April 23, 2017

Elevator Music

Editor’s note: This is one of  an occasional feature, In Review. It could be a book, it could be a product, or it could be anything that warrants a review. This time around, it was our farming columnist, John Chisholm, who happened to go to a performance that moved him to write the following.

• By John F. Chisholm •

My wife and I attended Celtic Nights at The Collins Center for the Arts the other night.  They put on a good concert.  They’re a spinoff after Celtic Woman, featuring traditional Irish music and dance.  They threw in some U2 trying to update the show.

It didn’t work.

In fact, the performance felt as though my grandparents were watching “The Lawrence Welk Show.”  Somehow I was transported outside myself, watching my mother’s parents who, in turn, watched the show.  How very odd.  But it would have been cutting edge for them.

The experience was akin to hearing the Beatles or the Rolling Stones while riding an elevator or doing the grocery shopping.  Remembering when a particular song came out and the aversion the performers maintained toward The Establishment at the time only makes the feeling worse.  Because all those musicians from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s have become what they never wanted to be:  Par.  The Golden Oldies of past generations.  Ours.

Don’t misunderstand.  Celtic Nights danced, played and sang beautifully.  My wife reveled in the show so I carefully kept my opinions to myself.  (I am learning, albeit very slowly.)  Moreover, I wish that I could either dance, play or sing.  (Trust me, I do none of the above.  Be delighted.)  Perhaps then the experience would have been enjoyable.  Instead the concert only recalled the process by which renovation becomes the expected and today’s revolution degenerates into tomorrow’s norm.

The concert I attended was the wearing of the edge into elevator music.

That goes beyond nostalgia.  It’s worse than melancholy.  It made the concert aspiration minus any chance, excellence without the slightest hope of success.
That’s my point.

Because I want everybody to strive as hard as those performers.  I desperately crave reward for such struggles.   We need that.  All of us.  Every bit of it.  But it’s only in reaching through the past to beyond it, that reward becomes possible.

Celtic Nights has to chose their work more carefully.  Certainly traditional favorites are appropriate.  But it won’t do Celtic Nights or their audiences any good performing solely what’s already been done.

My grandparents enjoyed Lawrence Welk.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  But for me, watching all that talent on stage performing entirely in the past was wrenching.

I’d far rather that Celtic Nights performed their own music and dance ― even if I didn’t care for it.

As it was, that night broke my heart.

Because it’s going to break theirs, too.