A Valentine for the Ears

1 wood PastedGraphic-1Invoking the sentiment of Valentine’s Day, renowned performers Beth and Steve Wood will take the stage to share their love for music, song and each other in a joint concert appearance Saturday, Feb. 16 at Laguna Beach’s Neighborhood Congregational Church.

The local couple will also have an inanimate but none the less compelling co-star, a 106 year old Mason Hamlin Model A grand piano that had sat, sidelined, unloved and in need of restoration for decades until Steve Wood discovered it two years ago while performing during a church memorial service.

A piano player by profession, he fell in love with a sound only age and hand-made craftsmanship can produce. “It was dirty and in bad shape and I found out that the church was looking to acquire a new piano, so I did some research and found that it could be restored for roughly the price of a modern Yamaha grand,” he said.

The former sanctuary piano now stands poised to anchor ongoing musical events to be named The Bridge Hall Concert Series, with the Woods being the debut performers, according to church trustee Bill Parker.

The series is named after a hall itself in need of restoration. Concert proceeds will be used for capital improvements in the hall, “in hope that our service to the greater Laguna Beach community will continue to strenghten,” Pastor BJ Beu wrote in an email.

Parker meanwhile envisions the hall as a venue for unique local musicians, emerging talent and others like the Woods, who are internationally known. “There are artists, local treasures really, whose gifts we want to share with the community, and who are just right for this stage,” he said.

Future bookings include guitarist Eric Henderson and singer-songwriter Sasha Evans along with classical and jazz artists. “We intend to be artist rather than genre-driven,” explained Parker.

Parker and co-organizer Steve Baker could not have picked more exemplary performers.

Beth is a singer-songwriter, who shares her talents weekly leading a song writers’ showcase at Laguna’s Marine Room. Steve is a composer with numerous soundtrack credits, a musical collaborator with recording stars such as George Harrison, Sting and Stevie Wonder, and a nine-year musical director for performer Kenny Loggins. Locally, he’s fondly remembered as the founder Honk, a band identified with surf sounds (Greg MacGillivray’s “Five Summer Stories,” 1972), but musically all over the map. Founded in 1970, Honk disbanded in 1975 but still play occasional reunions.

In 1971, Wood met Beth Fitchet, a solo singer-songwriter and guitarist at an audition at the now-defunct Huntington Beach music venue, the Golden Bear. Shortly thereafter, Honk added Beth as their “girl singer.” They married in 1979.

In Laguna since then, the couple, both 63, still live in the same house in which they raised their two sons, Nate, 33, and Jimmy, 30.  Steve also maintains a studio on Coast Highway.

He recently started a Youtube channel for Beth (BethS2Sdays).

Nate, also a musician, lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., but has made occasional appearances with his mom at the Marine Room. “My heart lies in performing but I love to write songs too,” she said, explaining that the showcase is not an “open mike” but a venue for serious, emerging songwriters.

“But, a lot of people come in for home-baked cookies,” she quipped.

The couple have traveled the world and still describe themselves as “best friends.”  “People enjoy our interaction with each other because we can’t script it. We just sing together–jazz, blues, folk, our own compositions, arias even,” said Steve Wood.

Baker describes their music as both truthful and transparent. “Their song writing crosses over a broad stylistic spectrum and their music reflects the passion of their life in music together,” he said.

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