Marjorie Thompson House Concert, September 17, 2011


Marjorie Thompson, Singer & Guitarist

House concerts are usually cozy, comfortable albeit crowded affairs, the audience often as affable as the performers. Tonight’s event certainly fits that description. It’s hard to imagine anyone more gracious and congenial than Marjorie Thompson, mother of seven, songwriter, singer from Providence, R.I., and according to the D&C, Dean of Biology at Yale. Marjorie was as impressed as we were by the “Dean at Yale” reference! In reality, she is Dean of Undergraduate Biology at Brown University, impressive enough! Marjorie had been in Rochester once before prior to appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show in 2008.

In any case, there’s an abundance of talent of all sorts wrapped up in this très petite dame! For two hours or so she regaled us with her humor, wit and keen knowledge as a songwriter and performer. She was more than ably accompanied by Greg Franklin, a talented bass guitarist and accomplished accompanist. According to Julia Figueras, of local PBS radio station WXXI, a talented accompanist is a collaborator, performing on the same level as the soloist. That could certainly be said of Greg with his keen sensitivity to Marjorie’s needs as a singer. Together they entertained us with two sets of ten songs each and an encore, “Poster Child for the Blues.


Greg Franklin, Bass Guitarist

Marjorie has a very soothing manner about her which reflects in her voice and her choice of songs. She has a unique style, but in her music you can also hear the blues, country and folk, sometimes all at once. These were not traditional folk songs, but the folk tradition was in these songs as she told us how she felt about love and life. For the audience, it was all a brand new experience listening to her warm, compelling lyrics. Her songs are mostly originals; “When I’m 64” by the Beatles whom she admires greatly being a notable exception.

She sometimes indulges in the commonplace and humorous, as in the song, “Hair,” about not wanting to get her hair wet back during the sixtiess and then, “Three Boxes” describing her about-to-retire friend who was gleefully packing to leave his long despised job. These tunes strike a chord and make you laugh out loud which is always therapeutic. At the other end of the spectrum, Marjorie is not afraid to face the big metaphysical questions in life concerning life and death itself. Sooner or later, we all ask the same questions. Sharing these thoughts and feelings brought the room closer together. Such songs included “An Empty Heart,” “Too Old to Care” and “Angels Gonna Carry Me Home.”


Greg & Marjorie

Her performance was frequently interspersed with personal anecdotes on the same range of topics. Greg was an integral part of not only the music, but also the repartee with the audience who were not bashful about responding to Marjorie’s questions. At one point, there was a spirited discussion about what date the end of the world would occur! She regularly interacted with the audience as she sang and when she spoke. As an instrumentalist, Marjorie has a driving style with strong chords embellished with melodic runs to accompany her gentle words. At times the guitar takes the upper hand and plays on its own between verses. There is technique to all this artistry, as Marjorie later explained in her presentation at Bernunzio’s. But wait…that’s another story!

Our house host, Dan Feuerstein, summed up the evening well, “…a well attended success; style is simple and elegant, with an economy of movement.” We all thank Marjorie and Greg for sharing their gracious talents with us.

Article & Photos: R. Taglieri

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