Maybe you didn’t make it to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix for the recent celebration of John Lennon’s 70th birthday.
I spoke recently with the prolific singer/songwriter, storyteller, author and playwright — and his team was kind enough to send me review copies of his latest CD (“The Best Candy in the Whole World”) and soon-to-be-published paperback (“Between Home and School.”)
Harley is the father of two grown sons and currently lives with his wife Debbie near Providence, Rhode Island. He grew up in Indianapolis and Connecticut.
Two of Harley’s “Best Candy” stories are originals — while others are adapted from the British Isles, Africa and Appalachia. While you’re at the MIM for Harley’s concert, take some time to experience musical instruments from these (and other) regions.
I asked Harley whether storytelling seems a dying art. “It can’t really die,” shared Harley, “because it’s what people do.” Storytelling, says Harley, is what makes people human.
While talking about the family-friendly nature of his show, Harley noted that “songs and stories always go hand in hand culturally.” But what exactly is a story?
Story is “saying what happens before and imagining what happens after,” reflects Harley. “History is the winner telling the story.”
“My job,” says Harley, “is to watch, listen and pay attention” — adding that artists help others take a second look, to notice things they might otherwise miss.
So what are we missing as parents today? Many would say it’s family together time. Or ways to connect and communicate with our kids. Which is why a shared experience of story and song might be just the ticket this weekend.
“I’ve done my job,” says Harley, “if I give kids and parents a common language.” Harley loves seeing parents and children in the audience elbowing each other during his show with a “Yup, that’s us” grin.
We focus too often, observes Harley, on what we think kids need to learn in order to grow up. It’s no less important, he says, to honor children’s emotional lives.
Harley describes his work as more descriptive than prescriptive — hoping concertgoers will leave considering not simply what they know, but what they feel.
Note: Harley performs this Sunday at 2:30pm at the MIM Music Theater. Visit www.themim.org or call 480-478-6000 to learn more about this concert and others in the MIM 2010-2011 Concert & Film Season.
Coming up: Reflections on NPR, “Glee” and GQ magazine