Thursday, April 09, 2015

An Hour With Keith Munslow

You would think that there's no argument about the definition of the word "public." But you'd be wrong. But that's a sideline to this article.

We traveled to the Jericho Public Library on Tuesday morning to see a performance by Rhode Island-based children's recording artist/illustrator Keith Munslow. It was fortuitous that the appearance was scheduled during the spring school break. And I happened to see an item in NEWSDAY hyping the show.

I even called the library to confirm that as non-Jericho residents and non-Jericho library card holders, we would be able to see the show. I was told that "the head librarian is a bit of a stickler, but everyone who comes should be able to get in." I was also warned that the program, listed for grades K through 6, would be mandated for children in that age range (5 to 11). Which meant that if someone asked the age of either of our kids, we'd have to do some dancing.

I posted a quick note on Keith's Facebook page the night before and off we went in the morning. Sure enough, we ran right into him as we entered the building. I forgot to even ask if he could perhaps walk to the children's room and grab a few tickets for us. My mistake. But I'll get to that.

Keith entered the auditorium, we went into the children's room. A very nice, modern facility. And the two librarians looked up and asked, "Can we help you?" "We're here for the Keith Munslow performance," I replied. "Do you have tickets?" one asked. "Oh no... we don't." "Well, can we see your library card?" "Oh, we drove from Queens. We saw the item in NEWSDAY and we know Keith," I replied. They stiffened up. "Well, you'll have to wait in here until all ticket holders and Jericho residents go in first."

Whatever, I thought. Not to denigrate Keith or any children's musician, but I've never seen a completely packed library auditorium. I felt pretty confident that we were getting in. My wife, on the other hand, was frustrated that I had not asked Keith to grab tickets for us. I pointed out that she was expecting one of our younger son's friends and mother to meet us. Even if we had tickets, what if they DID reach capacity?

Long story short, we all got in. Keith did his show. Everyone enjoyed it. He played a few songs, "The Absentee Polka," "Coffee Breath," and "I Love the Beach," drew a picture, and told a long, amusing story about the Bellywog. Kids were literally screaming (with laughter).

I was mildly distracted by one of the librarians (the head librarian?) lurking in the back of the room. Occasionally, she would see something not to her liking – a child with their feet on the seat of the chair, or playing with the "slantboard" part of a chair. She would scurry over to their parents and quickly admonish the adult to chastise the child. In other words, attempting to control the event by bringing as many people as possible out from of the experience of being entertained. Divert their attention to the fact that they are doing something wrong in the library!!! while they are enjoying themselves.

But our boys both enjoyed the experience. We had not been in the Jericho building before and it's got nice acoustics and is real performance-friendly, even if the staff were not.
Keith and Ben.

We got to talk to Keith afterwards and he was in fine spirits, looking forward to his afternoon show in Port Washington. Ben even consented to take a picture with him, an act he has not agreed to for more than a year. His younger brother was not as amenable.

Turns out that the library was annoyed at the level of publicity for the concert. Imagine that – they were upset that the local newspaper ran an item outside of the Jericho area. And perhaps annoyed that it drew an extra (small) number of people who actually KNEW THE MUSICIAN. But you know the old joke about librarians…they're the people who control a small universe by telling people "Sssshhh!"

Keith has just released his new CD, TINY DESTROYER (named after his two-year-old son, Luke). You can read my review here. And you can find his upcoming appearances here. It's a fun show, and it is a show, not just a concert. He doesn't come around these parts that much, so we felt privileged to have the opportunity to see him in a public setting. And the key word there is "public," isn't it?

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