It had been literally 26 years since I've been to New Orleans, so it was high time to go. "Hey guys, let's do a concert together!" It turned into 6 concerts, 2 TV appearances and a music video. Just goes to show that there's strength in numbers. But this is just the beginning of what will be a highly varied and ongoing project of exploring this vast country - it's beauty, it's cultures, it's traditions - in as many ways possible, through music, film and visual media of all kinds. Elana Gleason and Tyrone Chambers are not only two dear friends and two of the most special and distinct personalities I know, but two of my most multi-talented musical colleagues. This was the perfect place to start. Our mission on this southern tour was to share our own unique experiences of the south. Tyrone and I both grew up in the south, but of course it was quite different for him being a black man growing up in New Orleans from my experience as a white man in the heart of North Carolina. Elana Gleason was born and raised in New York and just within the last year made New Orleans her home, after spending her whole life up north. We told our story through music, presenting some of the greatest American music inspired by folk songs, spirituals, poetry from the Civil War era, classic American musical theatre and jazz influences. The themes touched on areas of national pride, racial struggles and conflicts of war and reconciliation, but always with the overarching theme of peace and unity.
Of course it's impossible to be a part of the experiences we had on this tour and also accurately document it and through video, but I hope to give you little glimpses wherever I can. The real story of our travels and interactions - the probing and engaging conversations about race, equality, religion, the meaning of music and our joys and hopes and dreams in this life, or just the peaceful moments and fun times we shared together between all our responsibilities, will forever be my fondest memories. So please enjoy this first of 4 video episodes from the trip where we rehearse the haunting "Letter of Sullivan Balluo" set to music by John Kander (we'll talk about this more later) and explore some of New Orleans sights, including the historic Marigny Opera House, where we presented one of our last concerts.