Bistro and MAC Awards 2011

Phil Ramone shook my hand as he walked off the stage with Dionne Warwick.  Someone handed me a thick glass tile…

…with the words:

BISTRO
AWARDS

2011
Outstanding Achievement
SEAN HARKNESS
INSTRUMENTALIST

…etched into it from the back.

I walked up to the microphone.  As the applause died down I directed my focus stage left towards the table where my wife Taka, my father and his girlfriend Melanie, and my brother Jeff were sitting and I began,

“Family…” then to the whole room, “friends and colleagues, members of the Bistro Committee, thank you!”

Just then, a brash voice from a table just in front of me hollers, “Hey, your ZIPPER’S down!”

And it was.  Really.  All the way.

After a few pithy remarks and the laughter died down, I continued with what I had to say:

“My favorite part of The Show is the opening announcement.  You know, the ‘Voice Of God’ that says: [in my poor French accent – imitating J.P. Perreaux] ‘ladies and gentlemen, please turn off your cell phones and electronic devices…’  I like that moment because it calls everyone to the present.  Right here, right now, completely ready for whatever is about to happen.  Hopefully something wonderful.

“We in this Grand Tribe of ours – and when I say ‘we’, I mean everyone, from the sound booths and back-stages to the rehearsal halls, recording studios, the directors and composers and actors and dancers and singers and musicians, and everyone involved in the Entertainment Industry – we are in the Business of Creating Moments for People.  And at the same time, we do that for each other; and for ourselves.

“Personally, I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of that process, and with these people, each and every time.  I also think it’s wonderful that we stop from time to time and acknowledge that, and each other, with these [point towards the slab of glass with my name on it].

“I’ve never had one of these before.

“But my words are not enough to express the profound gratitude I feel, so I composed a piece of music for you, for this moment, right here and now.  Let’s see if it works…”

Then I played this [link to mp3 coming soon – sorry!] solo guitar piece (on my new signature Walden 12-string guitar!).

There was what felt like a hearty response to that, and as it faded, I sat down on the stool behind me in a silence that seemed to last an hour.  I was about to play as an accompanist for Liz Lark Brown, coming up right after me.  Someone was supposed to follow my song with her introduction… and didn’t.  I finally broke the silence with “ok, back to work…”  Slightly awkward moment.  But not nearly as awkward as having my fly down for my first ever award acceptance speech.

Liz eventually came up with Nate Buccierri, Joe Iconis, Heidi Weymueller, and Matt Wigton and performed ‘Oh So Quiet’  from her show ‘Tarnished’.  Big fun.

A couple songs later, I came back up to play Folsom Prison Blues with Carole Bufford and Nate.  More fun!

My father had driven all the way up from southwestern Virginia with his girlfriend the day before.  They announced then that they were planning to marry.  How ‘bout that?!  My brother flew in from Denver that day.  My wife wore a beautiful Kimono for the occasion, also to remind people about Japan and their continuing need for support.  It was a very, very special evening.  One I will never forget.

***

The MAC Award night was different in that the Manhattan Association of Clubs and Cabarets gives awards to people by vote from within the club, like the Grammys.  I had no idea if I would win or not.BB King’s is a great room for a party like this, and it was a full house.  It was also the 25th anniversary of the MAC Awards, so they had all this old film footage, pictures, and stories that were at once informative, poignant, and hilarious.

Taka came with me and we made a real night of it, sitting at the Miranda Music table with Kitty Skrobela, Tracy Stark, Marcus Simeone and Greg.  Miranda artists collectively brought in three awards that night, so there was much rejoicing.

Unsure as to whether or not I would win anything, or what the program of events was, I was minding my alcohol intake.  Well into the event, I decided that a glass of good Scotch wouldn’t render me completely unfit to speak if I had to, so I found my good buddy Steve Doyle and we hit the bar.  Just as I put the glass to my lips, I heard my name called. I ran up to the stage to accept the MAC award for ‘New York Debut – Male’.  How exciting!  The lovely Lorinda Lisitza handed me a big chunk of Plexiglas and gestured towards the podium with the mic sticking out of it.  It was clear I had to say something, so I went up and asked,

“So how many people here actually saw my show?” [medium applause]  “Now that there’s an award for it, if I was to run it again, how many of you would like to see the show?”  [livelier applause…]

[I thought to myself – shit, I wish I had prepared something…  Probably ought to say some Thank-Yous…]

“I’d like to thank my delicious wife Taka for her love and support, the folks that helped make the show work: J.P. for making it sound right, and Eddie the bartender, Lorinda, and the staff for making it feel right in the room …and I’d like to thank Tanya Holt and my lawyer for helping me to finally get paid…”

Oops.

Well, it got a big laugh.  I beat a hasty retreat from the stage after that.

This year the winners were to perform after their acceptance speech.  I had the new jazz-box this time – the Wilson Nouvelle Oval [separate blog post coming very soon] – and sang my own very modern interpretation of the classic ‘Out Of Nowhere’, complete with a full quote of the Star Trek theme during the instrumental break.  It felt great to do that for some reason.

During the opening vamp I spoke briefly about how I’d come to New York fifteen years ago and was just getting over the culture shock; how New York was just now starting to really feel like home, thanks in large part to the people in this room who within the last couple years seemed to appear as if from out of nowhere…

Then once again, Liz Lark Brown & Co. came up right after me.  This time we did Kyrie Eleyson and brought the house down.  So much wonderful energy in that song, and a sparkling chemistry between Liz, Heidi, Nate, Matt, and me.Then there were photos and interviews and… wow.  What a year this has been so far.  Never an award before and now two.  It is most gratifying to be recognized.  It never occurred to me that it would be; that has no bearing on why I do what I do.  But as it’s all happening I feel very fulfilled to be a part of something much larger than myself.  Thanks!

SH

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