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Dave Halston and the Music of Sinatra / Blog

4/28/10 - Performing for Barbara Sinatra

About a year ago, I was privileged to entertain for a lively "who's who" crowd featuring Frank's beautiful widow, Barbara, at the head table. I'm frequently asked how this opportunity came about and how it felt to perform for Frank's wife. Here's the story... It seemed like an ordinary booking request. The woman on the phone asked about my availability on such and such date and probed into what my fee for the occasion might be. Everything was absolutely routine. We agreed on the terms, I emailed a simple contract and marked the date on my calendar. Now you must understand that my bookings are usually scheduled weeks or months in advance. So once a date hits the calendar, I'm not thinking about it again until a computer alert jogs my 51 year-old memory into recalling I have an event scheduled. And so it was in this case. And speaking of jogging, I like to do it occasionally. Although some might mistake it for "brisk walking". What is jogging anyway? It's really brisk walking! But I digress… The day before the event in question, I was jogging with my phone when it rang. The woman who had contracted me for the event was calling to make sure I had everything I needed and all the details were covered. Directions? Yes. Map? Yes. Start time? Yes. Then, she added, "I suppose I'd better tell you who you'll be performing for". "Who?", I asked. "Barbara Sinatra.", she replied. I stopped jogging. I think the expression the kids use in text messaging today is OMG! That means Oh My Gosh! I could add HC! - Holy Cow! Or how about YGTBK! - You've Got To Be Kidding! You get the picture. I just learned that I'd be performing for Mrs. Frank Sinatra in less than 24 hours! Oh well. If I'm not prepared now, I'll never be, So my nerves were replaced with excitement. As one might suspect, the event was lavish and very well-attended. There would be cocktails, then dinner, then my act was to be the surprise as dessert was served. All the while, I waited for my cue from the "green room". Finally, the big moment arrived. I was escorted to a room with about 75 guests looking on as their Crème Brule was being served. I gazed about the room to observe the "temperament" of the audience. I can't think of a better word for it. Temperament. No two audiences are alike. And this audience was happy, engaged and projecting a sense of anticipation. Barbara was at the center of it all. She was smiling. "Good evening ladies and gentlemen." And so the show began. My adrenalin was on high, so my energy level was good - very good. It occurred to me that Barbara was just one guest in the room, so I made sure not to focus all of my attention on her. I worked the room, engaging the audience, making eye contact, the whole bit. It felt good. Once in a while I faced Barbara and watched her expression as I performed. At one point, during the into to "My Kind of Town", she blew me a kiss! It made me weak in the knees. But the show went on. Eventually, a gentleman in charge whispered that they wanted me to cap off the show with "My Way". Here it comes ladies and gentlemen. This is Frank's personal song. His signature. And Barbara is watching! My inclination to "work the room" abruptly came to an end. This was the song I could direct fully toward Barbara. And as the music began, I walked to Mrs. Sinatra's table and stood in front of her. Vocally, this song is demanding. You can't do it justice without being loose and thoroughly warmed up. I have no doubt that's why Frank always placed it at the end of his show. That's when you are in "the zone", the juices are flowing and the notes come forth in an effortless ribbon of sound. No person in the room could have been as exhilarated as me. But as the song climaxed into the emotion-packed final bars, I saw the tears well up in her eyes. The song she could only associate with her late husband flooded her mind with all those sweet memories. She began to weep. Here's to you Frank!