Yesterday morning I saw a Facebook notice that Little Jake Mitchell would be celebrating his 75th Birthday with a special performance! What a perfect opportunity to give him the portrait I did of him! I thought about it all day. – How i could go about it without making a big deal of it and still have time to paint. I really didn’t want to get all dressed up and spend my time listening to music. I just wanted to paint.
I had forgotten what had made me want to make this portrait in the first place!
I saw him perform a couple of years ago and was moved to portray the tremendous energy that he and his band, the Soul Searchers, expressed that night. I took a lot of photos but didn’t have the technical knowledge to adjust the settings on my camera for good lighting and focus for the detail I needed. Fortunately, a real photographer, Paul Carter, gave me permission to use his photo for reference. The painting was successful, as I retained the energy by referring to my own blurry photos. I had exhibited it several times, and now it was time for me to let it go. What good is a painting filled with energy if it’s stored in a box where no one can see it?
The plan was to quietly go to the door, hand the painting to the doorman, and return home to paint the night away. I called the number listed on the post to let them know that I would be dropping off the gift for Little Jake. The man on the phone (who I later learned was one of the Soul Searchers) said he would tell Prophet, the doorman, to expect me.
When I got there the performance had already started.
I’m looking for Prophet. I thought he would be outside. I thought I wouldn’t have to go inside. He must be the man sitting at the table just inside the door. The music is loud and I can’t hear the woman who is pointing to a paper with my name on it. And she couldn’t hear me tell her that the name she’s pointing to is indeed me and that I’m just here to drop off the painting.
After a few awkward moments, I finally figure out that Prophet wants me to pay admission. Sure, I’ll gladly support another artist and panic when he refuses my debit card. I fumble in my purse to find the right amount, hoping I hadn’t spent it all at the farmers market this morning; fumbling because a line is forming behind me and all I want to do is leave the painting and go home. Prophet gives me my change and hands me a wristband. I put the wristband on, The people in line behind me can’t hear me apologizing for taking so long.
I follow the woman, expecting to leave the painting in a back room somewhere. But no! She leads me across the front of the room, in front of the whole crowd, to a table two feet away from the stage where Little Jake and the Soul Searchers are showering their energy over the happy crowd. I quietly put the painting under the table and look up at Little Jake who looks straight into my eyes, even as he keeps on singing, and I am magically transformed from a fussy old lady artist approaching her own 75th birthday into an 18 year old girl, swept away by the perfect harmonies of the Soul Searchers, who not only make magic with guitars and brass and keyboard and percussion but with perfect harmonies of their voices, all channeled into and through Little Jake himself as they lead us on a journey through the very best classic musical creations of the ’50’s and ’60’s. Little Jake’s performance makes every person there feel as if he is singing directly to them. He gives us no choice but to follow him with our eyes as he makes his way, slowly, deliberately off the stage, singing through the crowd, shaking hands, touching shoulders, and making eye contact. “Are you feeling good?” “Yeah!” we answer. “Are you feeling good?” “Yeah!!”
And we do feel good. Everyone is dancing – if not on the dance floor, we are dancing in our seats. Every muscle in our bodies is dancing in harmony. There is no idle chatter in the house. We are one with the music. The vibrato in his voice stirs the energies and makes us remember how it feels to feel good.
“you know what?” “What?” You know what?” “What?!!” And then he sits down at a table next to me, takes the hand of the woman sitting there and sings to her and to me and to every person in the crowd: “I don’t even know your name . . . All I remember is that smile on your face . . .”
An hour or two of nonstop, perfectly synchronized performance . . . maybe longer, who knows? who cares? Then there is a break.
The woman who led me to my seat is now sitting at the table next to me. “You have a gift for Little Jake?” I pull the painting from under the table and remove it from its box. Suddenly Little Jake is standing by me, accepting the painting, holding it up for the crowd to see. I’m suddenly self-conscious again, remembering that I did not want this attention. I just wanted to leave the gift. Little Jake invites me to have a piece of birthday cake. His beautiful daughter sings “Happy Birthday Dear Daddy . . .” Her voice is magical too. They place the painting on the table next to the birthday cake. I ask if I can take his picture with the painting.
“Post these pictures on Facebook.” he says. “My daughter’s name is Keisha.” I hope I got the spelling right.
As it turns out, I am the one who received the Gift.
(These photos were taken with my iPhone. I’m still not a great photographer, but I believe they portray in a blurry way some of the energy I experienced last night.)