday’s Smooth Jazz for Scholars pictures. When the latter rounds of the NFL Draft were televised, I had that on with the TV muted as I continued to listen to (when editing) and watch (when not) the Chat Show.

If such a thing existed, I would have teleported from my room to the Tilles Center Atrium for this year’s WCWP Hall of Fame Ceremony. Instead, this recap by 2014 inductee Frank D’Elia will have to do. Jeff Kroll, inducted last year, informed me that next year’s ceremony will probably be earlier in the year, eliminating a conflict with Smooth Jazz for Scholars.

Eventually, 5:15 came and it was time for dinner. My girlfriend and I ate at the Olive Garden in nearby Orange. It was the first time I had been to any location other than the one in East Massapequa. Since I ate waffles and muffins at breakfast, I avoided those delicious breadsticks, limiting myself to minestrone, lasagna, and a creme de menthe candy when the check came.

My girlfriend improvised on her alto saxophone again while we waited in the parking lot adjacent to the Parsons Complex Veterans Memorial Auditorium. This time, she even played in front of audience members waiting on the auditorium steps. They loved it.

In the auditorium lobby, I met Jay Rowe‘s mother, Mia DiStasi, as I preordered Jay’s upcoming album, Smooth Ride.

At 8:00, Kevin McCabe welcomed the audience:
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There were plenty of people like me that also attended Friday’s show.

Once again, John Patterson, president and CEO of the Monroe County (Michigan) Convention and Tourism Bureau, promoted the River Raisin Jazz Festival:
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After two songs from West Shore Middle School students Friday night, Saturday night saw two songs by the East Shore Middle School Jazz Band:
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They played “Blues at Frog Bottom” and “Peter Gunn.”

After chairs were removed from the stage, Jay Rowe and his band came out.

Jay played keyboards:
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Steve Scales on percussion:
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Trever Somerville on drums:
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…and Dave Anderson on bass:
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The stars of night 2 were Eric Darius on alto saxophone:
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Chieli Minucci (“key-ELLIE min-OO-chee”) on electric guitar:
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…and acoustic guitar:
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Nelson Rangell on alto sax…:
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…flute…:
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…and piccolo:
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He also whistled a couple of bars:
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Nick Colionne on electric guitar:
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…and with Jay’s band on seven songs, including the finale, just like the night before, Rohn (“Ron”) Lawrence on electric guitar:
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SET LIST
1. East Coast West Coast (Jay Rowe)
Originally heard on: Red Hot and Smooth (2006)
Featured musicians: Jay Rowe (keyboards), Rohn Lawrence (electric guitar)

2. Goin’ All Out (Eric Darius)
Originally heard on: Goin’ All Out (2008)
Featured musicians: Eric Darius (alto sax), Rohn Lawrence (electric guitar)

3. If I Ain’t Got You (Alicia Keys cover) (Eric Darius)
Originally heard on: Just Getting Started (2006)
Featured musicians: Eric Darius (alto sax), Rohn Lawrence (electric guitar)
Eric worked his way through the audience in the middle of the song.

4. Uptown East (Chieli Minucci)
Originally heard on: Slice of Life (Special EFX) (1986)
Featured musician: Chieli Minucci (electric guitar)

5. Dance on the Delta (Chieli Minucci)
Originally heard on: Upcoming Special EFX album
Featured musicians: Chieli Minucci (acoustic guitar), Nelson Rangell (flute, alto sax)

6. From Here (Nelson Rangell)
Originally heard on: Red (2015)
Featured musicians: Nelson Rangell (alto sax, whistling), Chieli Minucci (electric guitar)

7. Tomorrow (A Better You, Better Me) (The Brothers Johnson cover) (Nelson Rangell)
Originally heard on: Nelson Rangell (1990)
Featured musicians: Nelson Rangell (piccolo), Rohn Lawrence (electric guitar)

8. Buckle Up (Nick Colionne)
Originally heard on: The Journey (2016)
Featured musicians: Nick Colionne (electric guitar), Nelson Rangell (alto sax)

9. Rainy Night in Georgia (Brook Benton cover) (Nick Colionne)
Originally heard on: It’s My Turn (1994), Keepin’ It Cool (2006)
Featured musicians: Nick Colionne (vocals, electric guitar), Eric Darius (alto sax)

