“I have been to a marvelous party.”
Thus wrote/sang/chanted Noel Coward in 1938 and I lived it last Saturday night.
The “marvelous party” was “Encore”, ostensibly a fund-raiser for OperaLex to raise money to support the Opera Program at the University of Kentucky.
What it was, in practice, was a resounding celebration of much that is special about living in the Bluegrass.
To begin with, it was Keeneland, in May; intoxicatingly green, lush, and bursting with life…or at least the assurance of life after Derby.
Then there was the 1938 Rolls Royce convertible just inside the entrance. Is that what it takes to get a good parking space?
Then there was the wine-tasting (thank you Liquor Barn) and the mingling of Lexington’s arts supporters with the singers/students/nascent citizens of the UK Opera program. Seeing Houston Tyrrell (you’ll see him next in GRAND NIGHT FOR SINGING) discussing the merits of a box of stunning South American red wines with Ben Kaufmann (you saw him in last year’s GRAND NIGHT) was jarring. I’m not completely convinced of who was advising whom, but the entertainment value…priceless.
And then the dining room; it was a palace of glassware, auguring well for the meal to come.
From the stage, Jenna Day came back from her home in Los Angeles to guide us through the evening and share her passion for this program and these students. She introduced Dr. Everett McCorvey and Dr. Tedrin Lindsey.
The spirit in the room got higher and higher;
- Tedrin’s program for the evening included selections from the past season; LA TRAVIATA, SHOWBOAT, and BOUNCE the basketball opera.
- Cameron Mills’ and Rex Chapman’s delight for being in the room was obvious and incandescent.
- The passion and the talent of the singers could not be resisted.
- Tshegofatso Clement Baloyi broke everyone’s heart with his “Ole Man River”
- Michael Preacely and Taylor Comstock delivered world-class performances and inspiring personal stories.
- Jessica Bayne defined class for us all.
- Emilia Bustle charmingly explained to us that “Life Upon the Wicked Stage” isn’t what a girl supposes.
These young people come to the University of Kentucky to sing and learn to sing and learn to teach others to sing. Tell me again how Lexington, and Kentucky, and the planet is not made better by that. They are with us for two, three, four, five years. They and Lexington are made better by their time here. It is a kind of gardening of talent, and scholarship, and citizenship. Saturday’s Encore event was a kind of harvesting and renewing of that gardening.
Next year, I propose we measure the height of every participant as they enter the event, and again as they leave. I’m convinced that everyone is two inches taller for having been there.