Monday, June 01, 2015

Celebrating a Life with Rickfest

I'll be loving you always,
With a love that's true always.” Irving Berlin

On Friday May 29th, a tremendous outpouring of love filled Delaware Water Gap, PA as hundreds (if not thousands) of Rick Chamberlain's friends and colleagues joined with his family to honor his passing by celebrating his life throughout the Dining Hall of the town's Historic Castle Inn. Memories filled the halls as well as the hearts of those who shared them. These memories were given a musical voice as the upper level of the Hall offered the talents of numerous musicians whose tributes communicated their love in a language no words could ever convey.

These tributes began with those paid by Rick's students which included those who have attended The Celebration of the Arts (COTA) CampJazz which he and Phil Woods established in 2007 to provide young musicians who have a love for jazz an opportunity to explore their talents alongside musicians who have gained a well deserved reputation in the jazz world. They were followed by a number of musicians of whom many guided the CampJazzers through their musically expansive experiences. These musicians included “Sweet” Sue Terry, Evan Gregor, Spencer Reed, Paul Hubbell, Sherrie Maricle, Matt Vashlishan, Jay Rattman, and Bobby Avery who lovingly jammed together as the spirit of Rick Chamberlain guided each note.

The company was followed by the duo know as SheliaMark who consists of Mark Hamza and Sheila Stratton. They were joined by Spencer Reed, Bill Goodwin, Phil Woods, and others. The blues the duo is known for were belted out through music and a voice that slapped the audience with its power and left the gathering desiring more of the same. SheliaMark were followed by a number of musicians from the New York City Ballet Orchestra of whom Rick Chamberlain was their Principal Trombonist. The selections they performed were as majestic as they were reflective of their combined love they had for their friend and comrade. This was followed by a ceremony to honor Rick Chamberlain that was led by Lois Heckman.

The hearts of those who populated the Hall beat as one as stories about the antics and kind love Rick engaged in throughout his life filled the air. These remembrances inspired a great deal of thoughtful laughter that were tempered by tears. The speakers included Rick's sister, a life long friend, Phil Woods who co-founded (or co – Floundered) The Celebration of the Arts Arts and Jazz Festival which has been presented in Delaware Water Gap, PA annually since 1977, members of Rick's first band known as “Good Friends Coyote,” members of the New York City Ballet Orchestra, a friend who was referred to as Rick's “fishing buddy” who performed a song which inspired members of Rick's family to dance around the room. He was followed by Carol Dorshimer who spoke of the contributions Rick has made to the educational community of the area and by his neighbor who shared his memories of living next to the Chamberlains.

After a brief pause, Rick's wife, Darcy, and the adult children who shared a life with the couple stood to share their memories and love with the gathering. Their words touched the heart and soul of every individual who heard them as they added a dimension of love for the man and his family. They were followed by Nancy and Spencer Reed who sang their rendition of the composition titled, “Always” which was Rick's and Darcy's song written by Irving Berlin in 1925 as a wedding gift for his wife Ellin McKay whom he married in 1926. The song touched the gathering in an even more profound way as it's lyric and melody became intertwined with their being.

The reflections the performance inspired was followed by a New Orleans salute to Rick as presented by the Dixieland Gents whom Rick would play with at The Celebration of the Arts Festival as they roamed around the festival site and entertain the audience while the main stage was being set for the performers who were preparing to play. The liveliness of their music filled the room with joy as it served to remind many that death is a doorway to another adventure filled with music and love. They were followed by The COTA Festival Orchestra led by Phil Woods and offered the combined talents of the numerous esteemed musicians who have graced the festival's main stage over the years. They were joined by Bob Dorough who lent his well loved voice and style to enhance a number of compositions. It was after the Orchestra performed did the musical tribute to Rick Cahmberlain (which has been affectionately referred to as “Rickfest”) officially come to an end.

However, there was one gentleman who wanted to share a song he had written for Rick that was not on the schedule. He and his guitar was given the opportunity to do so and it was fortunate for all who heard the song that he was. The lyrics touched upon many aspects of his life which enhanced our love and memory of the man. The conclusion of his performance led to many conversations which furthered the memory of Rick Chamberlain and their words became part of his meaningful legacy. You'll find more photographs taken during the Celebration of the life of Rick Chamberlain at

Rick Chamberlain passed away on Friday March 27th due to pancreatic cancer. He studied music at New England Conservatory and was the Director of The Lafayette College Jazz Ensemble, Principal Trombonist at New York City Ballet Orchestra. Rick is best known to the area for joining with Phil Woods and the late Ed Joubert (who were known as “The Unholy Three”) to begin The Celebration of the Arts Arts and Jazz Festival (COTA) in 1977 which gave birth to COTA CampJazz whom Rick co founded with Phil Woods in 2007. Both the festival and camp are held Annually in Delaware Water Gap, PA and made the town a mecca for jazz enthusiast around the world. COTA's mission is to present and to support the art of jazz in all its forms and historical breadth through youth education, performing arts presentations, scholarship opportunities, and community outreach throughout the Pocono area. You can learn more about Rick Chamberlain and as well as partaking of an opportunity to share your memories at The Celebration of the Arts Facebook Page at or their Website at

Although I've seen and admired Rick Chamberlain's mastery of the Jazz Trombone for many years, it wasn't until 2003 when I got to know him as a person. That was the year I began volunteering for The Celebration of the Arts Festival as a member of its security staff. We chatted a number of times after the general meetings held to plan the event and shared our thoughts on music, art, and many other things. Once he saw my photographic endeavors on line and noted how much I grew as a photographer. His word inspired me to learn more about the art so I would continue to grow in it. When I began writing articles about my experiences during the festival, he requested the first article I wrote be posted on the COTA Website. Rick, you were a great musician but you were an even greater man. I remain humbled by your love for art, music, and life in general. Thank you for being a friend and inspiration. I love you.

Photography by Paparazzi Paul.

No comments: