Live concerts are among the many casualties of the pandemic. This has been painful for performers and listeners alike. Forest Parkers are a resourceful bunch, though, and some have hosted porch concerts. We attended one on Beloit and saw that masks and social distancing made concert-going safe again. It was our turn on Sept. 26, when we presented a porch concert featuring singer-songwriter Cedes Buck, accompanied by John Wallin on tin whistle.
We have a second-floor porch, which was ideal for the musicians. They were a safe distance from the audience, which was spread out across a large backyard. There were about 30 concert-goers sitting on blankets and lawn chairs on an autumn evening that was as agreeable as a September night can be. “Porch-a-Palooza” was a serenade to the end of summer.
Cedes began the concert playing her ukulele. She dedicated her first song, “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and all the souls we’ve lost in the pandemic. She then launched into other classics. It was an eclectic set, featuring songs by Jobim, Elvis and Linda Ronstadt. The sky was overcast but “Shine on Harvest Moon” is still stuck in my head.
She also added a Spanish classic, “Besame Mucho,” which translates to “Kiss me with passion.” She has performed entire concerts of Spanish songs. She saluted Cass Elliot on “Dream a Little Dream for Me” and ended the set with a rousing version of “She’s Not There” by the Zombies. Then she switched to guitar to play her own original songs.
Cedes has a gift for writing catchy tunes with meaningful lyrics. Her songs promote peace, understanding and social justice, although her words are witty and elicited a few laughs. Most of these selections came from her first CD, “Every Song’s a Story.” The cover features a portrait of her hero, Frida Kahlo. Her newest song, “Alice Said,” is based on the Lewis Carroll character and featured the haunting line, “What a strange world we live in.” The porch concert gave us a much-needed break from “strange.”
While Cedes strummed and sang, Wallin provided accompaniment with his conga drum and tin whistle. Though they had never played a gig before, the performers had great chemistry. Wallin provided soulful counterpoint that complemented Cedes’ songs. He is a retired IT consultant and apparently retired from being Swedish, too. He used to play in Irish music sessions in Forest Park.
I’ve been friends with Cedes and her husband, Ed, since the ’70s. We used to gorge on music back then, never imagining that one of us would become a performer. Cedes didn’t seem a likely candidate. She is a shy introvert. She found the guts, though, to begin a musical journey that took her to the stage. She took guitar lessons from Jim Goelitz at Kagan & Gaines. Jim became her mentor and a mainstay at her concerts.
Cedes also studied voice and her singing lessons paid off. Her voice matured and she learned to project with more volume. Wallin also grew musically from his high school days playing the clarinet. Besides playing a collection of tin whistles in different keys, he owns 20 different kinds of drums and participates in drum circles. He enjoyed the “non-official atmosphere” of our backyard. It felt like Woodstock, without all the mud.
We can’t thank Cedes and John enough for providing us with respite from the crises we face. It was downright therapeutic. We hope that when concert-going returns to normal, they will play more gigs in Forest Park. In the meantime, our porch is always available.