Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Civil Wars "The Violet Hour"

The day before I returned from vacation---one that had kept me out of State and out of touch during the Boston Marathon bombings and the ensuing manhunt---Barbara Dacey sent me a message to let me know that many of the local TV and radio stations would be observing a moment of silence on Monday afternoon  The moment would happen at 2:50pm, the exact time of the first explosion, one week earlier.

This meant it would happen during my airshift.

It wouldn't be the first time I was on the air for a moment of silence.  I was working mornings in the early 2000s, when September 11th anniversaries would be marked in the mornings, at the time the first plane crashed.

Every time it comes around, you realize that it's not such an easy task, to program around a moment of silence.

If we were in TV, or Talk Radio, you'd talk up to the moment, let the silence happen, let the pictures tell the story.  Then you could pick up with more conversation, or an interview or something that tonally fit.

But because we're a music station, you'd expect us to play a song.  And you'd think it would be easy.

Surprisingly, picking the right tune is a bit of a challenge.  Mostly because you're trying to complete the impossible task of picking something that is not cliche or overused, but strikes an emotionally correct chord with the listener.  All listeners, in fact.  And everyone has a different feeling/threshold for what works for them.

In the studio, Barbara asked me what songs I was thinking about.  I tossed out a few old standby ideas, including "Imagine" and "Hallelujah" and Willie Nelson's "America The Beautiful."  It had all been done before, though.

My next thought was to pick something Boston-y, for the moment.  I think we have all been struck, surprised even, about how much this event and the City's reaction to it elevated our collective identity.  And while "Sweet Caroline," "Dirty Water" and "Roadrunner," all crossed my mind for a moment, ultimately, none of them seemed appropriate.

Great songs, all of them.  But they didn't speak to what the moment was about.  And on the scene, in the City, the silence was actually going to be followed by the sound of church bells tolling.  A rock song on the radio wasn't going to be analogous.

But the mention of church bells gave Barbara an idea.  She pulled out The Civil Wars debut, and cued up track number 8.

"The Violet Hour" is an instrumental.  Beautiful and thoughtful.  And it both starts and ends with the sound of church bells.  While it was a wholly unfamiliar song, because it was wordless, it left the interpretation of its meaning up to the listener.

So I went with it.

And I followed it up with a suggestion from Jess.

Last week she wrote about her feelings toward the week on her own blog, and posted the song "You Are Not Alone," a song written by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco for Mavis Staples' most recent record.

Boston's strange duality was in full display last week.  It is both a tough, unfriendly place, while simultaneously being a clannish, fiercely loyal City where your neighbors know when to flip the switch from nearly beating your ass over a parking space, to literally giving you the clothes off their back.

Last week, the switch was flipped, and it was a reminder that we are not alone in this world.

With just a few minutes before 2:50, I had one more thought:  What comes before kinda matters too.

I might not sound right heading into a moment of silence with "Good Day Sunshine" or "Whipping Post" or something else upbeat.

Fortunately, I had been planning on playing Tuck & Patti's Jimi Hendrix medley that afternoon, and it jazzy laid back nature, and Hendrix' ruminations on mortality . . . and just the beauty of the singing and the playing, turned out to be just right.

The final piece of the puzzle:  Don't suck.

I carefully thought out a very brief, contemplative introduction to the segment, asking folks to reflect on what was lost, and what we discovered about ourselves, and did my best to deliver it.

You can play the songs below, and recreate the moment for yourself . . .

Hear "The Violet Hour" on Youtube.

Hear "You Are Not Alone" on Youtube.

Hear Tuck & Patti on Youtube.

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