“If you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air,
Quaint little villages here and there,
You’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod...”
The lyrics are sweet and the sentiment is chowder-thick in the gold record-earning anthem to seaside charm crooned by Patty Page back in 1957. If ever there were an unofficial theme song for the Cape, “Old Cape Cod” is unmistakably the one, adapted into lyrics by Milton Yakus and set to music by Allan Jeffrey over 60 years ago from a poem written by Claire Rothrock, a Boston woman pining for her favorite seaside getaway.
In these days of social distancing, after—how many weeks now?— spent binge-watching Netflix and baking loaves of sourdough, lots of people find themselves missing old Cape Cod, even those who live here. We miss our friends. We miss our old familiar haunts and habits. We miss a hot, busy summer that seems almost like a dream. With this in mind, Tony Raine of Chatham, general manager and head of production at the Cape Cod Melody Tent since 1994, found himself thinking of ways to bring local musicians out of isolation and create a sense of unity during the lonely days of the COVID-19 crisis.
“When we first isolated, I thought of an online music community and I thought local,” Raine said. “What song might unite all the artists on Cape Cod? Also, there was a lot of fuss about summer homeowners ‘invading’ to escape the city, and we really don’t want to alienate them. We’ll be needing them all here as soon as (it is safe to visit)! I think anything that creates and maintains a sense of community can only benefit us all.”
Raine reached out to musicians Cape-wide and beyond, asking them to record their own socially distanced versions of the song, kind of like music video selfies, which could then be collaged together to create a unified musical love letter to Cape Cod. Thirty artists contributed, and their unique individual styles and approaches make the completed project a fun and fascinating watch. No matter the instrument or the voice, the common thread is plain to see in every performance included: affection for the place we call home and a yearning for the kind of familiarity, connection and togetherness that we remember and look forward to once again when the COVID-19 coast is clear.
Integral to the creation of “Love Notes from Cape Cod” was the help of radio personality Cat Wilson, hostess and executive producer of The Cheap Seats on Ocean 104.7 on Sunday evenings at 8 p.m.; well-known Cape performer Lisa Jason; and her daughter, video producer and editor Kayla-Rose Jason.
Lisa Jason said that just about any singer who has spent time here has likely found themselves singing “Old Cape Cod” at one time or another.
“I grew up singing this song,”Jason said, “sometimes at venues here on the Cape, while looking out over the water. Magic!”
Jason sees the song as not only a way to bring musicians together, but also a love letter to all of the people who love to visit the Cape to let them know that when life returns to something safer and more normal, Cape Cod will be waiting. She recorded her vocal in her laundry room (“good acoustics!”) on her iPhone. Her friend and colleague Yaron Gershovsky, musical director for The Manhattan Transfer, arranged and recorded musical accompaniment in his studio in Queens. Kayla-Rose Jason, a talented singer as well, then put the two together, adding them to the clips sent by 28 other contributors, including a hauntingly lovely rendition by her sister, Allie Jason.
“The goal is to send a message to everyone who loves Cape Cod, that we are still connected and supporting each other through this trying and unpredictable time,” Lisa Jason said. “With our new normal at the moment, virtual connection has become a way of life, and so important as each of us individually navigate the stress and anxiety, the profound sadness we are collectively feeling as a world. At times there are no words, arts speaks. Especially now, when we are isolated and want and need human connection.”
Harwich resident and Americana musician Digney Fignus heard about the project when Wilson reached out via Facebook. His contribution is a fun, energetic take on the old classic.
“I had never performed the tune,” Fignus said. “I was familiar with it from Patti Page, but it was not the kind of song that would have ended up in my band’s repertoire. I did have a lot of fun morphing the tune into a punked-out, Ramones-ish rendition that I sent in along with the traditional arrangement.”
Fignus said that even if it’s not face-to-face, it’s always fun collaborating with other musicians on a project.
“It helps to fill the creative void,” Fignus said. “People don’t realize how much music is a part of the fabric of everyday life. In Joni Mitchell’s words, ‘you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone’.”
Kayla-Rose Jason enjoyed the monumental task of selecting the highlights from each unique performer’s contribution and editing them together to form a cohesive whole that preserves each artist’s individuality.
“It was a great deal of fun,” she said. “It was like a large puzzle, trying to piece the different styles together. These projects create a sense of community and a statement that we are not alone. People want to take part because they are passionate to create, and during this time, it’s the best that we can do. It shows that even during a pandemic, people can come together and sing about a place we hold dear. It’ll be alright in the end. We will make it through this together.”
“The message is simple,” Raine said. “We are here on Cape Cod and we look forward to welcoming all our friends and visitors back when it’s safe to do so. Stay safe and well, and feel free to sing along. See you soon on old Cape Cod!”
View the video on YouTube.com by visiting the Old Cape Cod Love Notes channel and selecting “Old Cape Cod - Collage.” Individual performances by contributing musicians are also available to view on the Old Cape Cod Love Notes channel. The collage video can also be found by visiting https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVJp42t8DDe1BaW56lxXLoQ.