It was with some trepidation that I attended the Children’s Grammy Nominee Concert at the Mint nightclub with my daughter last Saturday, (the day before the actual Grammy Award Ceremony), simply because the venue for this annual and incredibly prestigious concert was being hosted at a somewhat spooky and unkid-friendly adult night club.
When we arrived and walked in the front entrance, the nightclub was dark and dingy and smelled of beer, booze and sweat; not exactly a conducive environment to bring small children to. However, we all found seats on the floor in front of the stage and waited.
My fears were immediately quelled as the Emcee of the concert, Heidi Swedberg; (Susan on Seinfeld) appeared on stage to introduce the first of the Grammy Nominees. Heidi was delightful, warm and friendly, immediately putting the parents and children at ease. You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief from the parents. She cracked a couple of jokes before telling us that the first act, The Battersby Duo not only were Grammy Nominees, and Emmy winners, but had performed at The White House for The President and First Lady six times, and had also appeared on Sesame Street. Parents began to realize that even though the venue was less than perfect, they and their children were in for a huge treat.
The Battersby Duo, a British American musical comedy team for Children, and 30 year veterans of children’s music, immediately won us and wowed us with an interactive and brilliant 10 minute opening set, finishing with their breakaway hit song, (from their Grammy nominated CD Sunny Days,) a fantastic sing-along version of “I Love Bubbles,” that had parents in the room (who didn’t even know they could sing) and children, literally rocking the house, and raising the roof. This was a wonderful beginning to this Grammy Children’s Concert.
Next up, was Bill Harley, the always fun, and truly awesome storyteller, (nominated for a Grammy this year in the Children’s Spoken Word category) who captivated us all with his flowery and image ridden tales and songs. Sadly his set was way too short. We all wanted much more from this veteran.
Heidi Swedberg, always charming and ready to put folks at their ease, spent a couple of minutes talking to us, and then announced for the 3rd act, Steve Pullara with Oran Etkin, also nominated for a Grammy, in the Children’s Spoken Word category. A combination of banjo, vocals and clarinet, their (also way too short) 10 minute set was swallowed up by an adoring sippy cup crowd, who were fascinated by the unique (monique) sounds emanating from the stage. Oran Etkin, a master clarinetist is authentically brilliant. The kids loved their performance.
Judy Pancoast, ( A nominee for Best Musical Album for Children) hailing from New Hampshire, and a self-professed aficionado of Bubblegum Pop music wowed the crowd with a spirited 10 minute set of nursery rhyme songs that had all the kids singing, dancing and clapping with her. Judy is a fun and passionate performer who immediately forges a sincere and loving bond with her audiences, making you feel as if you’re singing along with her in her living room in front of a roaring log fire on a cold New Hampshire night. Nice
And finally Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players hit the stage with their own brand of “kindie” rock and roll. Also nominated for a Grammy in Best Musical Album for Children, the Not Ready for Naptime Players performed a fun and energetic set that had the kids dancing, and the parents happy and exhausted., and “ready for a nap.”
In the final analysis, the unusual concert venue didn’t matter. As with anything “Kid,”… grown-ups are taught to expect the unexpected. The performances by The Battersby Duo, Bill Harley, Steve Pullara, Judy Pancoast, and Justin Roberts, were all excellent and diverse. The children all had a wonderful time, singing, clapping and dancing, with their friends and parents. The fact that these talented performers got together, donating their valuable time to raise money for Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation was generous and kind, and taught this reporter a valuable lesson. The fact that these fine performers have devoted collectively over 100 years to honing their skills as children’s recording artists makes us understand their level of passion and commitment as teachers, and helps make this parent strive to work just a little bit harder every day.
To my way of thinking every performer on that little stage at The Mint last Saturday walked away with a GRAMMY, and most importantly, walked away a WINNER.