Pictured left-to right: Cookie Thomas, Margi Gianquinto, Jim Clark, Maria Tiscia, and Neddy Smith perform at the Norwalk Public Library on Feb. 26.
This Sunday’s “Winter Concert Series” at the Norwalk Public Library presents that rare opportunity where history does repeat itself. Why? Because this “grand finale” performance features all the previous headliners of the six-concert series. They include vocalists Margi Gianquinto, Richard “Cookie” Thomas, Maria Tiscia, and jazz musician Neddy Smith.
The idea for this final jazz amalgam belongs to Jim Clark, the noted jazz saxophonist and composer, who organized the series. He brings in his own all-star quartet of Chris Coogan on keyboards, John Mobilio on upright bass, and Jim Royle on drums, as the backing band for Sunday’s show, as he did when he kicked off the series at the beginning of the year.
With all the talent and support surrounding this musical program, it’s no surprise the series has been generating good vibes. “We have been getting great feedback on the series,” said Clark. “I met some folks who wanted to attend all the concerts. Many others, who enjoyed their experience during a specific concert in the series, told me they were particularly looking forward to the finale, when we would all perform together.”
Clark also cited Chris Bradley for the vision she brings to her position as the Director of the Norwalk Public Library. “Chris Bradley sees the library as a literary and cultural hub for our community and aggressively supports all manner of events to enrich our residents’ lives,” said Clark. He also credits Program Director Cynde Lahey for doing the “heavy lifting” for the series. “All I had to do was bring together a group of musical artists whom I respect and invite them to ‘do their thing,’ with the bonus of making music together in the final concert.”
About the artists, Clark has nothing but praise: “I’ve known Cookie Thomas for years and have admired his voice, the skillful way he delivers a song, and in particular his ability to connect with an audience. What a gift!
“I’m not sure Maria Tiscia knows this, but a number of years ago a fan of hers gave me a bootleg CD. She sounded great, and I immediately knew I wanted to work with her. So this finale presents that opportunity, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.
“I met Neddy Smith at a poetry and music fundraising event he helped coordinate for the library, and his unwavering support for the library combined with his engaging performance style made it a no-brainer to include him in this series.
“Margi Gianquinto was introduced to me by my neighbor, who, upon hearing I was curating this series, sent me some links to her YouTube videos. It was immediately apparent that not only was she an outstanding vocalist, but she also had a real affinity for music from the Golden Age of Song.”
The aforementioned Chris Bradley, Norwalk Public Library director, agrees to the success of the program and gives high marks to those who attended, performed and organized it all.
“What a wonderful series this has been,” said Bradley. “It shows not only Norwalkers’ love of music, but also their love of their city and their penchant for collaboration. It all started with Jim Clark, who is not only such a dreamy musician, but also a community builder. He has performed in our auditorium before, so he knew the space needed help. He enlisted his wife Belinda to help make our space more conducive to the fine music that would be played there. Then he enlisted the musicians who would round out the program, designed the publicity, and got the word out to Norwalk’s music lovers. Between Jim and Norwalker Cynde Lahey on the library staff, it all happened.”
And after this Sunday’s concert, it appears history will repeat itself, again — and again. “I’m pretty sure we are looking at an annual event here,” said Bradley. “Sunday afternoon in the winter months can be a pretty lonely time for many of us. This series has brought some light and happiness into the long dark.”
Music begins at 3 p.m. on Feb. 26, in the Main Auditorium of the Norwalk Public Library, located at 1 Belden Ave., in Norwalk. Doors open at 2:30 p.m. The concert is free and open to the public. Visit www.norwalklib.org.
Also look for Jim Clark to perform his entire album “Old as New — Songs from the Imaginary Great American Songbook” live with his Quartet at the Norwalk Public Library on Sunday, April 2, at 2:30 p.m. In recognition of April being both Jazz Appreciation Month and National Poetry Month, Norwalk’s Poet Laureate Laurel Peterson has written poems for each of the ten songs on the album, which will be incorporated into the performance.
Mike Horyczun’s Sound Surfing column appears every Saturday in The Hour. Mike can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.