Whether it’s a classical piece performed by an orchestra or an old standard sung by a solo vocalist, accompanied by nothing more than a beat-up guitar, live music has the power to transport us out of the everyday and into a space where we become more aware of our connections to each other and the rest of the world.
To open our summer music season, I took my daughter and my beau to the Crane Estate to hear the Orchestra on the Hill, Ipswich’s community orchestra. Did you know we have a community orchestra? Neither did I! The evening’s program included pieces by Mozart, Bach, and Vivaldi and featured gifted guest soloists on the trumpet, violin, flute, harp, and bassoon.
I am not a classical music aficionado. I didn’t realize, for instance, that you are expected to applaud only at the end of a piece and not between the movements (despite a long, inviting pause that tempts the uninitiated to burst into enthusiastic – and slightly embarrassing – accolades). Despite my lack of refinement, I know quality when I hear it. The Orchestra on the Hill is an outstanding and passionate group of musicians. Clearly, these people – most of them volunteers – put in countless hours and big pieces of their hearts to bring us beautiful music.
And bring it, they did.
As the lyrical melodies and stirring musical phrases filled the ballroom, I could almost see a thread of connection running from one musician to another, out into the audience, and back again. We entered the room as strangers, but parted as – if not friends – companions bound by a shared experience … fellow travelers on a musical journey.
Now that the weather is turning and Memorial Day is almost upon us, the opportunities for new musical adventures abound. Each time I walk down Market Street, I see new posters announcing performances of all kinds – jazz, folk, classical, blues. There’s something for everyone.
The picnic concerts at the Crane Estate have become a staple of our summer, especially the season finale with our own Orville Giddings. Stone Soup and Christopher’s Table offer the chance to hear great jazz, local bands, and more. And, if you’re looking for a tune on a Saturday afternoon, come down to Zumi’s. I especially love the way Ben, James, Bill, and Nathaniel (aka “Labor in Vain”) combine voice, guitar, and mandolin to create a foot-tapping musical space that’s filled with good karma.
Our local talent is stirring things up beyond town borders as well. Miranda Russell is playing the beautiful Shalin Liu theatre in Rockport this weekend. Mark Earley performs at a number of venues playing with some fabulously fun and talented acts including Roomful of Blues and the marvelously sassy Nancy Hildegard Jazz Extravaganza at Chianti’s Jazz Lounge in Beverly. And I have to tip my hat to our own Melissa Ferrick who travels the country telling the stories of her life through her original songs.
That’s what music is about – stories. Songs capture moments, feelings, and dreams. With or without words, they help us understand and express what it is to be human … what it is to experience life in all its complexity, heartache, grace, and joy. Live music performances give us the chance to touch, taste, and feel the essence of life – all bottled up in an elixir of simple sounds, combined to tell a tale and offer us a little slice of life.
I hope you get the chance to go out and hear some live music this summer. Take your loved ones, your family, and your friends. Let the music and the lyrics, the players and the playing take you away and bring you back home to the place where we’re all in this together, each of us a part of the other’s story.
This piece was originally published in The Ipswich Chronicle (my local, hometown paper).