Sioux Falls native Daniel May writes magnificent orchestral scores that have brought passion and nuance to such renowned IMAX films as “Everest,” “Dolphins,” “The Living Sea” and “Journey Into Amazing Caves.”
But the 1977 Washington High School grad is a bit of a humorist, too. And you’ll get a sense of that if you attend the concert he and his brother, Benjamin, are performing July 12 at Kresge Recital Hall on the Augustana College campus.
The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. and will benefit Sioux Falls probation officer David Jal’s effort to build a school in his native village of Dunyal, South Sudan. There’s a story coming soon in the Argus Leader that will tell you more.
But I will share with you now that for an hour before the show, May is going to converse with the audience about his work — and perhaps stroll a ways down the memory lane that was his path through the Sioux Falls’ music scene more than 35 years ago.
The son of musicians – his father, Walter, was a composer and a professor at Augustana; his mother, Mary, taught piano and cello – May shared some of those stories with me on the telephone from his home in Pittsburgh. He conjured memories of bands he played with in the early to mid-1970s – groups with names like Zero Ted and Honeysuckle Rose.
He said he was 15 when he used to play at the Stockman’s Bar, now Latitude 44 on North Weber Avenue.
“We always ended up playing at the worst places in town, and Stockman’s was literally on the wrong end of the tracks,” May, 52, told me. “I was not 21, and the rule in a state where the drinking age is 21 was, you could not take breaks and remain inside the bar when you weren’t playing.
“I was 15, so I had to go stand outside. I dreaded the breaks in the wintertime. You had to stand out there in the bitter cold.”
Stockman’s was near the Union Gospel Mission, May recalled. Because they finished so late on Saturday nights, the band members often came back on Sunday mornings to retrieve their equipment, “and I would see half my audience in the soup line at the Mission,” he said. “People would wave at me and say, ‘Nice set last night.’ ”
Stockman’s seemed to draw a lot of large, bearded men with tattoos, May said. When the live music ended, those burly behemoths liked to plunk their money into a jukebox in the bar.
“The dreaded moment was when our break was over,” he said. “That meant you had to go over and unplug the jukebox, even if there was music still playing on it. Nobody among the band members wanted that job. We literally drew straws.”
It wasn’t unusual at Stockman’s for the patrons to get unruly, either, he recalled.
“Somebody poured a whole pitcher of beer in my piano,” he said. “I didn’t even affect the tone. If anything, the piano played better.”
There were other venues where they played – the old Orpheum Theater, or out at the Izaac Walton League grounds.
“They had a thing at the Izaac Walton called Sunday on the Grass,” May said. “We joked about it because many of the people were literally high on grass.”
There’s more of course. And perhaps May will share his experiences collaborating on IMAX films with the likes of the Beatles’ George Harrison, Sting, Lindsay Buckingham and the Moody Blues.
It will cost you $15 at any Lewis Drug to get a ticket and find out.