Rejoice, O,|Ye Millions!

     To the contrary, I never said that.
     I did not disparage the other 49 states of the union, the District of Columbia, and our overseas territories and … ahem … possessions.
     I merely said that Vermont is better.
     Consider the events of last Sunday, featuring Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the Latchis Theater, the power failure and a gospel singer named Moonlight Davis.
     The Latchis is a wonderful old monstrosity with the 12 signs of the zodiac painted across its sky-blue ceiling, niches in its walls, and platforms bearing fake Greek and Roman statues. All the things you might expect some drunk might have dreamed up in 1923, then saved up his pennies and built over the next 15 years. I love the place.
     Last Sunday the Latchis was packed to the roofbeams for the world premier of local composer Derrik Jordan’s “Windham Loops” – named for our fair county – followed by Beethoven’s Ninth, performed by the Windham Orchestra and volunteer chorus.
     Halfway through the first movement, the power went out. Blown transformer on Main Street.
     In the feeble glow of the Latchis’ emergency lights, the crowd called for – a gospel singer. And Moonlight Davis answered the call.
     Mr. Moonlight strode purposefully, but carefully, to the stage, to lead the crowd in “This Little Light of Mine.” Accompanied by a fiddle player who knew the tune.
     I am not making any of this up.
     The audience of roughly 700 joined in.
     If you don’t know the words, you can always hum.
     Mr. Moonlight, and his pick-up band of 700, encored with “When the Saints Go Marching In,” accompanied by the brass section, whom I would never presume to accuse of drinking on the job. Even though it was dark. And those trombone cases are pretty big.
     Then, when crowds in New York or Philadelphia would have been trashing the orchestra pit, conductor Hugh Keelan asked the orchestra to hit a D major chord. And the well-rehearsed, unpaid chorus launched into “Freude Schöne Gotterfunken, Tochter aus Elysium, Wir betreten feuertrunken, Himmlische, dein Heiligtum.”
     Go ahead and sing. Hum, if you don’t know the words.
     (My own favorite line from Schiller’s poem is “Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben” – Pleasure was given even to the worm – and who could doubt it?)
     But I digress.
     As the “Ode to Joy” concluded, the Latchis’ batteries were dying, and the audience was asked to stand not upon the order of their going, but depart. And they did, in orderly fashion. But not before they presented the customary bouquet of flowers to the conductor.
     The reason I bring the whole thing up is that you may count upon your left thumb the number of counties in the United States – population 44,000, largest town 11,000 – that could put together an orchestra and chorus that would dare to attempt Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – much less do it well – much less commission a contemporary composer to write symphonic music.
     I maintain – and history, I believe, will bear me out – that such a thing could only happen in Vermont. Or perhaps Siberia, in some remote village to which the old Soviet Union exiled its professors and artists, and Vladimir Putin forgot, or preferred not, to call them back. Only, they would not have commissioned a piece of music. They would have ordered it.
     Well, that’s this week’s story about Vermont. I am a transplant to the state, and the only reason I do not write more often about the place is that I don’t want to see you around here.
     This was not the first such concert at the Latchis, by the way. A few years ago a similar thing happened during a concert by the (apparently) immortal drummer Roy Haynes and his quartet, during a fierce rainstorm. Mr. Haynes’ group soldiered on, by lamplight. That was a good concert too.

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