1999-2000 CONNECTICUT
STATE TROUBADOUR

 

Major Performances
Artist Residencies
Connecticut Songs

 

 


TROUBADOUR ACTIVITIES
My two-year stint as the state's official Troubadour is over, but I remain on the Connecticut Commission on the Arts' Performing Artist roster and am still eligible to receive matching funds for public performances and residencies in schools. (Check out this page from the Commission's artist directory, describing this in more detail).

Here are some of the highlights of my tenure as State Troubadour:

Performances:

4/18 Kennedy Performance Center, Millenium Stage, (Washington DC)
OpSail 2000, New London
Amistad Reborn Celebration, Hartford Riverfront
First Night Hartford 2000, Hartford
International Festival of Arts and Ideas, New Haven
Old State House Concert Series, Hartford
Big E, New England States Exposition (Springfield MA)
Trumbull Arts Festival, Trumbull
Windham Poetry Festival,
Willimantic
Coventry Daffodil Festival, Coventry
Zoofolk Concert Series, Bridgeport Zoo
Paradise Eatery, Semi-annual Solstice Benefit Music & Arts Festivals, Willimantic
Willimantic Food Coop Harvest Street Fair, Willimantic
Willimantic Thread Museum, Thread City Bread Fundraiser
Cheney Hall, Manchester
Camp Kennedy & Camp True Point, Manchester Department of Recreation
Gatehouse Coffeehouse, Southbury Training School
State Troubadours Concert, Seven Angels Theater, Waterbury
State Capitol: Arts Day, Hartford
Coventry Historical Society, Nathan Hale House, Coventry
Lebanon Historical Society Museum, Lebanon
Charter Oak Cultural Center, Hartford - Performance of Red Angel: The Book of Esau.
Congregation Adath Israel, Middletown - Performance of Red Angel: The Book of Esau.

 

Artist Residencies

Capitol Region Education Council Interdistrict Sister School Programs:
Images of Cultural Identity: Hartford/Newington/Farmington (grades 5-6), 2000, 2001
Amistad Reborn:
Hartford/Glastonbury/Ellington (grades 6-7), 2000-2001
Academy School/Gideon Welles
(6th Grade), Glastonbury CT. Three 10-day Artist Residencies, 1999-2001.
Putnam Elementary School, Putnam - 7 day artist residency, 1999
Kelvin D. Anderson Community Center, Hartford,Summer Cultural Studies Program, 2000

Other Teaching

Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, Hartford. Creative Writing faculty 1998-2000
University of Connecticut Creative Writing Program, Storrs CT. Worksho & /Concert, 2000, 2001
University of Hartford, Creativity Seminars, Hartford
Eastern Connecticut State University, University Hour Lecture Series, 2000
St. Joseph's College, Hartford
Words Alive/Connecticut Writing Project, University of CT, Storrs
Words Alive, University of Hartford, Hartford
Center for Creative Youth, Wesleyan University, Middletown
Correctional Education Association of Connecticut, Creativity in Education Conference, Meriden
Red Cross Transitional Housing Program, Middletown
Academy School, Glastonbury - Professional Development Seminar for entire faculty.
Windham Poetry Festival Workshops, Willimantic
Windham Area Poetry Project, Center for Learning and Retirement, Mansfield
Booth & Dimmock Library, Coventry
Eastford Elementary School, Eastford
JFK Middle School, Enfield
Lyman High School, Lebanon
Tolland High School, Tolland
Suffield High School, Suffield
Bridgeport Jewish Community Center, Bridgeport
Nathan Hale School, Coventry CT
Fox Elementary, Hartford


CONNECTICUT SONGS


Here are some of my songs, recorded and otherwise, that deal with life, history and politics of Connecticut. I'm also looking for songs by others that deal with Connecticut people, places and historical events in a credible, unsentimental way.


The Willimantic Trilogy (for kicks, check out these sites with Willimantic info: www.windhamct.com and www.threadcity.com):
Thread City
Main Street Sky
How Long

Amistad
Talking State Troubadour Blues

Route 66
Little Miss 1565
Mr. Stevens' Promenade
Green
Lebanon Green
Wormwood Hill
Coventry Carol
Wednesday Morning, 6am
Ballad of Nathan Hale
I Will Die In Willimantic
(lyrics by Alexander Taylor & H. Blumenfeld)


SOME LYRICS


Thread City

It took her eight winters to feed the whole backlot
hand-split into the belly of a woodstove,
Itıs just as well, sheıd say,
one more hole in the roof than she had buckets for
And the house disappeared in the rush of Œ88
It was a flood of prospectors and old credit at the gate
She salvaged some rafters, built herself a raft
And floated on down the millbrook to Thread City

Thread City, Thread City.....

