While The Inquisition reports regularly on good music at good venues, often with no cover, there are occasions when the music is not only good, it’s good for ya!
For example, on Wednesday, March 2nd, one of the Fox Cities’ best vocalists, Gwen Carr, will perform her one-woman show, “Relentless,” for the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Women’s Center in celebration of Women’s Month from 6 to 8 pm at UW-O’s Reeve Memorial Union, 800 Algoma Blvd. Admission is free.
Carr will be accompanied by guitarist Scott Dercks.
“Scott Dercks is one of those rare guitarists who can play so well that it almost sounds like there is more than one instrument playing,” Carr said. “His sense of rhythm, timing and elegance as well as his complete and utter love of music make him such a joy to work with. He can play anything from classical to rock ‘n’ roll. He inspires me to be a better singer, and I give him the space inside a song to shine.”
In addition to being a multi-talented vocalist with a command of many styles of music, Carr is a composer, political activist and speaker who is a veteran of the front lines in the fight for social justice. Her thought-provoking original music often deals with subjects of great importance.
“I have had an unusual and sometimes mind-boggling life and along the way well over 100 people have told me that I should write a book about my life,” Carr said. “I tried very hard to write it until what I finally realized was, I couldn’t write a book about my life because I’m a storyteller. I can’t sit in a room and write words alone with myself. I need other people to tell stories to, and so that’s how I started to write songs.”
Carr has given decades of her life fighting to make things better for future generations.
“And, looking back and seeing where we have come from and where we are in this country,” she said. “I set a lot of other things in my life aside because it was more important for me to try to do something to help people than it was to do a lot of other things.”
“In my career I have been a pretty fierce advocate for social justice,” she continued. “Part of it comes from the fact that I found out when I was in my 30’s, that I was an American Indian. I found my tribe, found my family and realized how horrible things have been for American Indians, and that I could actually do something to make it better. I spent the last 25 years working on social justice issues of one kind or another, so that has been a big part of my story telling in my life.”
“It was an amazing experience and extremely powerful when I realized that there was a different way for me to talk about things and situations and current events. I could do it through singing,” she said. “I could still fight for justice for people, but I could also use my talents to do so in a completely different way.”
It wasn’t just audiences who were moved.
“The first time I ever heard some of the songs that I had written over the years actually played for me was stunning,” she recalls. “I cried for days because I was so overwhelmed by the fact that I did something I never thought I could do or would do.”
A lot of the music she had been performing was written by other artists.
“While some of the songs are just amazingly wonderful,” Carr said “they didn’t quite say some of the things that I wanted to say so I started to actually write songs about the things that I wanted to say and the emotions that I wanted to share. I didn’t have a lot of faith in my songwriting capabilities at first and I remember sitting in my office writing furiously and then reading it and thinking ‘good heavens, Gwen, that is the most ridiculous piffle ever written.’ But I kept on doing it. I started working with another great musician, Tom Washatka, who help me craft what I thought was not such hot stuff into something that not only said something important and meaningful, but sounded pretty good.”
In her first performance she sang one original song.
“It’s called ‘In Between,’ and it reflects the difficulty and sadness, and hopefulness of a little girl who was adopted,” Carr said. “Trying to figure out where I belong, and who I really was. I was always someplace ‘in between.’ I was never here or there, but I was always in between, never quite fitting in, never quite belonging.”
Carr has begun to write more and more music reflecting her own life, but also about what is going on in the world, and what she believes is going on inside of the human heart.
“I’ve written more new material for this show,” she said. “One of the songs is called ‘Shed The Skin You’re In,’ and is about letting go of your preconceived ideas about yourself, other people and your place in the world. It talks about some of the personal journeys that I have had to go through that haven’t been easy to do, but I did it anyway. There’s another song titled ‘The Cruelest Thing, which is about the fact that we can be our own worst enemy, and how we deal with the people places and things that hurt us.”
While the show remains a dynamic work-in-progress, it has already demonstrated its value.
“I performed this one woman show in a women’s prison,” she said “and it was one of the most powerful things that I have ever experienced. One of the women in the audience told me that she really didn’t like me very much. I was really taken aback and kind of hurt until she told me why. She said she had been on suicide watch since she had gotten there, she was going to be released in a week, and all she had been doing was planning how she was going to kill herself when she got out. But then she heard me sing and tell my story, and that my performance gave her the one thing that she did not want: hope. She cried, and so did I.”
The show’s title, “Relentless,” has special significance.
“When I met my birth mother, we were talking, laughing and telling stories one night sitting outside looking up at the stars on Lake Cayuga,” she said. “She laughed and she said, ‘if I knew the Cayuga word for relentless, that would be the name I would give you.’ So when I went to a meeting about the March 2nd performance with people whom I had never met…they showed me a flyer that they had created, and it said ‘Gwen Carr: Relentless.’ I don’t think it’s possible to get a more obvious sign that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing than that.”
Carr plays at venues like Cannnova’s and has been the featured guest with The Big Band Reunion.
To see a full performance – along with Janet Planet, Tom Theabo and The Jazz Orgy – go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFjxGBZVZz4