Coldplay frontman Chris Martin plays the Hygeia!
Every once in a while, something magical happens on this little island. On an otherwise ordinary day last week, just two days before Thanksgiving, this very thing happened. And, it was truly magical.
I had received a phone call a week earlier from my friend Lisa Starr, asking me if I was going to be around during Thanksgiving. I assured her that I would be here and asked what was going on.
She informed me that through her friend, the poet Coleman Barks, an opportunity existed for the lead singer from Coldplay, Chris Martin, to come out to the island for a surprise visit with Coleman, renowned as an interpreter of Rumi and other mystic poets, which would also coincide with Lisa’s daughter Millie’s birthday. Millie is a big Coldplay fan. Although the details were still up in the air, we were both giddy with excitement about the reality of this “meet your favorite rock star” possibility. Would it actually happen?
Lisa runs the Hygeia House on Beach Avenue, a wonderful bed and breakfast rich with island history, and home to the annual Block Island Poetry Project event. The Hygeia House is also where a small group of island friends got to meet, talk with and listen to the music of Chris Martin.
Martin arrived by helicopter in the early afternoon of Tuesday, Nov. 25, and was able to spend some time with Lisa and Coleman before people started arriving to meet him. It was all pretty hush-hush, those who knew were sworn to secrecy to avoid a mob scene, of sorts. Millie had invited her friends and classmates and Lisa had invited a few friends as well, so the gathering was going to be small.
When I arrived, Millie and her friend Kiley Hall were in the kitchen heating up food prepared by Cindy Kelly, of Pots and Kettles, to serve for lunch. The star-struck look on their faces was priceless as they informed me that “he” was sitting in the living room chatting with Lisa, and that his guitar was sitting on the dining room table — we all went over to look at it, like it was made of gold. I put my hand on it it, and they giggled, saying that they had touched it as well.
Star-struck at any age, my age…their age.
I made my way into the living room where, sure enough, Chris Martin was comfortably sitting while chatting with Coleman and Lisa. He stood as he reached out to shake my hand to introduce himself. He wanted to know about life living on the island, what we all did, how many kids went to the school, if we enjoyed the solitude of the winter months and recalled a day-trip he and his former wife, Gwyneth Paltrow, and their kids took to the island last summer. Friends of Millie’s trickled in, each a little glazed over when greeting Chris.
Over lunch, the group chatted about playing poker, what all of our first rock concerts were (Chris Martin’s was The Flaming Lips) and Lisa read a poem she felt inspired to share. Several other friends arrived, so we then migrated to the living room where the light was soft and the fireplace was lit. Music started to fill the air as Silas Monje started playing Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” on the piano in the corner of the room. We all sang along and Chris Martin listened with closed eyes, belting out the lyrics. Chris took his place at the piano, the moment we all had waited for, and started playing “Viva La Vida”, which was just as amazing, if not better, than any recorded version.
Next up was Thea Monje, playing her dad’s guitar, with an amazing rendition of “Pride and Joy,” by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Thea then passed over that guitar to Chris Martin, who asked if it would be okay to tune the guitar to an open G, a chord often used by the Rolling Stones, Chris explained, and which provides a nice sound. He accompanied Coleman, who recited some poetry to the music Chris felt inspired to improvise. From there we urged Cameron Greenlee to join Chris on piano as he broke into a few favorite songs by Hank Williams — “Lost Highway” and “Hey, Good Lookin’”
Chris sat at the piano again, trying to decide what song to play and chose “Yellow,” which he stated was special to him because it was the first song that brought his band Coldplay to America. Again, it was an amazing acoustic version, played with such feeling, bringing emotion to the room, as we all listened in awe to the beautiful lyrics — “Look at the stars, look how they shine for you….” This was the most magical part of the day, it was so fitting for the occasion, for the people there, for Millie, for Lisa, Coleman, the Hygeia House.
As the day grew late, it was time for Chris to head off, back to the airport to head home — but not before he posed for photos with the kids, took a few “selfies” of he and Coleman, and saying goodbye to each and every person there.
When he was gone, we were all left wondering “did that really just happen?”
Yes, it did.
Every once in a while, something magical happens on this little island.