Sunday, June 28, 2015

Super Troupers

Summer around here is chockablock with opportunities to hear live music outdoors, but because afternoon thunderstorms have equal claim to the calendar, local bands don't always get to play when or where they think they're going to. Such was the case last Thursday evening, when a fine quintet called the Gravy Boys was unceremoniously booted from an all-too-exposed stage under the "Lucky Strike" tower in Durham by a driving rain. I saw the sound crew and event managers scurrying to tie tarps over speakers, and assumed that the show would have to be rescheduled. Happily, I hadn't reckoned on the band's willingness to "improvise, adapt, and overcome."

What the Gravy Boys did was move about a hundred yards from the unusable stage to set up shop under the covered arcade that links two long brick buildings in the American Tobacco complex. They pushed chairs aside and played "unplugged" for appreciative fans in a show that ended up being more intimate,and possibly more enthusiastic, than the amplified gig would have been.

The band couldn't compete with the sound of rainwater or thunder, but fans skooched close to hear the boys give it their best shot. The Durham Bulls were on a rain delay nearby. Although Mother Nature managed to halt baseball, she was a little more forgiving with "Gravy Nation." Everybody  enjoyed the makeshift show so much that the band actually played two encores.

It's great when professionalism and grit also turns out to be fun.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Make art, not reparations

There is nothing wrong with reparations as such, but grievance-mongering in our society seems now to be so commonplace that when we're not careful, the entitlement attitude that goes hand-in-hand with demands for reparations can hold other activities hostage.

An almost-comically conflicted poet got me thinking about things like that. Somebody convinced the poor guy that art was a zero-sum game, probably over the course of several years. Cowed by "social justice warriors," he fears now that by using his own talents, he might be robbing other people of the chance to use their talents.

Baloney, I say. Logic like that would only apply if you decided that your "talent" was something like beating other people up for money. That's not the case for most of us, including the poet whose confused confession in an open letter got my attention.

People don't read George Orwell as much as they used to, which is a shame. If the price of diversity is selective silence, then "some animals are more equal than others," and it's time to re-frame the argument, so as to aspire instead or again to the good, the true, and the beautiful.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Theology and strategy

I'd be lying if I said I felt "scandalously close to God" on this Feast of Corpus Christi in the Catholic liturgical calendar, but John Bergsma uses that phrase effectively in his wonderful meditation on the scripture readings for Mass today, and I was privileged to be able to proclaim the text from the Letter to the Hebrews before I'd read what Bergsma had to say about it.

I like his meditation because it draws a line between Moses and Jesus in a tone of barely-suppressed excitement, and that sort of thing can only be done by people who understand both Jewish and Christian traditions.

In other church news that got my attention, the choir at my parish announced its annual atomization. What that means is that for the next ten or so Sundays, congregational singing will be led by a cantor alone, rather than by a cantor-with-chorus, as is typical for us.

Some of the people who cantor open windows onto beauty whenever they sing. Others never seem to manage that, bless their hearts, but still deserve credit for singing in public.

Lacking any kind of insider information as to who will be cantoring when, I already know that one of the ways I'll be looking to nourish my own faith on the days when it does not receive an Official Musical Assist is to sit near acquaintances whom I know are in the choir when that's possible. Another coping strategy (and I'm not ashamed to admit that it is precisely that) involves looking and listening more attentively for providential fingerprints in unexpected settings.

Friend Lynne recently introduced me to a great example of that, in a song called "Hold On Tight" as compellingly performed by Greg Holden. This might be as profound a lyric as you'll hear in pop music:

I'll try not to complain
about the things I have lost;
'Cause when you have something great
that just means there's a greater loss--
So when you look at yourself,
Tell me, who do you see?
Is it the person you've been,
or the person that you're gonna be?