with video: Jay Stielstra reprises musical 'Old Man in Love' at The Ark as new Michigan-themed album is released
“I’m playing this old character—I guess the last time I did it was quite a few years ago, and now I’ve kind of grown into the role, ” Stielstra, 78, observed. “I don’t need near the makeup I used to.”
Stielstra is known for his heartfelt songs about Michigan. His two "North Country Opera" musicals, and another, "Tittabawassee Jane," are fondly remembered hereabouts. He will offer a one-night-only reprise of “Old Man In Love”—for which he earned an Annie Award for acting when it was originally presented—at The Ark on Saturday.
“I play this character, an old man who is reminiscing about his life and the great loves of his life—woods and waters and women. He does that in 15 songs, with a monolog in between the songs. Then we have a little trio that plays the instruments—Chris Buhalis, Jason Dennie and Judy Banker,” Stielstra explained.
But that’s not all. At the Ark show, Stielstra will also release a new CD on which several Michigan artists cover songs Stielstra has written in homage to the Wolverine State.“I thought I’d ask some people who have recorded some of my songs if they would be willing to do that and they all were quite enthused,” he said. “The CD is just called ‘Michigan in Song’—I think it’s a nice variety we’ll have that available at the ‘Old Man in Love’ show.”
The CD includes “I'm Singing,” performed by Mustard's Retreat, “Cross Over the Line” by Stielstra’s Country Quartet, “Tittabawassee Jane” from Chris Buhalis, “I Love Two Rivers” by Michael Smith, “Never Been Much of a Ramblin' Man” performed by David Menefee, “Heaven for Me” by Charlie Weaver, “Manistee Waltz” by the Jay Stielstra Trio, and four or five other songs, Stielstra said.
Proceeds from the CD will be donated to the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “They publicize how officials are voting and ruling on various issues they’re a scorekeeping group,” he explained.
At this time, there’s no other way to get “Michigan in Song” other than at The Ark show; however, that will probably change in the near future, with the CD being used as a possible fundraiser for the group, he added.
A resident of western Washtenaw County, Stielstra grew up in Ludington and attended the University of Michigan. He is also known for the years during the 1960s when he was football coach at Ann Arbor High School as well for as his 19-year tenure as a teacher in Huron High School’s Social Studies Department.
“Jay’s music reflects his mastery of poetry and storytelling,” said Banker, who sings and also plays guitar and mandolin in Stielstra’s trio. “His lyrics reflect his wise, wry, self-mocking, straightforward and passionate point of view. And his melodies are drawn from the gospel songs of his childhood, country bars and time spent in the pubs of Ireland.
“There are no lines separating Jay, the way he lives and what he cares about, from his music. He is the real thing, no pretense, or posing - Jay is an artist and a true original.”