A year almost to the day after writing this post about performing at UIC in 2017 I'm sitting in a typically austere classroom on the same campus getting ready to perform for a class of 40 undergrads studying Greek Literature.
In the year between these shows I've done 42 Odyssey performances in 15 states. 3 of these states (New Jersey, Nebraska, and South Dakota) were states in which I hadn't performed, bringing my total number to 36.
I also released a double vinyl LP and did some extensive touring around that material.
So, as I observed in my 2017 post, on September 24, 2018, I am indeed a different Joe Goodkin than I was the previous year as I strum the beginning chords of my folk opera on my trusty Guild guitar.
The room for all its severity is the type in which I love performing: shallow and wide with the students almost on three sides of me and some no more than a yard away. I sing with my eyes mostly closed for reasons practical (focus and allowing the audience to watch me without feeling put upon) and artistic (the tradition of blind bards) but I can see the student in the front row tapping her foot along with my second song and it fills me with the spirit of audience connection.
Somewhere in the intervening year, in the sea of scores of shows and the hours and hours spent rehearsing my double vinyl LP material, my voice changed. I don't know if anyone but me notices it but I added a 1/2 step to my "comfortable" range and after years of working to sing from the front of my face to get a more ring and resonance, it finally happened and I've never been happier with my tone or more confident about my mechanics.
So I reach the two highest notes at the end of my piece and am able to hit them with much more control and warmth than I did the previous year.
The ending harmonics dissolve and I'm warmed by applause. The discussion is typical of a UIC audience that is among my most diverse each year and it's fascinating to see how that diversity manifests itself as we consider what my telling meant.
As an added bonus this year, I get to come back the next day and perform for a Modern Greek Culture class as part of the week in which they study how ancient Greece has been received and integrated into modern Greece. I've never framed my piece in that way and unsurprisingly this second performance and discussion produces an entirely different set of revelations.
I learn that (as per the professor, who is effusive in his praise of what I do) my deconstruction of the story would possibly not be received very well in current Greece: many are conservative about their cultural heritage and it might be seen as sacrilege to take the liberties I take with the form and content.
As I walk to my car I wonder what the next year will bring: when I perform at UIC in September of 2019, how many more Odyssey shows will I have done? It seems pretty likely that I'll be over 300 total as these were my 270th and 271st. I have confirmed shows in 4 new states meaning I'll be at at least 40 total and that number could even be a little higher depending on additional bookings.
How far along will my Iliad project be? Some days I feel on the cusp of starting to write in earnest but I'm still wading through endless source material feeling intimidated as shit at the prospect of telling the story in a meaningful way and speaking for characters going through the unspeakable horror of war.
I smile and remind myself that a year ago I hadn't even been considering writing an Iliad.
And a lot can happen in a year.