Zachary Oberzan--what a name, and he comes by it
naturally. I'm not sure if it's because each of its components
has the same number of letters and syllables, so it
rounds out and completes itself as you speak it, or if
it's the repetition of the combination of "z/a" [the
last and first letters of the alphabet]. I don't
really know. However, the name looks great in print,
it is wildly fun to say, and the person bearing the
name is delightful to meet.
A quiet, thoughtful man, Zachary is a person with whom
one feels natural and at ease engaging in subdued
conversation with, comfortable with sharing the
seemingly minor, undramatic, and unexpected details of
one's life--as "life is in the details." He was
someone totally new to me, a Dartmouth graduate in
theatre, and a New York City resident. Out of the
When Zachary played his guitar and sang at the
International House and at the West End
pub, his refined, reflective, and focused nature
carried through into his performing. Whether he played
gently or intensely, it was always attentively, and
never by rote, in his rendering of the instrumentation
and lyrics of Leonard's songs, as well as with "Amelia
Earhart," the insightful and accomplished song of his
Leading up to Sunday, as his hands and fingers froze
from the high-amp'd A/C at the International House,
Zachary listened intently and concerned himself, as
apparently most musicians do, with his set list--and
what ones, if any, would end up as repetitions. I
can't account it to memory, but to my request, that
I'm able to provide that list. At the International
House, he performed:
(1) Minute Prologue: "Changing a couple lines to be
site specific, most notably, 'I think I can heal it
with THESE songs.....'."
(2) The Future: The song that shows there's so much
healing that is needed.
(3) Night Comes On: A bittersweet favourite of mine
relating to death and love.
(4) Amelia Earhart: Wonderful and well-worth hearing.
I was intrigued and impressed by the sensibilities
that would lead a person to write a song like this,
honouring this woman, and looking at 'love' from this
totally different perspective.
(5) Love Itself: His favourite from Ten New Songs.
(6) Don't Go Home With Your Hard On: This is the one
that amazed me because it's the song that has always
caused me to wonder why Leonard somehow 'compromised'
so, to even do it. Perhaps, Zachary's own subtle and
genteel manner lent itself to the song taking on a
different spirit from what I'd heard in the raucous,
poor-sounding recording I've always heard. When he
began it, its spirit instantly filled and transformed
the room into a joyous, high-spirited, rousing
sing-along. I couldn't believe myself, as I was
right there singing along, too--every lyric--and at
the same volume as everyone else! It could have been a
high-school pep rally, us singing the school song; or
it could have been a (German?) pub, us singing and
raising our mugs in the air, clicking them against
those of our mates, and my glass raised with the
rest. I never dreamed I could enjoy that song so much!
(7) Closing Time: This song was the perfect ending.
At open mic, Natalie Fuhr spontaneously joined him at
the microphone for a
you'd-never-believe-it-was-unpracticed duet of "Famous
Blue Raincoat." Again, Zachary's contemplative nature
is imparted to the song, and Natalie's vocals blended
beautifully. After that, he did "Heart With No
Companion," another bittersweet favourite of mine.
Whereas others were cheering after Zachary's
performances, I shared with him that I just couldn't
bring myself to do anything beyond clapping, heartily
and respectfully. His playing had reminded me of a
meditation, where I would never consider 'hootin' and
hollering' or calling out, "Yay! Great meditation!" He
smiled and said, "You got it, then...that's how I
intend for it to be."
Modest and self-effacing in his manner and humour, his
humble and unassuming responses to people's
compliments often came with a look of surprise,
preceding a lift in his voice, with his "Oh really!?
Thank you!" He can be, in equal measure, earthy as
well. Sincere and genuinely grateful for the
positive feedback he receives, he's the kind of
performer it's gratifying to compliment.
At the West End pub, toward the close of the night,
people stopped talking to listen, when the lightness
of his guitar, the clarity in his voice, and his
perfect diction, joined with his intentional, unique
pacing of "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye," to
absolutely make it his own.
As Dick Straub commented, "His performances and
company were great all weekend." Bobbie Chalou was
also motivated to go, a couple weeks after the Event,
to see him perform in Portland, Maine, where she also
met his family. He has two CDs out, with his own,
unique perspectives encased in interesting, intense,
and highly-imaginative lyrics. Anyone interested may
find him and additional details through www.zacharyoberzan.com
Zachary's gentle kind of class lent a very special,
pleasant timbre to the Event. He's the worthwhile,
high-quality kind of person one is pleased, and proud,
to introduce with, "This is my friend."
[Photo by Jarkko Arjatsalo]