Listen to the Universal Language

Last Tuesday night was the last Hampton Municipal Band concert of the summer. They played with half a band to allow “social distancing;” half a band that sounded like one and a half.

It’s incredible to think that these people are amateurs who only practiced together for 30 minutes. Chris Sauke is no Truman, thank God. But the buck has to stop there. He brought this thing together for a disappointingly small audience. We will go on bragging that we were there for quite awhile because we were blessed.

I have a friend in Sweden who told me something that shocked me years ago even though it was quite obvious: There are people who lack the innate ability to enjoy music. How else to describe the sparse turnout at the band shell. I pity the poor souls who missed this wondrous performance.

Years ago Kevin Schoneman managed the Surf Ballroom and brought world class artists to Clear Lake. I’m talking about people like Joey DeFrancesco, reigning master of the Hammond B3 organ. He played in the lounge to a crowd of about 50 people. Kevin said, “There’s a lot going on.”

As everybody knows, I’m the luckiest guy in the world. My mom had Jascha Heifetz playing Tchaikovsky’s Concerto in D on record, and the Art Van Damme Quintet on a 10-inch LP. Our family saw B.B. King and Ray Charles at Meskwaki Casino outdoors on consecutive weekends from 30 feet away for $25. The list of live performances I’ve seen boggles my mind.

But best of all, I married a fantastic musician and didn’t even know it. I didn’t know what joy came from church music until I was forced into it by love. The raw emotion of the acoustic blues of Robert Johnson got me hooked on music appreciation. I’ve since accepted the euphoria produced from singing out in church with a bunch of white people.

Dawn and our friend Terry decided to perform at nursing homes and parties over ten years ago now. Those old folks love their hymns and country music. That enjoyment is more than words and melodies. The songs are keys to memories. And once you’ve lived eighty or ninety years and are confined to one place, that’s about all there is.

I know this even though I’m able to get out and socialize. I have bad memories of nearly breaking my back water skiing on Long Lake outside of Spokane while listening to Cheap Trick blasting on a cassette. I have good memories of driving home from Cedar Rapids with Hans and Karl after a baseball camp with a Led Zeppelin cassette in the SAAB 900.

However you like it, postpone your routine and take a chance at some live or recorded music. Try different styles. You might find you are genetically gifted with the ability to make tears of joy while listening to one of Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s endless sax solos, or a rousing march by a municipal band.

By the way, the silence is broken by Dawn’s commitment to post a song on Facebook each day.

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