Scrambling after money and clutching at her kids
And cursing all the names of their fathers
She took a three-room flat,
Two flights up and one block back of Main Street
And the boys were dumb as dirt bikes
But the girl was sharp as glass
Behind the Dunkinı Donuts counter
Where all the old men made their passes, but her
Mother told Linda sheıd see she got to college,
‹Linda knew no one ever gets out of Thread City

Thread City, where the looms of gold
In the factories have turned to stones
Foremenıs houses on the hill
Dream of Queen Victoria still

Thread City, where the looms of gold
In the factories have turned to stones
Haunted houses on the hill
Dream of Queen Victoria still

Linda gave her love to a college boy
Who thought he was in love with the working class
And from his room some nights
She could barely see the lights of Thread City
But at home that spring, she knew heıd never last
It was the rebel flags on the bumpers
And the gun racks in the cabs
And the way that heıd shoot her that sidelong look
When they passed the Hotel Hooker in Thread City

Thread City, where the looms of gold
In the factories have turned to stones
Boarding houses on the hill
Dream of Queen Victoria still

Thread City, where the looms of gold
In the factories have turned to stones
Haunted houses on the hill
Dream of Queen Victoria still

Thread City, where the looms of gold
In the factories have turned to stones....

© 1990 Hugh Blumenfeld


 

Main Street Sky


I was good at tending bar
They called me Our Lady of OıReillyıs
I could talk to men in trouble
and I know the difference between poison and truth
But I crashed my car last March
And the back was full of empty quarts of vodka
So I walk to work at midnight,
at the donut town down on Main St.

Chorus: And the big trucks roll by
They shake the ground like thunder
But thereıs nothing flashing under
The Main Street sky

I wonıt wear the damn uniform they gave us
When youıre my size, you donıt wear orange
Well I may not be your beauty,
but I swear I will not be your clown
And Ginny will not fire me
Iım the only one whoıs here on time
So we have this little understanding
that we just donıt get along

Chorus

I put a pot on for the truckers
and I put one on for myself
and from 2 am till 5,
I can just park it and read
And Iım going back to school
I donıt care if itıs a load of crap
cause my future thinks heıs sitting at the counter
with his ³Hey, darlinı² and a feedcap

Chorus

© 1995 Hugh Blumenfeld



How Long

I'VE WALKED AROUND, and I've talked around
All the streets of this old milltown I call home
And I've seen some things, and I've dreamed some things
On the streets of this old milltown I call home

I saw Eugene Debs rise up on Wobblie legs
I heard Amy Hooker dressing down American Thread
They took up the strikers' signs from back in 1925
When the cutbacks at the mill ate our grandparents alive
But nobody would believe that their mothers rolled their sleeves
Or that their fathers fought the war while someone else's owned the store
Or that the Puerto Ricans stand where the Polish stood before
And the Polish people landed where the French had washed ashore
And the French took the places
Of those red Irish faces
With their corned beef and their cabbage
That made them so savage

And how long
will the mill wheels spin?
How long
till the cloth wears thin?
How long
till we walk the line again?

I've been up and down, kept my ear to the ground
On the streets of this old milltown I call home

Where the commerce always flags and the tail always wags
And men in yellow ribbons walk around in drag
And mothers teach their sons the history of the Huns
While their daughters steal the apron strings and learn to make firm buns
They broke Old MacDonald's arm, stuck a needle in his farm
But when the junkies get on line the papers turn in the alarm
The town council got frantic when they dredged the Willimantic
They found the skeletons of mill hands and said‹Isn't it romantic?
So they built a museum where the people never see 'em
Tie the purse strings up in knots, and pay consultants a per diem
They say dust to dust, they say ash to ash
And burn garbage by the trailer park to bury the white trash

How long...

