Is there a big difference between playing to children and playing to adults?
Family entertainer Rick Scott (winner of the 2013 West Coast Music Award for Children’s Recording of the Year) doesn’t think so.
“The biggest difference,” said Scott – who will be presented in concert by Peninsula Productions Friday, Jan. 4, 3 p.m. at Coast Capital Playhouse, 1532 Johnston Rd. – “is that kids don’t want so much to be entertained as they want to do it; they want to be part of it.”
That’s why Scott – a past-master at measuring crowds and thinking on his feet, 50 years after first becoming a professional entertainer at the tender age of 15 – says he likes to get kids working with him interactively about a minute after he hits the stage.
“It’s like ‘we’ve got some serious fun to do here – let’s get going,’” he said.
And even though he knows that part of his White Rock audience will be adults – more likely to sit back and want to be entertained – the singer/dulcimer player isn’t worried about losing them along the way.
“I find the parents and other adults fold into the batter pretty easily, actually,” he said. “They’re aware of the music I write, and they know I try to write songs that will interest them too – I don’t tend to write a lot about rainbow-coloured lollipop dinosaurs.”
He’s not about to underestimate the young audience either, he says.
“Kids are so sharp and so sophisticated, and they like the kind of subject matter I choose. For instance, I do a piece about Mozart that’s a rap piece – it’s called Yo, Mo. They like it and adults enjoy it, too.”
Ever since his days with legendary ’70s Vancouver folk acts Pied Pumkin and Pied Pear, the Texas and New York state-raised Scott has been known for combining poignant commentary with a wacky generation-spanning sense of humour.
“In my childhood, I was fascinated by people like Danny Kaye and Sid Caesar – I watched them for hours and hours. They were masters of dry comedy, sometimes over-the-top, sometimes subtle. And Flanders and Swan, too – they were insane. I still find myself singing things like I’m A Gnu.”
Entertaining came very naturally to him, he acknowledges.
“I think I’ve been very fortunate. I pretty much knew what I wanted to do when I was about six years old. It was a case where I really couldn’t do anything else.
“Dad took me to Broadway to see Mary Martin in Peter Pan, and that was it. I was six and Peter Pan was giving me my marching orders.”
After an early career as a rock ‘n’ roller under the spell of Elvis and The Beatles, Scott found himself in the U.S. Army playing bass in an R&B band led by his sergeant, a Wilson Pickett fan.
Then he came to Vancouver at the advice of an army buddy – and formed the alternative folk string trio, Pied Pumkin, with Joe Scott and Shari Ulrich (they continue to play together whenever they can, although Joe Mock now lives in France and they each have busy solo careers).
He explains the dulcimer he plays is one of two types of instruments with that name.
“One that a lot of people think of is a kind of trapezoid box with strings that you play by hitting them with hammers – it’s actually a ‘hammer-dulcimer,’” he said.
His kind is the long-scale folk instrument that’s been part of the American music scene for some 250 years (“a long time in North American terms, but just yesterday in Europe”); eight of which he had hand-built for him along traditional lines by his late friend J.R. Stone, of Boone, N.C.
Scott – who between tours retires to the absolute peace and quiet of tiny Protection Island, near Nanaimo, estimates that over the last 35 years has played more than a thousand concerts, festival appearances and school shows in Canada, the U.S, Australia and Southeast Asia.
“Not too long ago, I was hitting the road hard,” he said. “Now I’m taking it easy a little bit and just doing the shows I really want to do.”
In that context he’s looking forward to playing for a White Rock audience again, he said.
“The last time I came through there was with Pied Pumkin,” he said. “It’ll be a great way to start the year.”
Tickets ($10) are available from the box office (604-536-7535) or online from www.peninsulaproductions.org