This Thing Called Courage

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Oh Happy Day

No man, however civilized, can listen very long to African drumming, or Indian chanting, or Welsh hymn singing, and retain intact his critical and self-conscious personality. --Aldous Huxley

One of my friends asked me if I were going to a rodeo show when I told him I was heading to hear the Mystic Chorale. They put on a show a few times a year and my dear friend Rob (shout out to you, MM!) is a member. This time around-- this past weekend-- they were doing Gospel. Scott came with but had to leave at halftime. The show was Sunday afternoon at Cary Hall in Lexington.

Anyway I'm not sure that I had any expectations one way or the other; but to say that they were amazing is the understatement of the year. We were running a tad late and, with still a lot of people milling around in the lobby, we were surprsied to find there were no seats left anywhere, although we were told there were some in the balcony. There weren't. "There's a problem," I told the usher in my best business manner. "They keep saying there are seats up here but there aren't."
"I guess they oversold," he said, with a meek smile.
"So what does that mean?" I continued. "What happens when there are more people than there are seats?"
"They didn't tell us that part," he said. It was impossible to be perturbed so nice was he and I reverted to my normal talk-to-hole-in-the-wall manner and sold him both of my books. Anyway we leaned against the wall and in due course the show began. I was there to support my friend, but was also pleased and surprised to see that my friend Louise was one of the guest soloists, and that her partner and my friend Linda (with whom I have too many connections to enumerate) was part of the group and also would be playing the djembe. Small world!
Anyway the music began and I could have been standing on my head in a tank of water and still I wouldn't have budged. Directed by John Singleton, the group-- maybe about 150 of them?-- were joined by a small band and various soloists and the music was everything Gospel is supposed to be-- joyous, uplifting, powerful, transcending, soulful, and....whatever that nameless thing is that brings you to a higher place within. It truly was one of the best musical performances I have ever heard (and let's not forget this goes all the way back to my wild teen days seeing the Grateful Dead and The Who!) and more than once the music moved me to tears-- not easy for a case-hardened soul like myself! :) It was impossible not to move to this music, or pick up the radiating energy of those performing it. So often one goes to a show, play, recital, etc and 15 minutes into it your sneaking peeks at the programme to see how much longer you have to endure it. In this case I was also looking at the programme-- but only to see how much longer I would remain in this bliss they took me to. It was that good.
Afterwards I introduced Rob to Linda and Louise and we hung out for a bit, and the three of them were glowing like children after performing a Christmas play-- as well they should have been. Picasso said every child is born an artist-- the trick is retaining that as we age. For that time in Cary Hall on a wickedly cold Sunday afternoon in late February, the Mystic Chorale made children of us all. As the Old Irish say, "God bless the work!"

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