But every week or so I go to Everyday Books
Where the anarchists and lesbians exchange knowing looks
You can read the news from Salvador, eat Alice Toklas Pie
Winky brings you coffee or else Allison drops by
And on this enterprising station they play Rahsan Roland Kirk
And it's jazz all afternoon until the poets get to work
The Main Street renters loiter, they mill and reconnoiter
But the greeters out at Walmart make the town folk paranoider
There are pamphlets on the Curb-
stones, this is no bourgeois suburb,
Donıt you think the renovated Painted Ladies look superb?
You can hear Spanish in the street
Come on move to the Latin beat
You can find organic food
(Or hear a new song debuted)
And the falls still descend
At the great river bend
And I swear if I can find a job I'd live here till the end

How long ...

İ 1991 Hugh Blumenfeld



Amistad

It was the cargo that breathed
It was the cargo that cried
Chained in darkness down below
But they were never chained inside
They took the boat by storm
Took their lives in their own hands
As if they were truly human
As theyıd been in their home land

CHORUS:
The Amistad was here
Captives walked upon our shore
And they posed a simple question
And they laid it at our door
The Amistad was here
Cinquez walked upon this shore
And he posed a simple question
And he laid it at our door.

Yes, God bless John Quincy Adams
- Spent his last strength to set them free
But the stalwart Hartford Courant
Insisted they were property
Two months they sailed with little water
Two years jailed while their case was tried
And by the time it was all over
A third of them had died

CHORUS

These are the ships that built New England
And they sail the whole world round
From Boston down to Newport
All along Long Island Sound
From Mystic and New London
to Fairfield Countyıs coast of gold
But do we dare to ask the question;
what do they carry in the hold?

What do they carry and who made it?
And how much are they paid?
Are they surrounded by barbed wire?
Are their families far away?
And do these ships still carry prisoners
As they did so long ago
Are people owned by men of business
And do we really want to know?

Oh the Amistad is here
Captives walk upon our shore
And they pose a simple question
We donıt like asking anymore
Did we search our souls for nothing?
Did we search our souls in vain?
Cause if we asked the question now
Would the answer be the same?

 

©2000 Hugh Blumenfeld


 

Talking State Troubadour Blues

I was rooting for those Patriots - man, I thought we had it made
- I'm talking 'bout football in Hartford, not the missiles in Belgrade
But I'm convinced that secret midnight meetings are still the way to go
So I'm going up to the Governor's house, too - right after the show
     (you may have noticed my limo waiting out back - the '88 Chevy Nova? OK, so they call it a hatchback...)

Now sixty-seven thousand fans is more than I'll ever have
But with a photo in the Courant, 67's not so bad
So I can understand if they don't plan to give me half a billion
But I think I could build a concert hall with - oh, say half a million
    (a thousand times less fans, a thousand times less money - I can do the math in my head).

I'd build a mansion with a big home theater, fit 70 seats in tiers
And I'd volunteer to live there rent free - but just for 30 years
Right on Adrian's Landing instead of Kraft's Imperial Marger.... I mean Stadium
And if the rest of you don't mind, I'll call it Blumenfeld Palladium
     (has a nice ring to it, don't you think?)

My friends could rent out guest suites, right off the balcony
Why, with the tax write offs, it'd practically be free
I'd host all the big folk concerts, and here's my latest scheme:
I'm in negotiations now to host UConn's Chess Team
     (Go Ruskies! Or whatever they call themselves. Wonder if they'll need a hot tub and a sauna... better put 'em in just in case)

Now I've worked out all the angles, I think it'll all hold up in court
But who needs a constitution when you've got bipartisan support
And though it's true that most of you will never get your hands on a ticket
At least there won't be traffic jams when you come round to picket
     (I wonder if Citizen Ralph'd rev up the old Corvair for this one...
       See you on the barricades....)

 

© 1999 Hugh Blumenfeld/Hydrogen Jukebox Music


Little Miss 1565
[After the terrible Hartford Circus Fire on July 6, 1944, the body of one twelve year old girl remained unclaimed and unidentified. In a way, she came to symbolize something that was hard to put a name on - innocence, tragedy, the soul of the city. She was simply called Little Miss 1565 - and her identity remains a mystery. But in an eerie way, she keeps turning up....

For fifty years firefighters dreamed
Of a Big Top soaked in paraffin & benzene,
With the roar of tigers lost in the roar of flames,
Wallendas descending from the high wire,
Emmett Kelly dousing the pyre
with his bucket full of tears that could not fall,
     falling

And the blonde-haired girl that no one claims
who keeps the soul of the city alive
Little Miss 1565.

