Sunday, November 6, 2011

Extraordinary Moments

There is a phenomenal sense of community in New Orleans. Though the city's communal identity is a fluid one, there are definitely some very recognizable cultural anchors. We've talked about the cultural mores of architecture, food, and music – Last night, though, I had the opportunity to witness the social ripple from another cultural anchor: Sports. 

The jazz club I was at last evening, Irving Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse, had a great atmosphere - chill, relaxed, and the focus was on the music. Jazz is not background here. The group that was performing was the Shannon Powell Trio with Shannon Powell on drums, Evan Christopher on clarinet and sax, and Matt Lemmler on piano. The playing was tight, the solos innovative and invigorating, and the engagement between the players and the audience was electric. The second set was just starting to take off when a young lady walks through the door to the club and announces "The Tigers won!" - immediately, Evan Christopher goes into an impromptu riff on the LSU fight song. The band joins in, and they each take solos, with Shannon Powell chanting 'hold that tiger' throughout. There is so much I loved about that moment- two different anchors of New Orleans culture, jazz and sports, combining at the highest levels for an experience of community, spontaneity, joy, and sheer musical brilliance. It was breathtaking. 

The essential repertoire list for any El Sistema program in New Orleans continues to both grow and sharpen in my mind. I've discovered this music at street parades and jazz clubs, in atmospheres of celebration and joy. The music that the children will play will not only connect them to each other, but it will serve as a bridge to the greater community of New Orleans, to both past and present, as they, themselves create their future. 

Questions of the day:
How can an orchestra access cultural anchors outside of music?
How would an orchestra become a cultural anchor for a community? 

1 comment:

  1. I wonder, once Abrue is not an anchor, spiritually and monetarily, how long El Sistema will last for the disenfranchised street kids, as it does now. Now it brings a modicum of fame to Venezuela, but when the guiding light is no longer there?

    The orchestra to be, in New Orleans? From street kids? Kids whose families have lost evrything? Or from kids like the ones in the Lab school up here, who already know of the magic of music and will be , if not great, reasonable musicians? I feel the New Orlean's public will support their own. You enable and lead, if they join you....