One of the last things I got to do before my recent retirement from teaching music at Northland College was to take a group of students, each weekday in May, to some outdoor locale within the city limits. And in places like the bicycle and pedestrian tunnel beneath Highway 2, we would set up and do some picking and singing for an hour or so.
We also hit, among other spots, the Ore Dock, the Black Cat’s back patio, Prentice Park Pavilion, and Maslowski Beach, which continues to be my personal favorite fair-weather practice room out in nature’s realm.
All the above-mentioned possible plein aire concert halls do not even come close to exhausting the venue options for outdoor music here in circumpolar paradise, nor is disturbing the peace in this particular manner an original idea from the brain of mine. The bandshell above the lakeshore has been scratching the cultural-musical itch here for maybe a century, and much more recently, Tom Draughon, an incredibly fine and versatile, musician, singer, recordist has organized and performed entire summer seasons in the parks.
There may be a few readers who find such goings on simply annoying, even in the wakeful hours before the wee-small ones. But I think most of us, whether we like to hear music moving in the un-walled air, or to make it happen, feel deep gratitude on a lot of fronts for its presence and possibility.
So, I would like to take this moment to list my own thank yous— for the wonder of Creation which has given us glens, groves, shorelines in abundance to tempt us; to municipal government for condoning and supporting these tonal tendencies; for the mysterious vibrancy of arts and all things cultural in this not very populous or metropolitan place.
Please be advised, however, and here comes the obligatory sermon to the choir, that it gets pretty cold up here pretty quickly during the fall, and that the chill of winter and the bluster or early spring tend to linger, occasionally even outlasting their welcome.
So, the whole outdoor musical soiree-matinee thing is out for a while. Do not despair. The churches, college, schools, civic choral and chamber music organizations, evening get togethers in living rooms, and musicians in pubs, restaurants and galleries all stand in pretty well. As an old song states: In the meantime, in between time, ain’t we got fun! The dance card runneth over with both local and visiting artists.
So I’ll just say one more thank you. To all those who stroll by without walking your puppy-dog or baby stroller quickly across the avenue when you see that I am out picking my banjo and singing (not so beautifully) in the yard on warm evenings, I am deeply grateful. And to those of you that do so, since you clearly have fine and discerning taste, I forgive you unconditionally.
Joel Glickman taught music at Northland College for forty-two years.