The first Fo PaPalooza proved that local talent can triumph over technical glitches and the inexperience of a first-time promoter/MC. I had the idea for a community concert a few months ago but actually pulling it off seemed scary.  Fortunately, we had Executive Director Diane Grah doing most of the work, which included printing some snazzy programs. 

When I had first approached Pastor Dean Kucera with the idea of having a concert at 1st United Church of Christ, he only had two stipulations: no booze and no “devil music.” An event in Forest Park without beer? OK. 

We decided to make it family-friendly: a benefit for the historical society. Next, we lined up the musicians. We wanted to feature choral singing, classical music, Latin music, rock, blues and jazz. We limited each group to “15 minutes of Fame” on stage.  

Five hours before the concert, I received a demoralizing call. Our highly-regarded jazz singer, Alyssa Allgood, had been so sick the night before, she had to cancel her CD release party. She didn’t feel up for performing. Two hours before the concert, though, Alyssa called to say she felt well enough to sing. I felt like singing myself.

There was more drama ahead, along with some minor glitches. I was hoping to take pictures but my camera chose that moment to die. We also hadn’t tested our handheld microphone. I clutched it as the crowd filed in. What a crowd! There were at least 80, the most we’ve had at a historical society event during Diane’s three year tenure. One woman had walked all the way from Altenheim.

It was only appropriate to kick off the concert with the Harlem Mannerchor und Damenchor. The German singing group is celebrating their 125th Anniversary! They were going to perform four songs in German and finish with the crowd favorite “Edelweiss.” However, at the end of their third song, there was a deafening crash at the back of the church. Miraculously, the little girl who accidentally collapsed a large wooden shelf wasn’t hurt. 

As the choir left the stage, one of the members told me my microphone sounded terrible. I thought I had been making smooth stage banter but realized my words were almost lost in the static. We went unplugged. Daniel and Sarah Gasse then took the spotlight, playing two violin/cello duets in their polished professional style. 

Our musical dream continued with cello pieces played by the Gasse’s young sons, Ernesto and Antonio. They later joined a whole gang of kids who call themselves Los Primos (The Cousins). Their cuteness factor and musicianship were entertaining but we were running behind schedule, with four acts waiting to go.

The Medinas graciously limited their set to one song – but what a song! Claudia was belting it out, with her husband Rosalio banging on the bongos. They raised the room temperature several degrees. Tam & Dan, in the multicultural spirit of the concert, included an Irish duet in their well-received set. They were followed by John Milan demonstrating his considerable skill on harmonica with a rousing Chicago blues.

Finally, it was time for our award-winning Alyssa and her brilliant accompanist, Dan Chase on piano.  Alyssa swung through “I’m Beginning to See the Light” and “Fly Me to the Moon.” In between, she sang one of my favorite ballads, “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars.” The concert was such a success, we’re planning to have more in this beautiful gem of a sanctuary.

Oh, I almost forgot, there wasn’t a single note of “devil music.” 

 John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

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