Chris and Diane Myers have been husband and wife for 30 years this July. In their time together they have thrived, fostering careers, raising children, building a home, while becoming pillars in …
Chris and Diane Myers have been husband and wife for 30 years this July. In their time together they have thrived, fostering careers, raising children, building a home, while becoming pillars in their community and church.
But for this couple there’s a third element in their life’s mix that helps to ensure and sustain their fruitful, blissful partnership — music.
Recently I sat down with the singers/songwriters/musicians for a Sunday morning chat. Over beer and brunch at The Portside Tavern in Bristol, R.I., I found them to be intelligent, charming, earnest and resolute. In many ways, conversing with both was like conversing with one. I was struck by their natural similarities in opinion, outlook, direction and purpose. They emitted symbiosis yet distinct individuality. It’s a tight wire, one might suggest, few couples or relationships can successfully negotiate.
The Portsmouth residents reflected on their marriage, their career as a musical duo, and the holistic concept that music can elevate us all to a higher purpose.
“We met in college at a bus stop in 1989. We were both attending the University of Lowell, now U Mass Lowell. Dukakis was the governor of Massachusetts, and he proposed budget cuts to the state schools,” said Diane. “There was a protest rally at the state house organized by surrounding colleges. It was an unofficial day off from school, and buses were provided by the colleges to get students to the rally.”
Diane planned to meet her girlfriends at the stop for the ride to the State House. Missing the bus with all her friends on it, she waited alone for the next one to arrive.
“I went with my buddy to the stop for the rally,” said Chris. “I saw this hot girl standing alone and I said, ‘Hey, check her out,’ to my buddy, and he said, ‘Do you want to meet her?’ He knew her because they were in class together. We ended up sitting together on the bus. She never did run into her friends in Boston. We marched around the statehouse with everybody, then we walked around the city for the day.”
“We were both music majors, so we talked a lot about music,” said Diane. “We went to the piano shop; we went to Cheers. I had been engaged and broke it off a month before I met Chris, so I wasn’t even on the market at the time but eventually Chris convinced me that I WAS on the market and therefore I should go out with him,” laughed Diane.
“I was initially part of an acoustic duo then, and from that we put this little band together for a thing we were doing up in Lowell. But at some point, the band started calling rehearsals without me, which was a tip-off,” laughed Chris. “So now I have all these songs that I’ve learned for the band but no vehicle to perform them. After Boston and after we had been dating for a few months, I asked Diane if she wanted to gig with me, so we started singing together shortly thereafter.”
A new musical partnership
C & D got a gig at a Thursday night college bar and soon were playing all through college. Four years from the bus stop, after college and on to marriage, they continued to gig. In 1995 they joined RISA (Rhode Island Songwriters Association), a fledgling organization. C & D were the first members. They have RISA membership cards numbers 1 and 2.
“In RISA I got turned on to writing music and went to a lot of songwriting critiques and workshops,” said Chris. “It got my bug going to write original songs. We started doing coffee house gigs at 729 on the East Side and CAV, places like that. We wrote, produced and recorded a cassette of original music.”
“Then we started a family in 1996. Our first child, Erin, was born,” said Diane. “We kept gigging, playing places that we could bring her because she was very chill. She was an infant and we’d bring her to Café la France in Bristol for three-hour gigs. Within four years, Jonathan was born and he was not chill at all. He’s a boy, and things changed.”
The music stopped
In the early 2000s, initiated by Chris, C & D decided to take a hiatus from music and performing live. The demands of raising a young family and jobs left little time for practice and playing.
“He put it down at one point, and it was not a good thing. Not good for our marriage,” said Diane. “It actually took a little magic out of things. This thing we do together. This music thing. The mystique. There’s a reason why we are together. Something was missing.”
“There is this essence and magic when we play. It now felt like we were just another ordinary couple,” said Chris. “You’ve heard it said, ‘you don’t know what you have until it’s gone,’ but for us it was you don’t know what you’ve lost until you find it again.”
After some time, Chris began searching for a new outlet to satisfy his musical spirit. He discovered it in Newport at Trinity Church’s fall fair.
“There was a colonial-themed fare in September 2002. It was the first anniversary of 9-11,” said Chris. “Patriotic fervor was very high. Everyone was proud to be American and still kind of one person no matter which party you belonged to. There was a fife and drum corps playing. It was the Kentish Gaurds from East Greenwich, a 1774 R.I. historic militia. It was good timing for me. They play all the big parades, including the Bristol Fourth of July. When I saw them, I thought that could be a way for me to express my patriotism and music all at once.”
“After we saw the fife and drum, Chris said to me , ‘I think I wanna do that’, and I haven’t seen him on a Wednesday night (their rehearsal night) since,” laughed Diane. “Once he jumped in, he jumped in. Within two years he was the head of the fife section. That was 20 years ago. The only regret I have is the time we were off not playing together as a duo. He was being fed with the fife and drum corps, and I wanted to be with him and travel with him, so I signed up. I knew I could march in time and carry the flag properly.”
Since the fair, Chris and Diane have joined another fife and drums corps, The Middlesex County Volunteers, a unit which has taken them, along with their children, around the world, to distant locales the likes of Nova Scotia, Australia, Scotland, Switzerland and Sweden.
“Out of the MCV grew the band Fellswater, which we were asked to join,” said Chris. “It’s a Celtic band out of Boston. We play all different kinds of Celtic music, not just Irish but Scottish, Quebecer, Cape Breton, Galician and Scandinavian folk music as well. Its world music based on where the Celts traveled. We play at The Blackstone River Theater in Cumberland and The Pump House in Wakefield and Backroom at the Burren in Somerville.”
Along with performing with two Fife and Drum corps and Fellswater, C & D have resurrected the Chris and Diane Folk Duo (with a standing gig at The Blue Anchor), while singing every Sunday in the choir at Trinity Church in Newport.
“Each one of our musical endeavors feeds a different part of us,” said Chris. “Trinity Church choir is really something we love. There are church choirs and there are church choirs. If you heard it, you’d think that we were all paid, because it’s that caliber of singers. Having a very polished choir is an essential part of the liturgy. Our organist is a musician from Brown. You have to be able to read music, and it’s very tight harmonies, sometimes five and six parts. We rehearse every Thursday night. It’s a great musical education.”
One with the music
With four musical projects going on at the same, I wondered why they feel the need to be so busy and how they continue at such a pace.
“Music is our communion with the divine. It makes us one with all that is,” said Chris. “When I was a kid, I had a music teacher named Kate Graner. She believed that people are music slowed down, and sometimes sped up. Music is frequencies and vibrations, and we are all of the same stuff. Our matter is energy vibrating at certain speeds.”
“And we all have a vibration,” said Diane. “And music affects that, and you can tell by how you feel when you perform, and you can also feel the audience’s vibration. And that’s how the performer / audience interaction happens.”
Finally, I wondered what advice they might offer to people who want to enter into a life of music, especially married couples and/or people who are in a relationship.
“Music and marriage?” chuckled Diane. “Seriously, for me I’ll say you have to follow your heart, be able to communicate what your passions are and what’s important. To fit music into a normal life can be a hardship if it’s not a true passion. We both know we need it. Music is part of our soul. But it’s a sacrifice. We wouldn’t be happy if we weren’t doing it. We can’t give it up. We can’t not do it. When we’re not singing, there’s a piece missing.”
Look for Chris and Diane on Facebook or at Fellswater.com.
Michael Khouri is a Barrington resident writing occasionally about the Rhode Island music scene. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.