10. Night on the Town (Eric Darius)
Originally heard on: Night on the Town (2004)
Featured musicians: Eric Darius (alto sax), Rohn Lawrence (electric guitar)

11. Ballerina (Chieli Minucci)
Originally heard on: Just Like Magic (Special EFX) (1990)
Featured musician: Chieli Minucci (electric guitar)

12. The Road Ahead (Nelson Rangell)
Originally heard on: Destiny (1995)
Featured musicians: Nelson Rangell (alto sax), Rohn Lawrence (electric guitar)

13 (Finale). James Brown tribute
Featured musicians: Everyone, led by Nick Colionne (vocals)
Nick went into the audience twice for his “Whatta ‘Bout You?” routine.

Now for various shots of each musician, starting with Jay Rowe:
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Eric Darius:
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Chieli Minucci on electric guitar:
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Acoustic guitar:
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Nelson Rangell on alto sax:
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Flute:
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Piccolo:
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Whistling:
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Tambourine break on “Buckle Up”:
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I always love when Nelson joins Steve Scales on percussion.

Nick Colionne:
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Singing “Rainy Night in Georgia”:
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Rohn Lawrence:
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Steve Scales:
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Trever Somerville:
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Dave Anderson:
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Next, two shots, starting with Rohn and Eric:
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Nelson and Chieli:
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Rohn and Nelson:
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Nick and Nelson:
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Nick and Eric:
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Steve and Trever’s duet on “Night on the Town”:
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The James Brown tribute finale begins with Nick channeling the Godfather of Soul:
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The rest of the band was in on the seance:
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“Fellas!”:
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The response was inadequate:
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Take 2: “Fellas!”:
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After a “yeah!” response, Nick imitated James’s incoherence in a questioning tone, eliciting more “yeah!” responses.

Then, he laughed: “Ha-ha-ha!”:
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“Can I count it off?”:
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“1, 2, 3, 4!”:
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And away we went.

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The “Whatta ‘Bout You?” routine:
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Back on stage:
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The cape routine:
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Jay can dance:
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Time to bring it home:
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That was it for night 2.

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What a wild night and a fantastic weekend.

My girlfriend drove me to Bridgeport Station at around noon on Sunday and my journey home began. Until next year, Milford.

SJFS 2016 Night 1 recap May 4, 2016

Posted by Mike C. in Internet, Interviews, Jazz, Media, Music, Personal, Photography, Radio, Travel.
18 comments

Other SJFS recaps: 2008, 2008 meet-and-greet, 2009, 2010, 2011, 20122013 Night 1, 2013 Night 2, 2014 Night 1, 2014 Night 2, 2015 Night 1, 2016 Night 2, 2017 Night 1, 2017 Night 22018 Night 1, 2018 Night 2

Ten years ago tomorrow, May 5, I met keyboardist Jay Rowe following a Special EFX concert at the since-defunct IMAC (Inter-Media Art Center) in Huntington. A friendship was born. (We posed for a picture that can be seen here.) About seven months later, he invited me to his annual Smooth Jazz for Scholars benefit concert the following April in his hometown of Milford, Connecticut. I agreed to go. Last Friday, I made my tenth annual pilgrimage to Milford for the 14th annual Smooth Jazz for Scholars. This was the fourth year with two shows, and the third in which I went to both shows.

The journey began Friday morning in a cold wind on the platform at the Wantagh LIRR station. I took a westbound train to Penn Station. My next stop was Penn’s Amtrak terminal. I waited an hour, which included a quick nosh at Tim Horton’s, then boarded the Vermonter on track 8E. I was in coach, which resembled the commuter trains I’m used to riding. About 70 minutes later, I exited the train at Bridgeport. My girlfriend was waiting for me.

I met her on Facebook six years ago. She first discovered me four years before that through this website because of an interview I did with Brian Simpson at WCWP. (You can find that interview here.) She noticed me in the audience at the 2009 SJFS, but didn’t approach me. When we connected on Facebook, I assumed she was a fan of my stint as host of Evening Jazz, a WCWP format at the time. We shared a love of music, both for listening and playing. I’m a piano man, she was a sax woman.

