I never really liked Kevin Costner, the actor, but as a formerly avid movie-goer I saw a lot of his early films. I watched him as Eliot Ness as he took down the crime kingpin Al Capone. I “Danced with Wolves” alongside him as he realized the US Calvary was not on the side of God. I treaded water along with the survivors of a world-wide apocalypse that left the earth a “Waterworld”. But the movie that I remember best was the allegorical “Field of Dreams”. You remember it, don’t you? An Iowa farmer hears voices that tell him to build a baseball stadium in the middle of one of his corn fields. He follows their lead and subsequently watches as notorious ghostly members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox (who were banned from the sport for throwing the World Series) magically take the field and redeem themselves with one final baseball game. It’s not because it was an acting tour de force, or for that matter that the storyline was all that clever or captivating. But the film achieved something truly memorable. Here’s what -- the voice that Costner heard repeated over and over told him “If you build it, they will come”. This motivating phrase, over a relatively short period of time, has worked its way into the American vernacular. In just a few words it legitimized the passions that so many of us keep suppressed as we defer to safer and more practical choices – so safe as to make life seem bland and colorless at times.
Let me explain this as I understand it. In the film the voices were not just telling our hero to build this eccentric ball park in the middle of nowhere. They were recommending that if you pour the right energy into the right place at the right time then you stand a good chance of experiencing some of the best feelings that our dreams seem to offer us.
I’m not a fan of unflinching self-regulation. It chooses to ignore those mysterious voices from who-knows-where. It seems to quarrel with that electric buzz (no, not that other buzz) you get while listening to great live music (in the right place at the right time). It’s at odds with your right to hoot and holler at the end of a great tune, or stand up to dance in place because your body says it’s time to do so. It doesn’t approve of that surprise moment when you realize that you, and every other stranger in a crowded room are holding hands and swaying to the music. Then there’s that quiet place you find yourself in when your eyes are closed and you hear a beautiful slow song that tells you it’s alright to have strong feelings – even the sad ones. We don’t balance on a point. We live on the range! We are thrilled to ride the wave of a sine curve.
In just a few weeks Unity Hall will resume its live music offerings as our Fall calendar unfolds. As I wrote this, I promised myself I wouldn’t go into great detail – the musicians are all outstanding. But as you read through the blurbs take a minute and try to recall how you felt the last time you walked through the various areas of Unity Hall, with its tall wooden bowed ceiling and the way that the light splashed against those lacquered surfaces. Here are the nuts and bolts of the schedule:
Saturday, September 14: A double bill featuring (1) the Burns and Kristy Band, an exhilarating group from the Ithaca area (Terry is one of the plentiful and oh-so-musical Burns Sisters). Great harmonies, stellar guitar work, husband and wife chemistry, just the right cover tunes, and originals that remind us that just as you think all new music is boring there are still some bonanzas to be discovered. AND (2) Sirsy, a high energy duo with Melanie playing drums and bass pedals (from a standing position) and Rich delivering his impressive guitar work. Mel’s voice will take on all comers. Sirsy already has a strong fan base in our area. Ask your friends about them or lead the charge.
Saturday, October 19: Ed Rosenburgh brings our time-tested favorites The Dust Devil Band back for another outstanding concert on the Ed Rosenburgh stage. This annual event is always a great party. Opening for the DDB will be the bluesy vocals of Syd Pinto accompanied by area favorite Paul Case.
Saturday, October 26: National Celtic fiddle Champion Jamie Laval returns to Unity Hall two years after his sell-out show here (he had the floor shaking with stamping feet from his first set of tunes). Jamie’s stories behind the tunes are as entertaining as the tunes themselves.
Saturday, November 16: Last year Unity Hall had a Singer/ Songwriter competition that brought out the area’s best players. Jay Schnitt galloped away with First Prize that night, followed by Second Prize winner Gina Holsopple. This evening highlights these two outstanding local performers in the intimate setting of the first floor Hinge Parlor Room in a well-deserved night of their own.
Friday, December 6: I’m thrilled to bring Boston-based Session Americana to the Unity Hall stage. I saw this 6-piece band at a big music conference last year, first on a large stage as they huddled around a curiously placed coffee table that seemed right at home, and then in an after-hours showcase held in a jam-packed hotel room. The anything-can-happen feel of a Session show brings a kind of ease and genuineness to their timeless music, sometimes presenting their latest batch of original songs, sometimes reaching back into depths of the American song bag. Their members have played with Patty Griffin, Josh Ritter, and the J. Geils Band.
If you build it, they will come. The right energy in the right place at the right time. Temperature’s rising. You’ll be missed if you’re not there.