Sure, you have your cocktail hour, dinner and dancing. But the annual Associated Black Charities gala is always so much more. You want a party with plenty of entertainment? The Hyatt Regency was the place to be.
The evening began on the top floor, at a VIP party in the Pisces Lounge, with a spectacular view of the Inner Harbor. Then, folks descended for the main event. But, where to go first? Over in one corner, there was a jazz and blues supper club, with two bands alternating sets. In the main ballroom, you could dance to the Cab Calloway Orchestra, or take a break and enjoy a dinner buffet. You could browse the art expo, or go back up to Pisces, which had now become a comedy club, featuring three stand-up comics.
"I like the comedy room," said party chair Michael Cryor.
"But Erica loves the oldies but goodies, all the old music," he noted, referring to his wife and party co-chair. "We actually love moving around."
"I love picking my favorites," said Aileen Taylor, there with husband Dwight Taylor, president of Corporate Development Services.
"I like the comedy. It brightens up the evening," agreed Walter Amprey, former Baltimore City Schools superintendent.
"I come every year. I just like looking at all the beautiful ladies," said James Toney, president of Yenot Development Corp.
Meanwhile, ABC's board chair Nat Jones and president / CEO Gary Officer happily surveyed the area.
"It's been 12 months of hard work," said Officer. "If we can do that well, let's now try and celebrate it!"
A DRINK WITH BRIAN COMOTTO
His music is meant to underscore emotions
Baltimore native Brian Comotto, 31, has been into music for as long as he can remember. He started taking piano lessons at age 6, and studied guitar in high school. His passion for composing led him to the film school at New York University, where he majored in film scoring. He did an internship at the ABC-TV soap opera All My Children and was then hired to help score the show. He moved back to Baltimore in 2002, but continues his job long distance. A winner of three Emmys, Comotto also performs at many area bars and clubs, including The Horse You Came In On and Mex.
How do you describe the kind of music you write for a soap?
There's a very distinct sound. Something sounds like soap opera music or it doesn't. It's hard for me to say what it is. But you know it when you hear it.
What are your thought pro-cesses when you're writing it?
It has to be pure in its feeling. It can't be too ambiguous. Soap opera's not ambiguous. It's sad. It's happy. It's tragic. So, the music has to be that way.
Do the show's producers tell you what to write?
No. A lot of times, they'll give me broad adjectives like "sweeping."
Do specific characters have themes?
Not as a rule. But, sometimes they'll do that; bring back a theme a few days later. They don't ask me to write an "Erica Kane theme." But, I'd love to do that.
Do you want to score movies?
I have scored some small films in New York. Film scoring is really intense. I've found you have to live in Hollywood to be serious about that.
In your live gigs, do you play your soap music?
Sometimes, for a goof ... but mostly, [I play] classic rock like Billy Joel, Elton John. Any major piano player, like Bruce Hornsby. As well as new stuff [from artists like] John Mayer and Coldplay.
Because you compose scores, when you watch a movie, can you pay attention to the story? Or are you distracted by the music?
No, I'm able to buy into it. The music is supposed to draw you into a story. It's supposed to be transparent.
How do you describe yourself?
I like to think of myself as a working musician. The way musicians were hundreds of years ago. So, I can play. I can write music that's appropriate for any use. I love being that versatile.
What kind of music do you listen to?
I listen to all kinds of music, actually. There's a Duke Ellington quote: "There's two kinds of music -- good and bad."
What do you do in your down time?
I don't have much down time. I like to stay at my house and hang out at my tiki bar. I'm a bit of a homebody. I think most musicians are. In order to write music, you have to be a thinker or a tinkerer. You do what appears to everyone else to be wasting your time. It doesn't always come to you like a thunderbolt.
Okay, 'fess up. Does this mean you're a regular watcher of All My Children?
No! Sometimes I watch the show, especially when they ask me for new music and I have to see what's going on.
Come on. Who's your favorite character?
I'm sort of drawing a blank right here. I think Dixie's really cute.