(HOST) Commentator Deborah Lee Luskin has recently experienced the
shining power of community entertainment – even when the power fails.
I’ve recently attended two events where technological failure has
brought the performances to a halt. The first was a performance by the
Windham Orchestra back in June. The Latchis Theater in downtown
Brattleboro was packed, despite the Sunday afternoon sunshine. First we
heard the world premier of local composer Derek Jordan’s magnificent
Windham Loops. After intermission, we settled in for Beethoven’s Ninth
Symphony, but six minutes into the first movement, the lights flickered
and went out.
silence, the audience waited. No one left, even after word came that a
transformer fire had darkened the south end of town. In the dim
illumination of the emergency lights, jazz musician Moonlight Davis
took the stage and led the audience in song. After "This Little Light of
Mine" and "When the Saints Go Marching In", it became clear that we’d
have to evacuate the theater before the battery packs on the emergency
light ran down. Conductor Hugh Keelan directed the orchestra to play a D
Major chord, and the Windham Festival Chorus sang the triumphant Ode to
Joy before we politely filed out in what had become companionable dark.
following Friday evening, I walked to the Williamsville Hall, a retired
grange that a group of villagers have brought back from neglect. The
group had raised money and invested in a digital projector, a good
screen, and a license allowing them to show movies. A Bugs Bunny short
preceded the feature film of the evening: Seabiscuit, a movie about a
racehorse and his people. About thirty of us were in the audience. Many,
like me, had seen the film before, but couldn’t remember the ending.
Happily, when the disk malfunctioned ten minutes from the film’s
dramatic end, Gloria, our Town Clerk, remembered the final race
educator, Gloria enlisted the help of Sam, the youngest member of the
audience. Together, they enacted the thrilling finale, where Seabiscuit
comes from behind to win. We left the hall feeling well entertained –
and lucky. This low-key event had turned into something more than we had
bargained for. We’d all come out to watch the movie together, and
together we were able to create a satisfying ending to what could have
been a frustrating technical failure.
failures are surmountable in many ways. After the power failure that
silenced Beethoven’s Ninth, the Windham Orchestra, the Windham Festival
Chorus and the four soloists rearranged their schedules to perform what
was billed as Ode to Joy Take Two. It was another sunny, Sunday
afternoon, and again, the Latchis Theater was filled. We were again
treated to Jordan’s Windham Loops, a feast of sound filled with musical
influences from around the world and featuring remarkable percussion
solos. And then, after intermission, the power stayed on. The entire
event was indeed an ode to joy.