Star City Syndicate

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“A voice said: One. One. One, two. One, two. Then the footsteps went back into the distance.

After a while, another voice said: One, two, three, four- And the universe came into being.

It was wrong to call it a big bang. That would just be noise, and all that noise could create is more noise and a cosmos full of random particles. Matter exploded into being, apparently as chaos, but in fact as a chord. The ultimate power chord. Everything, all together, streaming out in one huge rush that contained within itself, like reverse fossils, everything that it was going to be. And, zigzagging through the expanding cloud, alive, that first wild live music.

This had shape. It had spin. It had rhythm. It had a beat, and you could dance to it. Everything did.”

-Terry Pratchett, Soul Music

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Welcome to The Star City Syndicate’s first-ever newsletter, which is SURE to be a collector’s item someday (provided one of us gets famous for curing cancer or committing a really spectacular crime).  If you would like to hear about our upcoming performances, read anecdotes from previous performances, or find out about random open-to-the-public rehearsals, we hope you’ll subscribe.  We also really hope we’ll see you at our performances, clapping and dancing and throwing snacks on stage.  (Snacks with soft packaging only, please!) 


Upcoming Shows 

We have two upcoming shows in June, and we’re excited about both of them.  Saturday, June 3rd will find us performing in the Larry Hall Auditorium at the Ashland District School at 7:00 PM.  It’s a fundraiser for the Ashland District School’s band program.  Fundraising last year enabled the high school chorus to attend the State Choral Festival, where they received an Honorable Mention and seven Solo Awards. That’s quite the feat for such a new chorus program.  Although admission to our show is free, we’re happily accepting donations for the band program (cash, checks, spare tubas…).  This will be the band’s first public performance in a few months, and we’re anxious to share some of the songs we’ve been working on lately. 

If you aren’t able to catch us in Ashland, don’t fret (ha! Bad music-related pun.  Sorry…) – we’re proud to be performing at the Riverside Park Pavilion as part of Presque Isle’s Downtown Revitalization Summer Concert Series.   There will be vendors, grassy lawns, a scenic view of the Aroostook River (or – if it’s foggy – a scenic view of the fog between you and the Aroostook River), and we may debut a few songs and/or performance quirks we’ve been saving for a sunny day in the park.  The show starts at 6:00.  BE THERE OR BE A RECTANGULAR THING!

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Stories From The Road

If you’ve ever wondered how The Star City Syndicate came to be, we’re still trying to figure it out too.

It all (probably) started with a random concert at Riverside Park in 2010.  Mark Shaw had tapped his friends Brian Mosher and Chris Morton (me) to back him up for the show.  There were no rehearsals or set lists.  It was just a fun musical romp for the fun of it.  At some point between discussions of which song the band should play next and negotiations over the key, Brian turned to Mark – or Mark turned to Brian; no one’s sure which – and remarked, “You know what would be fun?  To play Motown stuff.  With horns.” 

Everyone agreed that this was a fine idea, and definitely one that they would pursue immediately!  Well.  Right after next Thursday, because there was a birthday party Thursday.  Or maybe the following Monday, because there was a church picnic on Sunday.  But SOON.  Yes.  Definitely soon, we would put together that Motown band.

One afternoon six years later, it suddenly occurred to Chris Morton The Aforementioned Drummer (still me) that he (I) worked at a music store that would also serve as a handy centrally-located rehearsal space, and was also in weekly contact with lots and lots of fun and friendly musicians.  A rehearsal was scheduled.  Invitations were extended.  And on March 16th, 2016, a small group of musicians met for the first-ever rehearsal of the band that would someday become The Star City Syndicate.  Many of the musicians had never previously met.  Bass player Jon Simonoff passed out a pep band arrangement of “Soul Man,” someone counted it off, and the brand-new band waded into their first-ever song.

 It was awful.

Pep band arrangements are designed for bands with no singers, so they typically replace the vocal parts with horn parts.  Adding the vocals back in meant that the singer was now competing with a trumpet.  Later the band attempted “Hold On, I’m Coming” and accomplished it, much in the way that an airplane that has crashed can be said to have accomplished a landing.  But it was fun.  Though it was rough, there was still a moment when the horns kicked in that sent shivers down everyone’s spine.  So another rehearsal was scheduled.  And then another.  And then another.  The band gained a few members.  Jon and Sarah began writing scores designed exclusively for the group.  And then one day Mark Shaw stopped by the music store to buy guitar strings, and was surprised to be informed that he was – unbeknownst to him – a founding member of a Motown band he hadn’t heard of yet, that had formed a few weeks ago and would be delighted if he attended the next rehearsal. 

So he did.  And somehow, that was the rehearsal where *a group of musicians* became *a band.*  Up until that point, the original goal for the group had been to throw together a couple of songs for one or two low-key performances in the park per year.  Given how much fun the rehearsals were going, the fledgling group decided to aim to book a performance that fall. 

A few weeks later they were asked to play at the Ashland bandstand.  It was a historic building in the middle of town, filled with historic wiring and historic lumber and accessed via a set of very historic stairs.  The band of twelve musicians worried that they and their large PA system’s performance would also be historic, and not in a good way.  The performance was months ahead of when they had projected they might be ready to perform.  They didn’t even have a name yet!  Could they pull it off?  Could they *fit* the entire band in the tiny bandstand?  Would anybody show up?  Would anybody show up but then leave??

Luckily, the performance was historic for all of the right reasons.  People heard the horns all the way across town.  A crowd flocked to the bandstand, and not just because they thought they might witness it topple over from the force of Motown.  The band played every song they knew.  The singers sang themselves hoarse.  And at the end of it, the band agreed that most of them had never had so much fun and it would be just great it we could book another gig.  And we did.  And then another.  And then another.  And then one of our members built us a website and put in a tab to subscribe to a newsletter, and here we are. 

We all love the music that we play.  However, we also all love the band we’re playing it with.  There’s nothing like the feeling we get when the horns come in on “Hold On, I’m Coming,” or we watch people singing along with “My Girl.”  It’s a privilege and a real honor to play for people.  We really hope you’ll share it with us often, henceforth. 

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This is the end of this installment of

The Star City Syndicate newsletter,

unless you are the sort of person who reads the end first,

in which case

it is the beginning. 



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