Sure, Green Valley’s got talent, but it’s the sun, mountains and people that draw it here — then hold it tight.
Just ask Gerald Carrell, the main act for Monday’s Green Valley’s Got Talent at the Community Performance and Art Center, which our paper helps sponsor. He sings in 23 languages, but more on that later.
Carrell, 60, discovered Tucson, then Green Valley, through his in-laws. He and his wife visited two years ago from their home in Seattle, “but we weren’t thinking of moving down here at all. But when we got closer to retirement…”
…Green Valley was pretty much the only place on the list, and they made the move permanent this year. It wasn’t a tough sell.
“Where I lived, it’s miserable 10 months out of the year,” he said.
Gerald and his wife decided they could retire early and make it on their school teacher pensions — he taught music 25 years and computer science five; she taught first grade the past 20 years. “We just decided it was time,” he said.
Washington was home because that’s where Carrell attended Spokane’s Whitworth University. But he’s from Hawaii. Paradise was dumped from the “places to retire” list because he has relatives on nearly every island and they’re deep into politics, public service, education, you name it. Everybody knows them.
“I didn’t want them in my business all the time,” he said with a laugh.
Carrell is known, too, spending years “in and out of the performing world,” and teaching all ages.
Since age 30, he’s done a lot of work in churches, leading worship, “playing a side gig here and there; I helped a friend produce an album. When you’re teaching you don’t have a lot of time to gig.”
Now he does, and he’s been overwhelmed by what he’s found here. The first time he sat in with the Silver City Jam Band he was sold.
“I can’t tell you how welcoming the music community is here. That is unheard of in the business. People are so wonderful, so marvelous.”
He’s not so bad himself. As a former band director, Carrell can play most instruments and has jammed with several groups in the area — jazz, country, blues, rock — and he aims to check out the Green Valley Concert Band.
He says he reaped the benefits of renewed interest and pride in Hawaiian culture and language driven by the civil rights movement of the ’60s and ’70s. He said his mother wasn’t allowed to speak Hawaiian in school after first grade, “and neither was any other Hawaiian child.”
On the verge of extinction, the language saw a resurgence thanks to the musicians of the day. Carrell took every opportunity to learn, and today has performed songs in nearly two dozen languages, many from Polynesia (Samoan, Fijian, Maori), along with Tagalog, Japanese, Chinese and most European tongues. On Monday, he’ll sing mostly in Hawaiian.
Then he’ll head back home filled with gratitude for new friends, good music and Green Valley.
“I’m sitting here looking at the blue skies and the sunshine and the mountains and I’m thinking, yeah, we’re home.”
— Dan Shearer