Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Arts In The Park

I’m going to TRY to recall some details of the three times I rode the Grand Court Bus down to Cliff Park here in Springfield in July.

(It seems to me that another name for this series was “Summer Arts Festival”.)

I had not been to one of these affairs since Jean and I took some of the grandchildren there, years ago.

When I saw on the Activity Schedule that several “shows” would be visited by the Bus this summer, I wasn’t very interested. Oh, Jean and I enjoyed the times we went, but we could never get there early enough to get seats very close to the front - and, all the “lawn chairs” put there on the morning of the event to save seats, kinda bothered me. (Was I just jealous because OUR chairs weren’t there?)

When I saw the July Activity Schedule, I noticed that Meredith Willson’s Broadway play “Music Man” was scheduled for July 5. I had seen that as a movie several years ago, and I really enjoyed it. Why not take it in?

I asked our Activity Director (Oh…I know that’s not her RIGHT title, but I can’t think of it right now) how this worked. She said, “Well, I take our lawn chairs down real early in the day - reserving a place for us when we arrive. Then, at 6:45PM, we all get on the bus and ride down there. The show starts at 8PM, so we’re there in plenty of time. Be sure to ‘sign up’!”

Works for me!

Early arriver that I am, I was in the Lobby at 6:30, but no one was there. The bus wasn’t even in the front parking lot. “Oh well”, I thought, “They’ll be here before long.”

Shortly, Timi (that IS her right NAME) came by and said, “Let’s load up!” I think nine of us got on - just before 6:45. We “loaded up”, and took off for the Park.

Going down Fountain Boulevard, Timi said, “Oh Mike! Does your BlackBerry have an alarm on it? I have to give Betsey her pills at 8PM, and I don’t want to get out my phone while I’m driving.”

“Of course”, I said.

So, I set my alarm to ring at 7:55. (Good thing, because an announcement was made that phones/pagers should be turned off during the show.) The alarm sounded at the proper time. Timi heard it and gave Betsey her pills.

We got to the Park, and drove right through the barrier (the attendant permitted it) to the Bus parking lot, near the seating. We all got out and headed for our “already set up” chairs, while Timi pulled along the ice chest (for snacks).

Our chairs were just in front of the paved walk, and we were set for the evening.

Prior to the show, there was recorded music played over the PA system, while people were being seated.

The show began on time, and we were treated to an enjoyable evening by excellent local talent. At times, I had a little difficulty hearing all of the dialogue (I may not have taken along my hearing aids.), but the music and singing were excellent, and the plot was well understood.

The ice chest produced potato chips, barbecue chips, Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, another snack I don’t know the name of, and bottled water.

After about an hour, there was an Intermission, and “the hat” was passed for contributions to offset the shortfall in the budget for the summer. It was announced that it “appeared” that this crowd was maybe the largest ever in the history of several years of these Festivals.

At the end, I was VERY glad I had come. It was very enjoyable. While there, I saw several friends of former years that I hadn’t seen for a long time.

Three nights later, the Festival featured the “Paragon Ragtime Orchestra”. Someone told me that old time silent movies would also be shown. Sounded intriguing to me, but since I hadn’t signed up, I probably couldn’t go, because of no room.

I went to the lobby anyway, along with a light jacket and my cap, being on standby in case someone didn’t show up. Sure enough, not everyone came, so there was room for me. (The bus holds about a dozen people.)

At precisely 8 o’clock, the Ragtime Orchestra came on stage, and after an introduction by the Conductor, they started playing.

I noticed a movie screen behind the stage, and the Conductor said that his orchestra resembled the Movie Theater Orchestras of the 1920’s that played while silent films were shown.

“When it gets dark,” he said, “We’ll watch Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin in old time silent movies.”

They played some music circa early 1900’s, and it was pure “ragtime”, as I remember the sound repeated in the 20’s.

At just before dark, the Conductor introduced a Buster Keaton silent movie comedy, and the orchestra accompanied it, providing, in some cases, sound effects occurring there. Just like in the early 1900’s, he explained.

Following that, a Harold Lloyd film was shown, also a comedy, with the usual accompaniment. When the orchestra was silent sometimes, I forgot that it had been THIS orchestra providing the background for the film.

At intermission, workers “passed the hat” again this time, receiving gifts to help offset the deficit.

By this time, it was total darkness, and a Charlie Chaplin comedy routine and movie was shown, again accompanied by this “Ragtime” orchestra.

All very enjoyable.

The final time I went, was for a program featuring Warren Hill, a Jazz saxophonist. I was not as enthralled with the “show” as I had been with the other two. Totally determined, I am sure, by my dis-interest in this “modern” Jazz being played. The talent and presentation of the music was outstanding, and MANY in the crowd stood, clapped, and danced to the music.

Just NOT my “cup of tea”, as we say.

When we arrived, there was a “set-up group” playing Jazz, but, as it turned out, was not as loud and heavy “jazzy” as the last one. Though the music was not my type, I did enjoy the talent and expertise displayed. It was Jazz, but not as “radical” as the later group, in my opinion.

Our group stayed until the Intermission of the Warren Hill group, but two of our folk returned to the Bus EARLY in the program.

On the bus while returning home, I asked our group how many enjoyed the “first” group better than the “second”. Several raised their hands.

Oh………the last time, we didn’t have our chairs set up before hand, since Timi thought it MIGHT rain. We took the chairs with us. Getting them out of the bus and into the crowd required a little additional help, so I picked up some chairs, and the “pull along” ice chest to help. Same at the end. Fortunately, the bus has a hydraulic lift at the back, so walkers, wheel chairs and lawn chairs could be “lifted” up and down.

An additional feature was that I left my jacket on the ground near where my chair was sitting. I thought of it after we had re-loaded the bus. Timi went back and got it. I was a LITTLE nervous, since my check book was in the pocket.

"All's well that ends well",an old Mechanicsburg saying.

Looking back, I rather wish I had started attending these affairs earlier than I did. I apparently missed some good ones.

Besides the enjoyment, the trips provided a diversion from my computer, and the books I’m reading. I have taken, and still will be taking, some more trips on the bus, and I MAY write about some of them, “if the spirit moves me.” (A good old Mechanicsburg phrase.)

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