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Ricky Berger concert at the Crocker Art Museum

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The Crocker Art Museum holds its doors open late during their Thursdays ‘til 9 program series.

This past Thursday, Dec. 20, as part of American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell, local talented musician Ricky Berger held a concert at the Crocker.

The Rockwell exhibit, located on the third floor of the Crocker, celebrates his work with several rarely circulated works from the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass. Several original oil paintings and other work created for The Saturday Evening Post are also part of the exhibit. A grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, American Masterpieces Program, made the exhibition possible.

Mindy Giles of Swell Productions at Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Crocker

On the Crocker theater stage, Rika Nelson, Crocker Art Museum manager of public programs, welcomed guests. In her speech Nelson said, “It’s been really an exciting time for us to do all this kind of programing. You may all probably already know, or you might not know, that we have a real exciting exhibition located in the third floor, and it’s up until February. It’s called the American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell.”

Nelson also described the concerts being held at the stage, saying, “This concert is a part of a series of concerts that we’ve been doing that we’ve sort of dubbed ‘American Storytelling.’ So we’ve brought in a variety of different performers who in our eyes are really great musicians and who are really fabulous.” Nelson continued, saying as far as storytellers went she immediately thought about bringing in Berger to perform, and she thought it was a perfect match, as Berger indicated Rockwell was her all-time favorite.

Nelson ended by introducing the show, saying, “Please join me in welcoming our opening act tonight. It’s his second time performing at the Crocker, a great performer and a super nice guy, please join me in welcoming Adrian Bourgeois.”

Adrian Bourgeois

Bourgeois opened for Berger and performed a series of songs that included “Shot in the Dark,” “Here We Go Again” and “My Face in the Dark.”

Bourgeois plays different instruments while on stage, and the stage was full of different instruments, including a grand piano that took the space of about half the stage. He and Berger also performed together on a couple of songs.

Ricky Berger

Berger stepped onto stage, wearing a stunning glimmering dress. The Sammie award winner brought her Americana folk brand of music to an intimate setting. The theater was full of Berger’s family, friends and fans.

Berger took the stage, welcomed guests and noted the show was a big deal for her. She’s been working on her sophomore album and had taken a hiatus from performing. Berger was excited when the Crocker asked her to perform.

Ricky Berger

Audience members responded with much enthusiasm as Berger performed crowd favorites. Berger began the evening by playing “You’re No Good,” and although she had an assortment of musical instruments on stage, she used her mouth to imitate a trumpet sound during the song.

As a true storyteller, Berger’s second song, “My Permanent Valentine,” was dedicated to her mom, who was selling Berger merchandise. Each of her songs was introduced by a short reference as to what inspired it or how it evolved. Before “My Permanent Valentine,” the introduction and story behind it was used to introduce Berger’s repertoire for the evening. Later, Berger dedicated “The Man of My Dreams” to her dad.

Ricky Berger in concert

Several songs also included recorded background music, all performed by Berger as well. It was something she had not tried out before, but which I think shows more of her talent.

Berger delighted the audience with original songs, and also performed “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” Later, with Bourgeois, she performed the Simon and Garfunkel classic “The Boxer.” Both Berger and Bourgeois also sang “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” their duos showing how well they performed together.

Ricky Berger and Adrian Bourgeois performing Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer”

Through the evening Berger showed her musical and writing talent. She ended her show with an emotional introduction to a song about her grandparents, and “Why Be Blue,” a song dedicated to her sister.

After the show, adoring fans remained to talk with her, pose for photos and get autographs.

I was able to sit with Berger and do a short interview, posted below.

Ricky Berger in concert at the Crocker Art Museum

Sacramento Press: You’re a storyteller in many ways. You tell stories when you introduce a song, as well as when you’re singing and in your art. How did you come about, or to what do you attribute, your storytelling talent?

Ricky Berger: I think it all started when I was a kid. I started writing songs when I was about 4 years old. I didn’t write them with words, but I started writing songs around that age. I think I was a very lonely child in many ways. I think I had a lot to say, but I didn’t know how to say it exactly out loud. I needed a way to express it, and recently I started doing therapy and I started learning how to communicate my feelings better. That has opened me up to a world of possibilities, I encourage that to anybody. Therapy has been amazing for a crazy person like me.

SP: The times I’ve seen you perform you’re surrounded by several musical instruments. Were there any that you did not play tonight?

RB: Oh sure, plenty. A whole scads worth.

SP: When did your love for music begin and what inspired it?

RB: Actually the first memories I have of music was through movies. Cartoons like Bugs Bunny, I think it’s 1947, you might want to check that. The very first time I remember hearing music I was about 3, and it was a 1947 episode of Bugs Bunny, and it was called “Gorilla My Dreams,” and there’s a song in it called “Someone is Rocking My Dream Boat.” I just remember I saw “The Wizard of Oz”; the impact that it had was so great. It expressed what I was feeling inside so much. I think I was born with the love for music. There’s like no difference between me and the music, in a way.

You know, honestly, I feel that if music is going well for me, everything is going well. If it’s not going well, then nothing is going well. It’s just a part of me like nothing else.

SP: I’ve noticed you like to collaborate with other artists (like tonight). Have you ever been part of a group or have you, for the most part, been a solo performer?

RB: I’ve pretty much always been solo. I think the way I share music is not really in a band setting, for myself. I’m going to be going to Eastern Europe to record with an orchestra and a choir. I’m not really interested in playing with a band, I’m more interested in playing with orchestras and choirs, and you know, having a full ensemble like that, which one day I’ll have.

I will probably be there for a couple of weeks to visit places like Berlin, Prague and Budapest.

SP: Have you seen the Norman Rockwell exhibit?

RB: I haven’t, but I’ll be doing that in the next two days. It’s been a crazy busy month.

SP: Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Any future projects?

RB: Gosh! I guess I’m just working on my second album, that’s the biggest thing. That’s really the focus of my life at the moment, working on the arrangements. It’s a lot of work.

SP: Take us through your process in doing an album. How long did it take to make your first album?

RB: Well, it’s really strange because I started recording when I was 14, but I did not put my album out until I was about 20. I actually had it done. I had it done when I was about 18, but I didn’t release it because I was so scared. I was so scared; I thought everybody would hate it. My therapist helped talk me through it and told me to put it out.

As far as making an album, for me the process usually goes. I guess I choose my very favorite songs, the ones that make me the happiest to play, and I guess usually I sit at home and I stay in my room for days and days or months and months at a time, arranging the harps, violins and flutes and oboes, bassoons and clarinets and tuba, trumpet, triangle, all of the above and different choir parts, and I do all of that on my little laptop. Then I go in the studio and I go track by track and recreate it in a very nice environment.

I think it’s important; people don’t take the time anymore. I’m in love with it.

Editor’s note: The “News Digest” goes out every Tuesday morning and highlights our best stories, photos and videos from the week prior. Sign me up.

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