It’s May in Lexington.
It’s always a miracle. I wouldn’t miss it for the world…and never have.
It’s stupidly green. My lawn needs mowing every fifteen minutes. My trumpet vine hedge shouts “GREEN” to the sky and defies any attempt to pacify it. Every tree simultaneously erupts in a kind of chemical warfare, turning noses red, squeezing eyes shut, and sparking a drumroll of non-contagious, but orbit-achieving sneezes in much of the population.
And then, we have this horse race nearby. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s cool – 143 years cool.
I went to the Derby…decades ago. I threw my Frisbee in the infield. I got heroically muddy. I spent eight hours at the track one day and never glimpsed a horse. I sang a sad song and mysteriously cried, making my mud run, oblivious to the song’s original intent. It was real good time.
But after mowing the lawn, whacking on the trumpet, sneezing, avoiding mint juleps & poison ivy, weeping no more, and the two minute frenetic bewilderment of a herd of beautiful animals I’ve never heard of stampeding to a measure of glory likely to be forgotten in a couple of weeks…what then?
Well, oddly enough, in Lexington we turn our attention to singing songs beyond Stephen Foster’s canon.
For the last quarter-century an unlikely event happens in Lexington; It’s a Grand Night for Singing. For six nights 80+ singers, dancers, and musicians perform fierce, powerful renditions of songs from Broadway and Hollywood, old and current. Thousands of people fill the seats, their hearts to be moved by the singers of the nationally-recognized University of Kentucky Opera Theatre.
In the interest of full-disclosure, personal pride, and to keep this account going, I must fess up to having participated in this event a number of times, though frankly, the quality of the event left this hippie geezer in the dust years ago.
But there have been moments to treasure.
The first time I did the show was in 1993. I was asked to sing “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” from My Fair Lady. I marched in front of the orchestra to the center of the stage and began by declaiming; “Damn! Damn! Damn! Damn! Damn!” At which point, a five-year-old girl in the audience chirped; “Damn!” The audience went quiet……yes, as a tomb. I turned in the general direction of the child, paused, and offered; “Everyone’s a critic.” It was probably the biggest ovation I’ve ever received.
When the show ended, the parents of the offending (?) child sought me out to apologize. I felt like I owed them money.
May in Lexington…Grand Night for Singing…miracles…I wouldn’t miss them for the world.