April 29, 2024 - University of Cambridge, England

I characterize my Odyssey as a solo performance.

But in reality it’s a duet between my voice and my guitar.

I’ve been playing guitar for a long time. Longer by a lot than I’ve been a serious singer. Creeping perilously close to four decades of six string obsession. My body and brain grew up around and were shaped by the instrument and I can’t remember much of a time of not playing (or wanting to play) the guitar.

The upshot is that I’m a pretty good guitarist.

It’s the musical thing I do the most effortlessly and easily. I’m thankful to have it as a partner in my Odyssey performances because it’s more reliable than my voice, which is subject to all sorts of environmental and circumstantial concerns.  

Some days, despite all one’s efforts, the voice just doesn’t have it. And on those days I have the guitar to lean on and carry the show. 

The guitar contains a lot of the tools of variation show to show as well. Something as simple as the volume of my voice relative to the guitar can be the difference between Odysseus being pulled under by the wine dark sea and Odysseus sailing triumphantly on top of the waves. Really, the guitar sets the tone and controls the overall dynamics of the performance more than my voice does.

Optimally, my voice feels strong *and* I feel connected to the guitar and that’s what happened at my Monday evening show at Cambridge at the start of the second week of my UK/Ireland tour. 

I took the train up from London and Cambridge was just spectacular in the spring sun.  My room was steps from the performance space and my host and I went for a dinner of lively conversation.  

I set up in the Old Combination Room of Trinity College at University of Cambridge. Ornate oil paintings on the wall, a fireplace… my American idea of what a venerable British university should look like.  

A great crowd filled in. 

An omen: as I was introducing myself and the piece, someone in the audience sneezed and I connected it to Telemachus’ sneeze in book 17 to the audience’s amusement.

We had the windows open and the breeze picked up slightly as I started the performance.  Everything felt good. The audience was sitting very close to me and I could really sense the physical intimacy even with my eyes closed. Especially with my eyes closed.

Then, just a few songs from the end, real magic happened.  

As I climbed the neck for the last strains of the song So Close in which Odysseus pines for Penelope from behind his disguise as a beggar (book 18), as I hit the delicate chiming harmonics that accompany the final repeated line “so close,” the Trinity college church bells started ringing in time with the harmonics. 

Once. Twice. Three times. Four times. 

And then stopped as I descended off the harmonics. 

It sure felt and sounded like I was summoning and controlling the bells with my guitar. 

And maybe I was. 

As I mentioned, I’m a pretty good guitarist.

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