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The Levy Senior Center Foundation brought good cheer, joy and smiles throughout Evanston and the broader Zoom universe with a free concert on Dec. 4, featuring the harmonica, keyboard, and songwriting genius of Corky Siegel and the sultry, sexy, and playful vocal gyrations of Lynne Jordan. The intimate concert, parts of which were pre-recorded, were spliced together with live conversations and bantering between the two musical talents, skillfully moderated and produced by Grammy-nominated record producer and Emmy-award winning documentary film producer John Anderson.
Mr. Siegel, Ms. Jordan and Mr. Anderson have worked together before, but never during a pandemic when social distancing prevented the collaborators from being in the same room or on the same stage together. The concert involved weeks of meticulous planning. Fortunately the Zoom link held steady and there were very few technical bumps, allowing nearly 800 households to watch, listen and enjoy the concert. The ninety minute concert featured hits such as “Roly Poly,” “Afraid of Love,” “Always Thinking of You Darlin’” and “Big Fat Woman.” Viewers were treated to Mr. Siegel accompanying himself (one of the benefits of pre-taping) and voyeuristic peeks at Mr. Siegel’s and Ms. Jordan’s homes. Observers commented on Ms. Jordan’s shark puppet and fancy head coverings and Mr. Siegel’s vibrant, psychedelically colorful socks.
Judy Newton, Board Chair of the Levy Senior Center Foundation, welcomed everyone to the concert and thanked the City of Evanston, the staff at the Levy Senior Center, the Foundation’s board and the marketing team for their help in making the concert happen. The primary corporate sponsor for the concert was Symphony of Evanston, an assisted living facility. Hecky’s Barbeque agreed to donate a portion of the night’s proceeds to the Foundation and viewers were encouraged to order dinner from Hecky’s for delivery or takeout.
Concert-goers were also treated to one song from Mr. Siegel’s group, Chamber Blues, whose five musicians played “No One’s Got Them Like I Do” as Ms. Jordan sang along.
This genre of music, a mixture of classical and blues, is one of the musical innovations for which Mr. Siegel is known. He told how in 1965 he and his blues group, which later evolved into the Siegel-Schwalle Band, were playing regularly at Big John’s in Old Town. Night after night, a fellow would come in to listen to them playing.
One night, he approached Mr. Siegel and said, as Mr. Siegel recounts, “I’d like your band to jam with my band.” Mr. Siegel did not know who “the guy” was … until he introduced himself. It was Maestro Seiji Ozawa and his “band” was the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Their first public concert together was in 1968 at Ravinia and a smashing success. It led to Mr. Siegel and his group receiving and accepting many invitations to play and collaborate with symphony orchestras all over the world.
The concert was also an opportunity for the Levy Senior Center Foundation to promote the important role it plays in the Evanston community among seniors 55+. Concertgoers were encouraged to make online gifts to the Foundation as all programs rely, in part, on community support. There was also a drawing featuring several prizes, to be selected from those making online gifts during and after the concert.
Comments from viewers were rapturous and the feedback started before the concert had even concluded. Many of the concertgoers expressed gratitude to the Foundation for presenting such a joyful event during a very stressful time in the world. Sentiments such as, “Thank you for the work you do. In this crazy time, it brought a lot of pleasure and sunshine into our homes” and “Great job. We had a wonderful time watching this. Thank you so very much“ were expressed repeatedly.
One anonymous concertgoer wrote, “It was like having two good friends over and enjoying the talent and being able to hang out and talk about life,” which was an accurate synopsis of the evening. Mr. Siegel and Ms. Jordan invited the audience into their homes and made each viewer feel as if the concert was being played just for them. It was warm, engaging and personal. Mr. Siegel and Ms. Jordan exude joy with their musical gifts. If the audience feedback was any indication, their joy was contagious.
An encore presentation of the concert is available on the Levy Senior Center Foundation’s YouTube channel through Dec. 19.