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BWW Review: John Bucchino's GRATEFUL 20TH ANNIVERSARY VIRTUAL CONCERT

The celebration started December 15th but it's an every day kind of fete.

BWW Review: John Bucchino's GRATEFUL 20TH ANNIVERSARY VIRTUAL CONCERT

The legend of the John Bucchino Grateful album is well known by people in the industry. When the CD came out twenty years ago, a prolific but struggling composer with a collection of great songs was given a chance to take his work to the next level, simply because a producer with vision and good taste was willing to take a chance. Thanks to Billy Rosenfield and John Bucchino's roster of famous friends, the GRATEFUL cd gave a generation of singers a slew of songs to sing and two generations later, crooners continue to appraise Bucchino as one of the greats in the songwriting industry. It should have been a foregone conclusion that there would be a twentieth-anniversary celebration of the release of Grateful: The Songs of John Bucchino, but if anyone else thought of it, they lost out to Jessica Fishenfeld, who got to John first. Ms. Fishenfeld's idea and her tenacity are the reason why the world now has the GRATEFUL 20TH ANNIVERSARY VIRTUAL CONCERT to enjoy.

The Grateful concert debuted online on December 15th with a respectable ticket price and a more than respectable list of performers, as well as a mission to raise money for the extraordinarily important organization The Ali Forney Center, which exists to aid homeless LGBTQIA+ youth. The December run of the show was so successful that Mr. Bucchino has exercised an option to rebroadcast the concert from January 15th through the 31st - and while this writer is holding out hope that there might be a way for the film to remain accessible in perpetuity - not for free, of course - just in case it actually does go back into the vaults on January 31st, it should be said: spend the few dollars to watch it now, while you can. It is an accomplishment of impressive status, and not just because of the artists that Bucchino has gathered together for this round of performances, but for so much more.

The Grateful virtual concert is a positive piece of artistry, both musical and cinematic - as concerts filmed in quarantine go, this one is exceptionally well-produced, thanks to Jessica Fishenfeld. The curating of talents in other states (and countries), the collecting of home-made videos from those talents, and the editing together of those videos make Grateful 20 one of the slickest, best produced virtual concerts to come out of the last ten months, with seamless editing, pretty graphics, effective sound design neat device that helps this show stand out. While each singer is performing from their home John Bucchino's hands can be seen in a little window, playing their music for them. It is quite an interesting way to play the concert and to make it different, one that helps illustrate, for the viewer, the necessity for and the personal nature of collaboration between songwriter and singer, a relationship that isn't always considered when engaged in the simple act of listening to music.

And what music this is.

John Bucchino is revered and respected as a kind of poet laureate of the songwriting industry. He has had the ability and the talent to stand on his own - unique in his way with words and special in his melodic imaginings. In an industry where songwriters of all different natures and skillsets can attract one's attention and one's devotion, Mr. Bucchino has managed the impossible: he is not only worshipped by the singers, he is adored by the songwriters - observe the presence of the incomparable Amanda McBroom and the irreplaceable Stephen Schwartz in the concert... also, listen to the praise they lavish upon Bucchino. He is considered one of the best, by the best, and the reason for that praise is apparent in each of these performances, performances I will not break down for you - you will have to buy the concert to get the full picture. I will say this: every performance is exceptional, from the heart, and superbly recorded in quarantine - it is so interesting to see how everyone creates their contribution - what room they choose for their video, what their microphones are like (Stephen Schwartz gets the prize for coolest mic, while Andrea Marcovicci has the prettiest setting) and how good they sound (Lois Sage sounds incredible and Mykal Kilgore is to die for), and Ms. Fishenfeld puts it all together with the finesse and artistry of a fine producer. The concert is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, even if it tends to be a bit ballad-heavy for this writer who clung to, like air, uptempo numbers from new favorites Jessica Fishenfeld and Alexander Sage Oyen, both a revelation. The music aside, there is a fair amount of chat, and though it is nice to hear artists talk a little about their process, their history, their choices, it is still a fair amount of chat from everyone - and there are those of us who prefer simply to hear the music.

One of the essential reasons for talk during the show is any time anyone shares their thoughts about the Ali Forney Center. The organization that is a beneficiary of some of the funds is one of the most important currently operating in the service of others, and hearing Mr. Bucchino or singer Scott Joiner talk of their services is a good and proper use of the art of conversation. Viewers who purchase the concert would be well advised to not use these moments to go to the bathroom or the fridge, but to listen and to hear what these generous artists have to say about The Ali Forney Center - it is rhetoric with value and a cause.

There are additional bonuses that come with the purchase of this concert, especially right now: the show does not conclude with the revisiting of the Grateful CD - the last segment of the concert is dedicated to John Bucchino songs that do not appear on the album, and these five compositions are ones that listeners will want to seek out and acquire for their playlists, even if they are not recordings sung by the artists in this film. Each tune a piece of poetry set to glorious music, they all illustrate that which is so special as to keep the singers of the world seeking out a John Bucchino composition to perform.

The final, and truly special, reason to check out the rebroadcast of Grateful 20 is that in the weeks since the concert first aired, a new video was added to the film, and with all due respect to the artists who appeared in the first incarnation, this is a video of a singer so legendary as to warrant one's attention. I don't know how, or who, or what was said to make it happen, but this music lover who grew up in the seventies was authentically thrilled to get to hear Toni Tennille sing a John Bucchino song as the days dawned on the year 2021. It is a musical moment in time, simple and sweet, luscious and lush, in one of the most original and individual voices ever to come out of the music industry. Toni Tennille and this new recording are a gift to everyone who is moved by great music and the artists who make it.

The Grateful 20th Anniversary Concert was a surprise. It was a surprise to John that a young upstart named Jessica Fishenfeld would come to him with this idea, it was a surprise that artists Bucchino did not know personally would so quickly agree to do the show, and it was a surprise to this writer how good it was... but it shouldn't have been a surprise. It should have been a foregone conclusion that the venture would yield great things because that just seems to be what happens upon utterance of the words John Bucchino. Like some age-old magic spell once used by a character in a fable or a fairy tale, if you say the words "John Bucchino" something magical will happen. And it happened again, with the creation of this concert.

John Bucchino. Poof. Magic. Just like that.

Grateful.


Tickets to the GRATEFUL VIRTUAL CONCERT may be purchased through January 31st at www.johnbucchino.com or by clicking HERE

Performers include Tony and Grammy Award - winner Leslie Odom Jr., legendary composer Stephen Schwartz, Broadway and TV star Corey Cott, R&B singer Mykal Kilgore, Tony nominee Ann Hampton Callaway, songwriters Amanda McBroom, Will Reynolds, and Alexander Sage Oyen, cabaret luminaries Andrea Marcovicci, Lois Sage, David Campbell, and Natalie Douglas, crossover singers Jessica Fishenfeld and Scott Joiner, renowned Swedish soprano sax player Anders Paulsson, and legendary singer Toni Tennille.

BWW Review: John Bucchino's GRATEFUL 20TH ANNIVERSARY VIRTUAL CONCERT


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