Separated by many miles, singer-songwriter-guitarist Walter Parks and accordionist Rob Curto collaborated to create a beautiful song titled “Theater Marquee,” dedicated to “traveling performers world-wide who have lost vital income because venues have closed in response to the coronavirus,” said Parks.
Parks recorded the song in St. Louis, and Curto added accordion in Philadelphia. Parks called it “a collaboration subject and process born from these troubled times.”
Curto initially composed an Irish-style instrumental that inspired Parks to write the lyrics to the song. In the video below, you see them both perform in a split screen as if they were playing together.
When Parks performs, it’s impossible not to stare because he’s captivating with his strong presence and unique, subtle, lilting voice. He sings beautifully:
Well, they’re missin’ letters on the theater marquee
Nothing’ where my name should be
I’ll be playing for Lord only knows
Hell I just suppose
Many of us have had to think creatively about ways to collectively mourn people we lost to the coronavirus or celebrate joyous moments like birthdays. Soon Passover and Easter will require Zoom sessions to bring together separated families and friends. We struggle to take care of each other though we are apart and ask, “Are you all right?,” of those not near whom we miss.
Parks and Curto remind us that we can join forces now, even when we are geographically separated. This talented duo have known each other for decades and played together in February on a tour by Parks’ band, Swamp Cabbage. “Their last gig together was at Fox & Crow (in Jersey City) on Leap Year Day,” said Margo Parks, Walter’s Parks’ wife. “Who would have thought then what March would bring. We filmed that show and will be releasing one of the songs from that night within the next week.
“Rob wrote the melody (of ‘Theater Marquee’), inspired by their tour, and when Walter heard it he started working on lyrics to go along with it inspired by their current circumstances.”
Margo Parks schedules the acts for Fox & Crow, a wonderful bar and music venue, and has had to postpone all shows due to the pandemic. “It feels too optimistic to book anything, so I’m just waiting to see what time gives us,” she said, adding that “I’m working on alternative ideas to present artists in the meantime.”
Walter Parks, who hails from Jacksonville, formed the band The Nudes in 1991, and joined Richie Havens’ trio in 2000, playing with him until 2011.
The Parks, along with Kern Weissman (of the Riverview Neighborhood Association), have created a magical event in Jersey City Heights, the Vault Allure Experience Festival, featuring the Downright Iridescent band and others. Using an underutilized area as grounds for an art festival with music of different genres, along with dance, film and poetry, the organizers turn Holland Street into a public space that connects Jersey City’s diverse community.
“Depending on funding and if it is safe for the community, we hope to pull some form of Vault Allure off before the end of this year,” said Margo Parks, who also works with the Riverview Jazz organization, which had to postpone its spring festival due to the pandemic.
When we surface from the fear of contagion and the reality of illness and loss, Fox & Crow will welcome us with Walter Parks’ stories and songs of depth. But for now, let us find strength by listening to the original tunes that hard-working artists like Parks and Curto create to survive the storm, and show gratitude by donating to them.
You can support Curto via Venmo (@squeezeboy). Visit robcurto.com.
NJArts.net’s Songs to See Us Through series is designed to spotlight songs relevant to the coronavirus crisis and encourage readers to support the artists who made them (and won’t be able to generate income via concerts at this time). Click here for links to all songs in the series.
We encourage artists to email us submissions (newly recorded, if possible) at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include links to sites such as Patreon and Venmo. Readers can also make suggestions via that email address.
CONTRIBUTE TO NJARTS.NET
Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of $20, or any other amount, to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.