One year later in Hiroshima
she threw herself into the steaming river
to escape the falling cinders and the heat
Thirty years later, outside Saigon,
she was trailing robes of slick napalm
as she ran shrieking naked down the street
    arms flung wide

Do you think we don't know your name
And who you were when you were alive
Little Miss 1565

The Naval hospital in Subik Bay
delivered one last sailor's daughter yesterday
to a Philippino girl who'd never even bled
She bears the name of every city
where the shamed and the shameful, full of pity
burn in the beauty of a nameless child's
   nameless child

You're always lost and always found
always dead and always still alive
Pretty Little Miss 1565

 

© 1997 Hugh Blumenfeld/Hydrogen Jukebox Music


Mr. Stevens' Promenade
[Maybe because he was a Hartford insurance executive, poet Wallace Stevens often used the imagery of exotic birds and plants from the Caribbean to symbolize the power of imagination. Now, as Hartford's West Indian population nears 40,000, you only have to walk down Park Street. Imagination has become reality - in ways he never imagined.]

Mr. Stevens' cockatoo has finally come to town
strutting his splendid plumage up and down
    Park Street
past the midnight bodegas and the pastry bakers' shop
a whiff of fish, a hit of reefer, Honduran lemons, baby powder

From Farmington Avenue in a burgundy tie
Mr. Stevens crosses to the shady side
    of Broad St.
where the boarded-up buildings play dominoes
in sugar cane chairs and the radios blare:

hoo hoo, hoo hoo, traloo traloo!
hoo hoo, hoo hoo, traloo traloo!
the brilliant cockatoo, preening green and red
feeding steady habits in doorways, waking the dead
   with his wings,
cobbled out of these ordinary things
hoo hoo, hoo hoo, traloo traloo!

past the potted palms, reading tarot cards
two Jamaican patties, and he's rapping with the bards
by the check-cashing sign,
flashing in Creole Vietnamese:
I love you! Sweetbread! Hold me! Kim-chee!
   what a strange bird...

pineapples vanish, the sidewalk fills with rinds
bottles in pieces in a land surpassing mind
where everyone but everyone is kind
   to this last immigrant
silk handkerchief, neatly pressed in his hand -
Here comes Mr. Stevens, he's singing with the band:

hoo hoo, hoo hoo, traloo traloo....

 

© 1997 Hugh Blumenfeld/Hydrogen Jukebox Music


Lebanon Green

Iıd like to live
on the Lebanon Green
long as a river
and just as wide
Iıd take your hand
and weıd wade through the grass
just to reach the shore
on the other side

Weıd have a white house
with clapboard sides
and window glass
like an old manıs eyes
and wide oak floors
that creak and moan
when lovers steal
back to bed alone

And weıd get our things
at the country store
milk and cheese
made right next door
by the lumbering cows
that we have seen
that crop the grass
on the Lebanon Green

Yes, Iıd like to live
on the Lebanon Green
long as a river
and just as wide
and weıd wade through the grass
and the rippling swells
just to reach the shore
on the other side

And Iıd find myself
a strip of sky
and watch the clouds
go floating by
and what may be
and what has been
lie arm in arm
on the Lebanon Green.

İ 1999 Hugh Blumenfeld



Green


In the capital city of the richest state
in the richest land in the history of the world
In the capital city of the richest state
in the richest land in the history of the world
Why canıt the children breathe
Why do they wheeze and cry
What kind of poison are we burning up into the sky

In the capital city of the richest state
in the richest land in the history of the world
In the capital city of the richest state
in the richest land in the history of the world
Why canıt the children read?
Why donıt they go to school
Why do I sometimes feel like Iım being taken for a fool?

