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George Meanwell’s CD The Easy Straight includes songs inspired by plays, actors, crew
By Laura Cudworth

George Meanwell has just released the CD/DVD The Easy Straight. ELIZABETH LEGGE PHOTO
George Meanwell has just released the CD/DVD The Easy Straight. ELIZABETH LEGGE PHOTO

After three seasons at the Stratford Festival, musician George Meanwell wanted more than a T-shirt to take with him as a souvenir.

Meanwell started at the Festival as a musician for Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.

“The whole experience has been this unexpected gift,” he said.

In his time here, he met and grew to respect several other musicians. Last October, they lent their talents to a live one-take-per-song CD and DVD recorded over two evenings at Factory 163.

“Increasingly nowadays there’s a gap between what people are playing and what is being recorded. Technology helps make everything very perfect. But because anybody can sound like that, to create something special, you need to go to the opposite end of the scale,” Meanwell said.

There are 10 tracks and only one is not a single take.

When music is recorded it’s rare to have everyone playing at the same time, he noted. There are five other musicians featured on the recording playing violin,guitar, bass and toy piano.

“They just played so inspiringly,” he said.

There will be a CD release and concert April 21 at 8 p.m. at Factory 163.

Meanwell's experience at the Festival is expressed through some of the songs on the CD, including Changeover and The Easy Straight.

The Easy Straight was written for actor Wayne Robson, perhaps best known for his work on The Red Green Show, who is slated to play Grampa in The Grapes of Wrath.

“It was his first time at the Festival. He was very excited to be here and he was a very congenial guy.”

“For whatever reason, Wayne, who loved music, fell into the habit, during the first couple of weeks of rehearsal, of having lunch with us (musicians).”

About two weeks into rehearsals, Robson wasn’t there. Director Antoni Cimolino called everyone together to tell them Robson had died at home.

“It was hard to keep rehearsing,” Meanwell said.

“The awful irony was the character dies in the production.”

A phrase from Grampa’s eulogy, which suggests once a person has died there are no more hard decisions to make, is the title of the song and the CD.

“Grampa here, he’s got the easy straight. An’ now cover ’im up and let ’im get to his work.”

Changeover was written in about four days. It’s about the incredible work the crews do of tearing down one set after a matinee and putting up another set before an evening performance.

It’s also about the “intense emotional curve” actors and musicians experience during a season from rehearsals to closing.

All the songs were written in the past five years except The Words That I Want. It was written in 1979 for his then-girlfriend, now wife, during a postal strike while she was in England and he was here.

Stratford Beacon Herald