This music by Beaucoup Chapeaux heals broken hearts
Who: Beaucoup Chapeaux
What: Beaucoup Chapeaux CD Release Party at the Nevada Theatre
When: Saturday, Feb. 6, 8 p.m. Doors open 7:30 p.m.
Where: Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad St., Nevada City — a Paul Emery Production
Contact: (530) 478-1974
A musician’s tip basket is a combination of two things.
One is something quite practical: a receptacle in which appreciative listeners may drop coins and bills.
Another is something almost mystical: a larger engagement with the universe and its mysteries.
In homage to both, the tip basket kept by the band Beaucoup Chapeaux is strung with small prayer flags and a handwritten sign: “Tips Are Good!”
Tips are good — and they’re also not the only things that wind up in such a basket.
Currency from other countries.
Even the inadvertent: a cork, a matchbook.
And sometimes, notes.
These can be as precious as money — especially when they contain a heartfelt emotion inspired by the music.
This is what happened last year, after one of Beaucoup Chapeaux’s rousing Friday evenings at the Nevada City Classic Cafe, when band leader Maggie McKaig found a note, unsigned, that read:
“Nothing Heals a Broken Heart Like Your Music.”
It seemed hugely serendipitous: in addition to the compliment the note represented, Beaucoup Chapeaux had at the time finished recording tracks for what was to be their second album.
But their beloved engineer, Bruce Wheelock, had suffered a massive cardiac arrest. He appeared to be recuperating well, but was that heart, well, healed?
Beaucoup Chapeaux (“many hats” in French) is indeed comprised of musicians who wear “many hats”:
McKaig, lead singer and accordion;
McKaig’s husband, Luke Wilson, plectrum banjo and tenor guitar;
Murray Campbell, violin, oboe, and English horn;
Randy McKean, clarinet, bass cla-rinet, sax, and piccolo;
All of them on vocals.
McKaig decided the tip basket phrase was a prophesy (that lovely combination of forces a tip basket can represent) — and indeed, Wheelock’s heart, quite miraculously, healed.
Back in Wheelock’s studio, Flying Whale Records, the band finished the album.
This Saturday, following a successful Bay Area tour in January — playing to a full house at Smiley’s in Bolinas, and, in San Francisco, selling out the much-acclaimed Red Poppy Art House — Beaucoup Chapeaux celebrates the CD, “This Music Heals Broken Hearts,” with a concert at the Nevada Theatre, produced by Paul Emery.
In their seven years together, Beaucoup Chapeaux has played over 500 concerts in local and far-flung venues.
Many in the community have taken part in the magical evenings at the Classic Café, as the band’s music — a stirring mix of world and fusion, with elements of jazz— floats, soars, careens out of the corner table they occupy.
It’s a marvelous atmosphere, in which much merry eating and drinking and conversing take place, and dancing and sing-alongs (sometimes in Greek, even Macedonian) are encouraged.
Especially with Genevieve’s delicious crepes, it can feel as if you’ve stumbled into a corner of Prague, or Paris.
Yet if you get close enough to watch these musicians’ fingers, and to listen to all they’re up to — including vocally — as individuals and as a group, it’s stunning.
So ,one of many exciting aspects of this concert will be the opportunity to witness Beaucoup Chapeaux’s extraordinary musicianship.
That includes the intricate harmonies, the meticulous rhythms, the way one instrument might chase the melody played by another up a series of scales.
Then, the way all of them break away to play their own dances through the universe, all the while deeply aware of what every other person is contributing, before — with a gathering look from McKaig — reconnecting for a rousing, heartfelt, unexpected (sometimes even amusing) finish.
Especially compelling are two original tunes, “Elastíque,” written by McKean, and “Scythian Steppe,” by McKaig.
Topping off the evening, Orkestra Chapeaux — Margot Duxler, Sands Hall, Pam Hodges, Henry Hansen, Ludi Hinrichs, Sean Kerrigan, Cameron Kopf, Callum McKean, and Kirsti Powell — joins Beaucoup Chapeaux for their final number.
The heart of audience members will gallop, it will twine, it will open.
It will not only be healed — it will shout for joy.
Cover artwork by Pam Hodges
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