A Quietly Extraordinary Afternoon

40-plus people gathered in a room in an historic neighborhood in Lexington. The people brought food. They brought wine. They brought minds and hearts questing for a higher dialogue than we endured in Cleveland last week. They were promised Beethoven. That was the lure that brought them out on an insufferably hot Central Kentucky afternoon.

A word about the room itself.

It’s located on New Street; no more than an alley inaccurately named, since it’s one of the oldest streets in town. The room was designed with this afternoon in mind. As our pianist declaimed; “It’s not a living room, it’s a musical salon.” The walls of the room are ornamented with musical instruments – real musical instruments with individual histories of performance. The room is strewn with photographs that document the personal saga of our hostess performing the words of Thomas Merton with John Jacob Niles.

Indulgent Side Note.

Playboy 02

  • My first show at the University of Kentucky was J. M Synge’s “Playboy of the Western World” in 1969 (pictured above). I had been a student at UK for about four weeks when the show opened. I initiated the show by slowly pushing a center stage door open, peering straight out at the audience, and timidly inquiring; “Where’s himself?” On opening night, I pushed the door and peered straight into the whiskered face of John Jacob Niles. I wasn’t quite sure if I should say my line or simply sit down on the floor and wait for him to pull out his dulcimer and sing. Understand, I would pretty much be in heaven with either choice. My fellow actors, the rest of the audience, and probably Mr. Niles himself were lucky that I chose to move on with the play.

End of Indulgent Side Note.

Our hostess this afternoon is Jackie Roberts, a remarkable singer and teacher who has nurtured and continues to nurture several generations of Lexington musicians. When I arrived early this afternoon to set up the chairs for the concert, she had already completed the task herself and “hoped that was alright.” We sat and chatted. She told me with a pride I could only envy from afar that one of her young students had just been cast in this October’s production of “Ragtime” by the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre.

The crowd, the food, and the performers arrived.

The musical program was superb.

Dr. Tedrin Lindsay’s introduction to his performance of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata #2 to open the afternoon placed us in the time and spirit of the piece. I felt as if I was sitting, turning pages for, and peeking over the shoulder of Beethoven as Tedrin played. It was not a performance tethered to today. It was adrift in time. We could have been in a room today, a room in Tedrin’s early years (he played today from his sheet music as a youth), or a room in Vienna in 1796. And the Rondo ended with the sigh Tedrin promised, closely followed by my own.

Then Dr. Lindsay introduced Janet Scott, a gifted local actress. I’ve worked with Janet in two productions by On the Verge Theatre; Lillian Hellman’s “Little Foxes” and Shakespeare’s “Much Ado”. Tedrin and Janet were featured last year in Athens West Theatre’s “33 Variations” by Moises Kaufmann. Janet and Tedrin performed several selections from that play which features Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. Janet’s diction in this material is as precise and pleasing as the music. Her character’s initial striving for logic decays into a longing for more time…more variations…and the music ends as of course it must…teasing us with the suggestion of the perpetual existence of more music…but no more time. Bravo Beethoven! Brava Ms. Scott!

I think.

Dr. Lindsay closed the afternoon with Beethoven’s Piano Sonata #18, an excellent choice after the first two selections and a favorite of mine. It sounds so modern, so purposeful, so energetic (but energetic with a plan). This is not a young person’s damn the torpedoes idealism. It’s a celebration and exhortation of what’s possible if we’ll just get up and do it.

The room was rapt.

There was no fear in the room.

There was art in the room.

And we all participated.

And we were all made great again

…as we always are when art is in the room.

This happens with frequency in Lexington. We should recognize it and celebrate it every time it does.

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