I dreamed of a river
Where the water runs clean
And on the banks of the river
The children play and the trees grow tall and
Green----

Donıt need a stadium, donıt need a shopping mall
I donıt need luxury apartments where they pay no tax at all
Who pays these politicians
Why canıt they hear my voice
Why does it always feel as if we have no choice

I dreamed of a river
Where the water runs clean
And on the banks of the river
The children play and the trees grow tall and
Green----

I dreamed of a river
Where the water runs clean
And on the banks of the river
The children play and the lovers stroll
and there is no gate and there is no wall
and there is no plant on the other shore
that treats it like an open sewer
and the sun pours down and the cool rains fall
and the kids and grass and the trees grow tall and
Green----

İ 2001 Hugh Blumenfeld


 

Route 66

If you ever get the urge to travel East
Travel my way, take the highway traveled least
Get your kicks on Rte. 66

It winds from Middletown to Willi,
30 miles all wooded wild and hilly
see the sticks on Rte. 66

It winds into Portland, Cobalt and East Hampton
Up to Gay City it's oh so pretty
you'll see Marlborough, Gilead and Hebron too
Swim the Terramuggus, hear the sounds in Moodus
Haddam, Higganam, Columbia and Windham

So you get hip to this kind of tip
When you take your Quiet Corner trip
Get your kicks on Rte. 66
See the sticks on Rte. 66
Meet some hicks on Rte. 66

 

words: © 1992 Hugh Blumenfeld/Hydrogen Jukebox Music


Coventry Carol

"Lay Lady Lay," my favorite Dylan Song
   I love "Lay Lady Lay"
It's so romantic, Dylanesque and long
   I love "Lay Lady Lay"
Who would have thought that Dylan could sing
   I love "Lay Lady Lay."

In Coventry, Connecticut
   There's forty antique stores
It's hard to find a loaf of bread
   But they've got antique stores
The perfect place to buy a big brass bed
   Like in "Lay Lady Lay"

Last Saturday I drove up 44
   Through Coventry antiquing
I shopped around until I found
   The brass bed I was seeking
And at the cashier, the radio did play

   Lay lady lay, lay across my big brass bed
   Stay lady stay, stay with your man awhile

I brought it home and set it up inside
   Singing "Lay Lady Lay"
My lady said, "Hey, shouldn't it be lie?"
   "I sang "Lay Lady Lay"
"That's it," my love said, "it's either Dylan or me..."

   Bye, bye "Lay Lady Lay"

 

music: traditional & Bob Dylan; words: © 1993 Hugh Blumenfeld


Wednesday Morning, 6am
       (for Ed McKeon, WWUH-FM, March 22, 1995)

 

When it's been a long week and there's still no weekend in sight
And it's already hard to remember last Saturday night

   Just turn up the radio
   Make love to me nice and slow
   Let's pretend that we don't know"
   It's Wednesday morning

   There's a DJ on who's always got
   A little music from the Mardi Gras
   Take you down to where it's always hot
   On Wednesday morning

If the boss is expecting you early, she'll just have to wait
We're in heaven by seven, but we could make Louisianna by eight

   So turn up the radio
   Make love to me nice and slow
   Let's pretend that we don't know
   It's Wednesday morning

   Laissez les bon temps roullez
   We'll have a ball while the Cajuns play
   I don't care if there's hell to pay
   On Wednesday morning

   Yeah, turn up the radio
   Make love to me nice and slow
   Make believe that we don't know
   It's Wednesday morning

   Do the horizontal two-step with me
   To some Zydeco from New Orleans
   I don't know if I'm awake or dreaming
   On Wednesday morning

 

© 1995 Hugh Blumenfeld


Ballad of Nathan Hale

The monument in the old church yard
has no shroud or bones to guard
just the name of Nathan Hale
Who loved his country boundlessly
Like a cruel and lovely girl

He had no gun, no sword instead
Just the Latin verses in his head
The British plans inside his shoes
his last brevet, a lone regret
And the life it hurt to lose.

How many times, how many wars
has Nathan Hale uttered those words
From deck and trench and squadron wing
echoing...

How many wars how many times
have patriots uttered those lines
How many lives laid under stone
And none of them, not even one
to call his own

"Oh Asher Wright my one true friend
you pulled me back, foresaw my end
If all men knew their fates as well
then bravery were cowardly
and there'd be no tales to tell

"Oh Alice, sister, lover too
I have no words to comfort you
If these are times that try men's souls
It's an even bet the times ahead
are going to try their widows."

Now the graveyard wall falls away
a little more with every rain
to wash the bones into the street
at the deadman's curve
where lovers swerve
from the path of history

©2000 Hugh Blumenfeld


My songwriting residencies in schools have resulted in scads of songs. To hear some of them, see my page at mp3.com

 


to hear songs from the CD's see Hugh's mp3.com page