Five Firsts: Don Chaffer of “The Sparkley Clean Funeral Singers”
NAME: Don Chaffer
BAND AFFILIATION: “The Sparkley Clean Funeral Singers” (a new musical). I’m also in a band called Waterdeep.
INSTRUMENT: Guitar, primarily. Also cello, electric bass, harmonica and, to a lesser degree, mandolin, recorder and tin whistle
1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … Seems like it must have been a Styx album. I remember multi-repeat listening to the song “Too Much Time on My Hands” on my little mono cassette recorder (the kind with the retractable metal handle). That and the song, “Babe, I’m Leavin’.” But what I can’t remember is if I spent my own money on it. Maybe Thriller, by Michael Jackson? I might have paid for that myself. I listened to that on my brand new revelatory Sony Walkman.
2. THE FIRST CONCERT THAT I EVER SAW WAS … I saw a lot of symphony concerts in the park as a kid. Probably one of those was the first. But the most memorable early concert was a one by the cellist, Yo Yo Ma, in which they oversold the room, and the last audience members who arrived (including my mother and me) were seated ON the stage, right behind Yo Yo. It was pretty special to be that close, and feel the stage vibrate with all that power, and intensity. As a young cellist, I was pretty awestruck.
3. THE FIRST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT I EVER OWNED OR PLAYED WAS … a recorder or a xylophone. My dad was stationed in Germany when I was in Kindergarten, and so I was taught the Orff method, which involves lots of metallophones, xylophones, and recorders. First instrument I actually owned was definitely the recorder.
4. THE FIRST SONG THAT I EVER PERFORMED IN PUBLIC WAS … “What Child Is This.” Fourth grade. In front of what seemed like 12,000 parents. It went reasonably well, all things considered.
5. THE FIRST BAND I WAS EVER IN WAS … Well, it depends on whether you count the ninth grade band that only met twice. We were doomed, really. We had a cello, a trumpet, and… I can’t remember what the other guy played. Maybe he sang. It was kinda rough. Not only did we have three melody instruments, but none of us knew chords, or how to improvise or anything. We talked about all the cool songs we could do, if only we knew those things.
However, my first proper college rock band was called Hey Ruth. We were together for a year. I played in that band with the woman who later became my wife, Lori (Coscia) Chaffer, with whom I later co-fronted the band, Waterdeep, which we still have together.
Don Chaffer is the composer, arranger and musical director of “The Sparkley Clean Funeral Singers,” a new musical comedy which is having its world premiere at the Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany at 7:30pm on Tuesday (July 9). Performances run through Sunday, August 4.