Thursday, June 10, 2004

Sol Fest

I've said it before: Key West is a city of festivals, and a plush cultural oasis on a town of only 27,000 permanent residents. I am reminded of that by having gone to St. Paul's Church on Tuesday evening for a concert given by students of the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, MA. Donna Roll, director of Opera at Longy (that's with a soft 'g' by the way, like it was a 'j') is also Opera Director for Sol Fest, a summer music program organized by the Key West Symphony Orchestra to teach local children the performing arts.

The concert on Tuesday was free, though donations were suggested. I arrived a few minutes before the 7:30 scheduled start time to find a church nearly empty. There was a woman outside, a visitor, who looked as puzzled as I felt. I asked her if she knew anything. She didn't. I asked if there was a crowd inside. There wasn't. Feeling hopeful, I went inside and joined the other ten or so people already there. The woman from before was inside, and told me that there would indeed be a program, that the performers were being entertained in the church hall but would soon be coming over.

And so they did. About fifteen people in all, dressed formally with gowns and tuxedos, and appearing to be mostly young, in their twenties and thirties for the most part.

What followed was over an hour of short operatic pieces, solos, duets and trios, and some really good performances. The performers were all students or faculty of the Longy School, pursuing advanced degrees in vocal music. They were from all over, including several who were from Florida (including a former Miss Miami, who sang like a nightingale). One was a recent graduate of Oxford University with a doctorate in mathematics, who was now pursuing a masters degree in voice at Longy.

All were accomplished in what they did, there were no sour notes that my ears could pick up. The faculty member who performed, one Robert Honeysucker (you gotta love that name, Honeysucker), performed with students in several operatic pieces, and sang two spirituals, one of which I remember, Who Will Sanctify the Lord. He had a fine baritone voice. A young man from Romania also gave a strong performance. The women (and there were mostly women in the group) were all very good, with a couple of stnadout performers. I wish I had made notes.

But, I went not to take notes, only to be entertained, and I certainly was that. I was hoping that there'd be some kind of printed program to take away, but the whole thing was run much less formally than that. I'll take it as just one of those great Key West moments when the finer musical arts share some space with the -- how am I gonna say this? I don't want to offend anyone here, so I can't say the lesser, or less fine musical arts. There's much of the more popular, aah - that's it - kind of music that happens in many of the fine drinking establishments about town. I'll be having more to say about that kind of music as well, as time goes by.

Music is important to me, though I'm nearly a musical illiterate when it comes to understanding it at a technical level. I consider myself a music appreciater, but certainly not a musician. Red and Little Boy are helping me to train my ear to be able to hear and understand some of the subtleties of the music, but these are new tricks and I'm just an old dog.

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