The house concerts I love most are the ones that remind us that we are in this big, old thing called life together. Last night, Shaun Hopper brought us together with his music, but he reminded us of our shared humanity in few different ways too.
Musically he brought us together by awing us with his talent. As he played, he showed us the basis is for his style. Some artists will create musical loops using recording devices. They’ll do the same thing, but they’ll actually switch instruments, record, and play over that recording with the next instrument. Shaun does that, but without the recording device. Instead, he starts by playing the bass line with his thumb. Then he adds in the melody. Finally, he overlays harmonies. Sometimes he threw in some percussion too. Watching his hands move around the fretboard as he wove all of this together was mesmerizing. I enjoyed that part of the show as much as I enjoyed the actual music coming from the guitar!
I closed my eyes a few times during the show, and often it did sound as if a few different musicians were playing at the same time.
It was cool seeing people trying to figure it out. Some sat with their mouths agape. Others (like me) stood with their heads tilted like a quizzical dog.
I really liked that he explained what he was doing as he was doing the different things. It was almost like he was showing us the secret behind his magic trick, but it didn’t take away any of the magic and wonder of what he was doing on stage.
Shaun also brought the crowd (and it was a crowd – over 70 people in attendance at this house concert!!) together by encouraging us to sing along. He played quite a few covers with his original music sprinkled in among the sets. One of the first sing alongs was “Come Together.” Shaun played masterfully, and the audience tried to remember the words. I cheated and Googled the lyrics on my iPhone, so I kept the back section going during the 3rd verse which most couldn’t remember. It was cool feeling that sense of intimacy build between the artist and the crowd.
Later Shaun played “Bohemian Rhapsody” and encouraged us to sing along (as if he could have stopped us!). By then we felt more comfortable singing along when we felt we could. His playing was right on with the music and lyrics of the song, and we backed him up. The crowd was there in all the right ways: the highs, the lows, the “Mama Mias”, the scaramouches…
It was fantastic.
Shaun did sing for some of his songs, but many of them are instrumentals. I was surprised how evocative even these songs were. He really conveyed the highs and the lows in his original song “Green Armor.” Parts made me feel incredibly sad, to the point of tears, and other parts changed that around. I felt the same with the Irish jig he played at the end of the night. Since it was a jig, it was a happier tune, and I wanted to dance. Shaun even walked around the room and danced with and for some of us.
Shaun and I shared a hip bump or two.
In between songs Shaun brought us together with humor and stories. He talked about some of the stereotypes he faces as a rather masculine looking man who needs to get his nails done at the salon. Acrylic fills. But only on one hand. Apparently that leaves little to the nail ladies’ imaginations when he goes.
He also shared that he loves pure expressions of feeling. He said he’s had guys approach him angrily to say Shaun sucks. (I can’t imagine what sort of music this person would like if he thinks Shaun sucks, but that’s another story I guess.) Shaun says that he just smiles and responds with “That’s awesome!” Because this person has shared this very real emotion with him, even if it isn’t the most flattering.
Shaun further built on the idea of taking and giving in ways that work for you by sharing an experience he had in Santa Fe. There he said he saw everyone around him creating beautiful things in the streets. He was moved by this, but he couldn’t carve an otter from a tree. “But I can carve a melody from this guitar,” he said. And he proceeded to play “Melodia Tallada,” his carved melody in honor of those who inspired him.
But carving those melodies isn’t always an easy thing. Shaun shared that he’s had to get over mental blocks that have killed some of his creative ideas solely because he started wondering if others would like it. He’s had to silence those voices, and I’m certainly glad he has so that he continue to create beautiful music. Both for himself, and to share with everyone else.
All of these stories tie us all together, because they are true if you are a traveling musician or a school teacher. We all have those insecurities, those problems expressing ourselves, those mental blocks that we have to work on. Shaun expressed this shared humanity both musically, but also by sharing his stories in challenging these road blocks in his own life.
I’m so glad I finally got to experience Shaun’s music live. YouTube clips have sustained interest, but the real thing has created a fan. He really has the whole package. Watching his hands move across the fretboard is a show in and of itself. Then you get a wonderful delight to the ears. Just for kicks, he’s personable and hilarious too.
I almost forgot! Last night was also a more specific celebration. It’s Susan’s birthday! She requested Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Shaun sang this one. It was incredibly moving, and there were more than a few tears falling in the crowd during this song that celebrates the blessings and the curses in our lives.
It was also LunaZoot‘s 99th show! 10 years of hosting house concerts. Amazing.