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Give: Always dynamic, eccentric, Our New Music Man

By March 14, 2014 February 18th, 2018 No Comments

Always dynamic, eccentric, Our New Music Man

Some of the 20th century’s greatest eccentrics were musicians. That is no surprise, given the link which psychologists long ago suggested exists between creative thinking and “abnormal” behavior, and which has been confirmed by recent neurological research locating both activities within the same area of the brain. We’re not saying our new Music Director – Bob Kirchner’s behavior is abnormal, but he does have a dynamic past that has taken him through an array of experiences only a musician could have. We heard about it during past interviews with our resident “keymaster”, and Bob now continues the tradition.

Other musicians’ eccentricities have been well documented, like that of saxophonist John Coltrane. Coltrane had an obsession with lederhosen. Coltrane bought his first pair on tour in Germany in 1963 and is believed to have acquired over 300 pairs by the time of his death four years later. He regularly threw barbecues at his upstate New York home where he and pianist Alice Coltrane would model their latest purchases to music provided by a local oompah band. Pianist McCoy Tyner and drummer Elvin Jones both quit Coltrane’s “classic quartet” when Coltrane insisted they wear lederhosen on stage. So see, the phenomenon is real! I digress. Let’s just get to the interview.

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DH: So did you just move down here to come work for us?
BK: I’ve actually been in Florida for almost 9 years. I was working within the Diocese of St. Petersburg, but when I saw this (position) become available, I had to jump at it and I applied.

DH: So you’ll be leaving your Parish, which was….
BK: I was with St. Vincent de Paul in Holiday, FL. It’s between Newport Richey and Tarpon Springs.

DH: So Tampa area – cool! What’s your life like outside of being a musician?
BK: I enjoy reading… I enjoy travel and my family. I have a tight circle of friends that I keep in touch with. I enjoy watching movies and going to museums – you know, that kind of stuff.

DH: It’s always telling to find out what people read or watch. Tell me about some of your favorite movies or actors, or writers and books.
BK: I don’t have any favorite writers, specifically, but I really like mysteries and drama, things of that nature. I’m not much into sci-fi, although some of it is interesting. You know, I like good acting in movies.

DH: Seen anything good lately?
BK: Not really, but I do know that Son of God is out right now, and I would like to see that. I think it’s out or coming out within the next week or so.

DH: What about kids – you have any?
BK: I do. I have three children and five grandchildren.

DH: Oh good for you! What do they do with their lives?
BK: Well, two of them live in Oregon, and the other lives on Long Island. I also have two brothers and a sister and a host of nieces and nephews, and great nephews and great nieces. I don’t see them that often, but I do travel to New York on occasion. The kids in Oregon are a little harder to see.

DH: Yes, but the Pacific Northwest is such a beautiful area. So you said you like to travel – tell me about some of the more interesting places you’ve been.
BK: Not too long ago I went to Europe and took a cruise to Italy, Greece, Turkey and Malta, and that was wonderful. That was probably the only time I had been to Europe, but I have traveled extensively throughout the United States.

DH: Alright, so I know a lot of musicians live like nomads while they travel around and play – did you ever do that or have your own band?
BK: I had my own band for almost 20 years, and I’ve been out of that life for almost 20 years. We used to play nightclubs and wedding receptions. I used to play cocktail piano, and I’ve even played the organ at basketball games. I’m also a lifelong barbershopper – I’ve sung in barbershop quartets and different choruses – so anything to do with music I really enjoy.

DH: What were you trained on?
BK: Well I played a bunch of different instruments in high school, but I’ve been predominantly trained on piano and organ. I have to say, I’ve had some great mentors in my career.

DH: Just real quick – what other instruments did you play?
BK: Well I played tuba and timpani, and that was part of playing for a marching band when I was a teenager.

DH: Of course. Ok, let’s rewind. How did the quartet make its way into the barbershop? How did that whole thing start?
BK: The origins go back to the barbershops on Main Street, America from years ago. A lot of times men would be hanging out in barbershops years ago with nothing to do, and they found out they could sing, and they’d put harmony to that. I mean, that was really the birth of “barbershop harmony”, and it’s really grown to be a terrific venue. I mean, for men and women, they have competitions all over the country – it’s really great.

DH: What an obscure venue for that to happen! Why not a cobbler or an auto mechanic?
BK: I think it’s because the barbershop was a place where men had to go. You know, men need shaves and haircuts, and other than a bartender, the barber is someone people get comfortable talking to.

DH: I’ve been really comfortable with mine over the past 13 years. So what else do you do with your life? What type of bands do you like? Do you listen to anything we wouldn’t guess – like Taylor Swift or…?
BK: Noooo! Hahah. I’m sort of a traditionalist when it comes to music. I like the big band leaders of yesteryear – you know, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, people like that. I like heavy string orchestras, very romantic stuff like that. I actually like dancing too, and I’m a big fan of Dancing with the Stars – not so much of American Idol. That gets a little old for me. Most people either like it or not. I don’t.

DH: Ha! Me neither. Did you ever get into the 80’s hair bands?
BK: Well back in the 70’s, my band was playing Top 40 rock ‘n roll, along with the high society stuff.

DH: Well give me an example of some groups that you’d cover.
BK: For example, we played the BeeGee’s, Huey Lewis & the News, the Doobie Brothers, and then we also covered 50’s music – the “DooWaps”, and that stuff is really fun.

DH: But you’re no longer in a band, per se?
BK: No, but I do still play cocktail piano. That’s a really good time.

DH: Yeah, a former music director here, Barb Mendillo, used to do that. She was very nomadic in her youth. We find a lot of musicians are very eccentric in that way.
BK: Yes, I’ve been very involved in music from a young age. My mother taught me to sing, and I grew up learning the songs of the liturgy, so it’s been very close to me my whole life.

DH: Well it’s great having you here and we look forward to having you around!
BK: And I look forward to bring the liturgy alive with music!

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