I first became aware of Paul Sullivan while interviewing Paul Winter, back in the ’80s, when Sullivan was playing piano in Winter’s famed Consort. I became friends with Sullivan, a Grammy-winning composer and pianist, in 1988 when he moved to the Maine coast to live and write music. We had run-ins over the years when I would review his CDs of original music, such as “Sketches of Maine,” “Nights in the Gardens of Maine” and “Folk Art,” and covered his occasional shows, but that was quite a while ago.

When I learned that he was scheduled to perform Sunday, Nov. 19, as part of the Concerts at Jewett series, I knew we had to chat once more. I set up a phone interview and I called him at his home in Sedgwick.

Q: Now in (our) email exchange you alluded to a new project you had in the works; it was quite cryptic.

Sullivan: Well, I didn’t want to blab on and on but there’s nothing cryptic about it. A few years ago I wrote a musical that was commissioned up here by the Stonington Opera House. We did a month of performances three years ago and we all just kind of said, “That was that, that was fun,” and it was a big hit. Anyway, I’ve just recorded the soundtrack to it and I’ll probably have physical CDs in a week or so.

Q: Oh, that’s neat.

Sullivan: It’s my first recording in quite a long while and it’s music and lyrics by “moi” so it’s something completely new.

Q: I’ll say. You’ve been doing just instrumental recordings ever since we started chatting those many years ago.

Sullivan: Right. And this is a complete musical with choruses and solos and everything. The recording was really commissioned by a guy who had seen it and he said, “You know, we can’t just all forget about this collectively, so let’s do something.” I told him that I couldn’t will another stage performance of it, but one thing I could do was make a recording of all the music, so that’s what we did. It’s been a year in the making. I recorded it out in Los Angeles with these crackerjack people and high-end everything. We got the best of the best and got the thing recorded, so I’m excited about that.

Q: What’s the name of this musical?

Sullivan: It’s called “The Last Ferryman.” It’s about the building of the Deer Isle bridge. It was built 75 years before this thing was written. It sounds like about the least-promising topic for a musical that anyone ever heard of, but it turns out that when you dig down a little bit, the subplots, the back story, the dramas that unfolded were pretty much universal. What happens in a small community when massive and permanent change takes place. It was just one of those things. We were all proud of it and that was that, but it refused to die.

Q: It took on a life of its own, so to speak.

Sullivan: Yeah. Now, what can I tell you that you need to know or would like to know?

Q: What can folks expect at Jewett Hall?

Sullivan: They can expect a blending of classic American Songbook tunes by our favorite guys like Gershwin and Cole Porter and standards like that, and some originals by me including some brand new ones that are hot off the presses.

Q: Do you vocalize?

Sullivan: Oh no, no, no. God help us, no. Talk about a career-stopper.

Q: Okay, so folks won’t expect to hear songs from the musical then?

Sullivan: No, no there won’t be those. But it’ll be me and, in usual form, I tell stories and make observations. It’s a very personal kind of concert, not a sit-down-and-play recital. I engage. I enjoy talking to everybody and getting a sense of them. For me, the audience is a co-conspirator in the concert; this is to say, I consider a concert to be like a circuit, and I supply one half of it, and they supply the other, and then the light goes on. But it’s not just me dispensing music. I believe the music is all of our creation, and I really do mean that. I feel it strongly that a connection is made. That’s what we enjoy most about the listening to music.

Q: Have you ever done the Jewett Concert Series before?

Sullivan: No, never have and I’m very much looking forward to it. I’ve heard about it for years. I am very psyched. But I don’t play a whole lot of concerts.

Q: That was going to be my next question, actually.

Sullivan: Yeah, well I still play concerts, but a lot fewer than I used to. One of the reasons I do is that I play a lot of them here in my house in Sedgwick. We have a little concert room with a stage and theater lighting and a great piano. They’re public concerts, but we can only get 50 people in there, so they’re very intimate and private-feeling. It’s a place where I can sort of try out my new things. It’s a concert room, but also a workshop, so I’m going to be particularly primed and ready to go for this Jewett Hall show.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article about the show in Augusta?

Sullivan: Well, what I believe in is music as a connector and music as a chance to share something beautiful and positive and harmonious with the people in the hall — your neighbors for that moment. I think it’s a really important experience to have and it’s worth setting aside a couple of hours for it. But this concert is absolutely not about coming to hear how good I am. I have no interest in that anymore, I’m in a different place. To me what it is is truly about something that is bigger than the sum of the parts of the people in the hall. We each have our own role, the audience and I both have our role in making it happen. But it’s something that we do together and something that we all feel together, and this is to me what a good concert is.

Lucky Clark has spent 48 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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