What is a Fermata?

In musical symbology, a Fermata, affectionately known as a Bird's Eye, signals to a musician to continue to hold a note for as long as he or she wishes. At Fermata Eclectic, it's a symbol of preserving and celebrating the live music format.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Virtual Illusion

"Illusions are art, for the feeling person, and it is by art that you live..."
~Elizabeth Bowen, Irish Novelist~

Have you seen Woody Allen's movie, Midnight in Paris, yet? Well, it's absolutely wonderful; at least for a guy like me who perpetually lives in a romanticized version of other time periods and eras in his head most of the time. Why, it's how my artistic soul survives in this fast-paced technological world that roars and races past the roses so quickly you don't have time to see them--let alone stop and smell them along the way.

Even though Allen makes a case for living in the present at the end of the movie, I still couldn't help but revel in the classy and elegant clothing of the 1920s; not to mention work-of-art automobiles, and real songs written by trained composers and lyricists with romantic words that tell stories which whisk you magically down a mystic path into another place and time on the strains of a melody that completely captures the imagination. Good heavens, to me, that sounds a whole lot more appealing than the lugubrious reality updates incessantly bombarding me in the form of "breaking news" clips and e-mails 24/7.

For me, what makes a story or an era burst to life is the artistic elements that have been added. They shade and color and sprinkle the magic star dust on the surface of what otherwise would be nothing but drab reality. As Auntie Mame observed, "Drab is such a drab word."

I don't think I'm spoiling anything if I mention that Marion Cotillard's character, Adriana, in Midnight in Paris, ultimately decides to keep her feet firmly planted in La Belle Époque once she has been transported there. Personally, I am thrilled at the prospect of a chance meeting with Mademoiselle Cotillard since I visit the Golden Age at least two nights per week. Of course, I'm largely counting on the two of us being the only people from the Twenty-First Century hanging out in cafe society in the late Nineteenth Century...today.

Still, there is always the option of recreating other time periods right where you and I live. That's exactly what Fermata Eclectic's Soiree for Young Musicians, Mature Musician's Arena and Opera at the Bistro are all about. These programs provide a community stage for exceptional, classically trained musicians (and vocalists) at exciting theme-based events where, not only friends and family can enjoy otherwise unheard talent, but members of the community as well.

Also, for swing music lovers, there's the Swing Orchestra Revival program featuring the legendary Frankie Condon Swing Orchestra, a DC original. In fact, those who attended the Valentine's Big Band Swing Dance Gala last February at the Kensington Town Hall Armory mentioned they would like to see dance events with a big band era theme on a consistent basis.

As Gil (Owen Wilson), a Twenty-First Century guy thrown back into the 1920s, ran into Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Cole Porter, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, et. al. in Midnight in Paris, I hope to meet you in another era of time soon at a Fermata Eclectic evening. (Psst! I suppose it wouldn't hurt to tell you that I transport people back into the world of Gershwin and Porter, et. al. at the piano on Friday and Saturday evenings at Cafe 1894 in Kensington, Maryland.)

Here's to artistic illusions. And better yet, here's to living by them! See you there.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Books Are My Friends

"And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures." ~The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran~

I realize iPads, Nooks, and Kindles are the rage these days. Without a doubt, they serve their purpose in today's digital age.

But aren't we losing a little bit of humanity again as technology continues to creep into our personal lives? To me, it's very much like "civilization" sprawling out into rustic mountainous regions where what's natural must continuously press itself further into the distance. Somehow, it seems, in our attempt to get closer to the very thing we think we want, we erect invisible barriers and boundaries around ourselves and wind up living unconsciously in very separate spaces.

So what has all this got to do with books? you may ask. Everything! As I said: books are my friends. They bring art and beauty and information into my personal and private space. They are always there to share a story with me no matter what mood I'm in. And there's a very satisfying and deep comfort that comes from the physical presence of my literary friends; the ability to hold them as I contemplate the wonders of life and the human experience while gazing at the pages. I'm particularly fond of the way books get me to think and dream and imagine and contemplate things beyond Super Bowl commercials or the latest Hollywood idol.

Of course, too, there's that wonderful sensation of touch when flipping a page in a book, which is surpassed only by the thrill of discovering an even richer world on the other side. As the bumbling Professor Abronsius exclaimed upon entering Dracula's commodious library in The Fearless Vampire Killers, "Once I get started, I am engulfed for a week!"

Being the executive director of the Kensington-based performing arts organization, Fermata Eclectic, I can see technology--very much like "civilization" in rustic mountainous regions--sprawling out into live music venues. In countless establishments across America (and the world), where there used to be a piano with people crowding around it listening and singing and sharing, now there's nothing more than contemporary sofas and side chairs with people sitting stoically while unconsciously listening to piped-in music. Of course, the musicians, who might otherwise be performing music, are quietly pushed off into the distance with "civilization" being almost completely oblivious to the plight.

That's why I started Fermata Eclectic: to sustain the live music format. As a performing arts organization, it exists as an aesthetic preserve for talented musicians so that their friends and families can come and enjoy and share in what otherwise has the threat of becoming extinct.

Don't make the mistake of waking up some morning only to read on your Kindle or iPad or Nook about the lost art of acoustic music. Because, chances are, you will have already delivered the literary friends on the shelves in your library to the neighborhood book crematory and Fahrenheit 451 will only be available in the Kindle version.