If you want to hear a good ghost story, then see the Ghost Quartet at the McKittrick Hotel. Now extended through May, it must be appreciated by those like me, who want to hear Dave Malloy’s latest mixed-genre piece on anything. But, that’s not all. After hearing the solo work by all of these performers, I was especially curious to hear them as a combo with Brent Arnold, a singing cellist-composer, sometimes bread maker, whose music is perfect for yoga classes, Gelsey Bell, a singing-composer, paper writer and passionate vocal-noisemaker, Brittain Ashford, a bandstress/sexy weaver of songs and one known to subtitle ordinary moments in life with singing, and Dave Malloy, the one to bring it/us all together. Fun to hear all of them in one room!
This room was intimate and dimly lit. With all things wood, it was beautiful. Wooden chairs and tables for the audience framed the empty space in the center, which was decorated with a lush rug at its center and beautiful pillow seats at its edges. It begged for someone to inhabit it. This empty space seemed to be the meeting place throughout these ghost stories as Brittain and Gelsey armed with numerous instruments performed on the small stage adjacent to it, and as Dave Malloy and Brent Arnold sang to them/us from their opposing corners. The center becomes inhabited when in it the two girls dance, father and son argue, lovers dance, and when one character admits he’d rather be a star performer than a stargazer. All are intriguing glimpses into the lives of the four.
As the title may suggest, this is a ghost story, but told by the ghosts. And so you may wonder: what kind of story would a ghost tell? It would tell a believable story, a real story, about all it has witnessed while living on the periphery. It would tell an old story that everyone knows because… why not? It would tell a story of its own life, maybe as a lament. These stories would start as one, maybe their own, but would become many stories intertwined with a loose arrangement of characters from various time periods as the ghost(s) wisped from one memory to the next. Maybe ghosts don’t entirely know when they end and when they begin? In any case, I could see relatable bits within those stories and if I didn’t know better, could begin to think they had been ghosting my life. The compunction of one of the ghosts definitely gave me the sniffles with lyrics like these: “I forgive myself for not being in my body. I forgive myself for not starting right now. I forgive mysef...”
The performers insisted we were not ghosts so to speak. We were not on the periphery of their perfect piece, but part of it. They made this clear as they invited us to play percussion and also have whiskey with them. This was great. It really opened up the audience to one another as well as the performers and made the performance more of a gathering around the home rug as we listened to tall tales about, for and by the enigmatic four. If you wonder how stories will end, so did we… not a ghost in sight…