We checked in at Hampton Inn in Milford around 2PM. After a few hours of settling in, we went out to dinner and dessert at Friendly’s. From there, we drove to the site of Smooth Jazz for Scholars: the Parsons Complex Veterans Memorial Auditorium. We were early, so we waited in the parking lot for a half hour.

While we waited, my girlfriend improvised on her alto saxophone to backing tracks on her MP3 player.

Shortly after 8:00, show #1 began with an introduction by Kevin McCabe:
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Next to speak was John Patterson, president and CEO of the Monroe County (Michigan) Convention and Tourism Bureau:
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John was promoting another annual jazz event: the River Raisin Jazz Festival.

Then, it was time to showcase Milford music students. First to perform were students from West Shore Middle School, who sang “No Woman, No Cry” by Bob Marley…:
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…and “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran:
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From there, it was on to the Foran High School Jazz Ensemble, who performed Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon”:
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The students then gave way to Jay Rowe and his band.

Jay was on keyboards:
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Steve Scales played percussion:
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Trever Somerville on drums:
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…and Dave Anderson on bass:
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The stars of night 1 were Matt Marshak on electric guitar:
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The aforementioned Brian Simpson, who was briefly on keyboard…:
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…but mostly on keytar:
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Peter White on acoustic guitar:
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Marion Meadows on soprano saxophone:
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…and with Jay’s band on seven songs, including the finale, Rohn (“Ron”) Lawrence on electric guitar:
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SET LIST
1. Red Hot and Smooth (Jay Rowe)
Originally heard on: Red Hot and Smooth (2006)
Featured musicians: Jay Rowe (keyboards), Rohn Lawrence (electric guitar)

2. Cadillac Kid (Matt Marshak)
Originally heard on: Colors of Me (2012)
Featured musician: Matt Marshak (electric guitar)

3. Teddy P (Matt Marshak)
Originally heard on: Urban Folktales (2011)
Featured musician: Matt Marshak (electric guitar)

4. Just What You Need (Brian Simpson)*
Originally heard on: Just What You Need (2013)
Featured musicians: Brian Simpson (keyboard, keytar), Rohn Lawrence (electric guitar)

5. Saturday Cool (Brian Simpson)*
Originally heard on: It’s All Good (2005)
Featured musicians: Brian Simpson (keytar), Rohn Lawrence (electric guitar)

6. Promenade/Could It Be I’m Falling in Love (The Spinners cover) (Peter White)
Originally heard on: Promenade (1993), Reflections (1994)
Featured musicians: Peter White (acoustic guitar), Marion Meadows (soprano sax)

7. In Rainbows (Peter White)
Originally heard on: Smile (2014)
Featured musicians: Peter White (acoustic guitar), Marion Meadows (soprano sax)

8. What Cha Gonna Do? (Brian Simpson)*
Originally heard on: Above the Clouds (2007)
Featured musicians: Brian Simpson (keyboard, keytar), Rohn Lawrence (electric guitar)

9. Lifestyle (Matt Marshak)
Originally heard on: Lifestyle (2014)
Featured musician: Matt Marshak (electric guitar)

10. Bueno Funk (Peter White)
Originally heard on: Glow (2001)
Featured musicians: Peter White (acoustic guitar), Marion Meadows (soprano sax)

11. Treasures (Marion Meadows)
Originally heard on: In Deep (2002)
Featured musicians: Marion Meadows (soprano sax), Rohn Lawrence (electric guitar)

12. Humanity (Marion Meadows)
Originally heard on: Soul Traveler (2015)
Featured musicians: Marion Meadows (soprano sax), Rohn Lawrence (electric guitar)

13 (Finale). Kiss (Prince cover)
Featured musicians: Everyone

*-Jay was not on stage during this song.

Now for various shots of each musician, starting with Jay Rowe:
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Matt Marshak:
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Brian Simpson:
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Peter White:
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Leading the audience on “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love”:
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The audience followed:
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Marion Meadows:
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Rohn Lawrence:
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Steve Scales:
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Trever Somerville:
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Dave Anderson:
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Next, two shots, starting with Rohn and Brian:
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Rohn and Marion:
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Peter and Marion:
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The finale: “Kiss”:
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The last note:
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Night 1 was complete:
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Before heading back to the hotel, my girlfriend and I caught up with Brian Simpson and I spoke with Peter White.

Click here to see how the second night went.