“Thank you so much for your presentation “Showcase: Mike Cheesman” at the Orland Park Public Library. The audience thoroughly enjoyed the presentation, as indicated by the positive feedback we have received about the program. The library is always looking for great programs such as this.”
Head of Outreach Services
Orland Park Library
“On June 14, 2014, the audience at Forest Park Nature Center was blessed to hear a performance from the heart presented by Mike Cheesman. Mike is a UK native and offered a unique perspective on the 100 year anniversary of The Great War. Mike was backed by the talented musical combo of Bruce Burton on mandolin, banjo bouzouki and vocals, and Shannan Sullivan on fiddle.
The show was more than a concert of talented musicians… it was an evening taking the audience on a journey through the thoughts and deeds of the generation that sacrificed so much for all of the nations of the world. Beyond the historical perspective, the songs Mike has put together for this show delve into the hearts and minds of the individuals involved in this first world conflict.
Those thoughts and deeds were poignantly represented in the song “Letters from Wilfred.” Wilfred Edward Owens wrote a total of 644 letters to his mother over a 15-month period. The letters trace his experience through the conflict until his death one week before the war’s end. Mike has set the letters to a rolling ballad that captures the evolution of “WEO’s” opinion of war… from brave young man ready for the adventure, to the seasoned war-weary soldier who has seen too many friends die in the trenches. It is a personal journey that every audience member can relate to, superbly word-smithed into a ballad that reached the hearts and minds of our listening audience.
Mike also wrote the music to the song “In Flanders Field” the powerful poem written by Major John McRae, a doctor who penned his thoughts after witnessing a German gas attack and the loss of a friend. It’s rolling melody again pulls at the heart and depicts not only the horrors of war, but also gives hope for tomorrow in the image of the Flanders poppy.
The last song of the concert was an amazing a cappella rendition of “Only Remembered” a song based on an old gospel hymn with new words by singer-songwriter, John Tamm. Our audience was on its feet, singing along, in harmony and at volume… which is no small feat!
There are those concerts that one can call “Must See” experiences. Mike Cheesman has put together one of those shows. It is one of those historical perspectives that translates into a personal voyage of emotions. War is a heavy subject for a concert. This isn’t some folk-inspired anti-war rally. It is a monument for all who are touched by man’s folly towards man. The aftermath of the Great War is still affecting this world 100 years after we first embarked on it’s bloody start. Unless we learn to understand those demons which we have unleashed upon this world, we are doomed to be their servants. Shows like this help put things in perspective. Thank you Mr. Cheesman for sharing your perspectives and talent!”
Concert Review by Mike Miller, Supervisor of Environmental and Interpretive Services, Peoria Park District
“Mike Cheesman’s Great War show “The Soul of a Soldier” is an intimate, emotional, and educational experience. Mike’s storytelling can make you laugh, make you cry, and make you reflect on what sacrifice, love, courage, and heroism really are. The music is superb and worth going to the show for in and of itself, but the show’s true power lies in the combination of the music with the stories behind each song. Mike truly brings the soul of a soldier to life, and it’s a soul we should all get to know.”
Rev. Dr. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker
Pastor, United Presbyterian Church
“Mike Cheesman’s “Soul of a Soldier” is a wonderful representation of the music of World War I. His performance is equally entertaining and educational. It is a great way to commemorate the anniversary of this historic period.”
Public Programming & Projects Peoria Public Library