Let me begin by saying I am supposed to be thinking of something else besides the subject of this post.
It all began when I made an attempt to get out of some work. When The OK Chorale finishes a quarter’s worth of rehearsals, we sing somewhere in the community. The Christmas season has a glut of opportunities to perform, but by March people in Seattle aren’t looking for ways to rise above the gloom, we’re all just waiting out the winter. So I thought I would save myself the minor nuisance of scheduling us to sing at a retirement home and instead organize an entire music festival.
It was easy enough to get the support of the tiny Broadview UCC church where I am the music director. In any small church there are two rotating groups of people: 1) People who do all the work and 2) People who used to do all the work and are currently incapacitated. Then there’s Kay who visited an earlier post in this blog. As far as I can make out Kay has been at the church for 40 years and has yet to be incapacitated. She keeps a resignation/blackmail letter on her person, ready to sign when she’s finally had enough. She and I went to work on the idea of a music festival. It inhaled from an evening concert to Day of Music and exhaled into: The First Annual Just Off Broadview Music Festival, Saturday, March 16, 3:00-9:00 PM 325 N 125th St in Seattle.
Musical folks with connections to the church leaped at it: The Weavils, a bluegrass group had the paramount claim to the festival’s finale by virtue of the fact that people sometimes pay money to hear them. I made The OK Chorale second to the last because, as the organizer, I could. Off the Hook, a garage band of dads with a preference for the Rolling Stones would open.
Then I got Bill, local singer-songwriter, and Terry, a golden-voiced folk-singer. Kai who busks at the Ballard Farmer’s Market was featured in the Ballard News Tribune last summer. The paper misspelled his name and got a fair amount of information wrong, but Kay tracked him down and he was game to play his clarinet, guitar, sax, ukulele or mandolin.
Members of the OK Chorale surged into the mix. Jessi, who sings in Gilbert and Sullivan productions, wanted to sing one song. Tim wanted to sing an Irish song in honor of his Irish grandfather. Susan, who corralled her family into making a CD several years ago, asked me if Susan and the Family Band could have 15 minutes. The pastor of the Congolese church who shares our facilities agreed to his little congregation singing traditional African call and response folk music.
“With microphones?” he asked me.
“Do you have to use mikes?” As immigrants, I think they are trying to fit into American culture by distorting their lovely sound with horrible electronics.
“No, we can sing Congolese songs like we do at home.”
I clutched his arm. “Yes, YES, that’s what I want!” I said
“Do you want us to wear our African clothes?
“Oh, would you?” This was a coup!
I immediately bumped the Chorale to an earlier time so the Congolese church could be next to last. It was partly a political move, and partly a gesture of delight at the thought of their music which is jaw-droppingly beautiful. It was also in anticipation of the potential scheduling nightmare that the African concept of time might visit upon me. If the Congolese were next to last, and didn’t quite make it on time, it minimized the chances of the whole show getting thrown off. And I knew The Weavils would play all night if we let them.
I got all the participants on a mailing list so we could communicate via e-mail. We needed a flyer and a publicity plan. Chris the unclassifiable and tenor in the OK Chorale, who manages to do the job of three people at her work plus put out fires at her home, and gossip via e-mail with me, calmly helped with the flyer and publicity, and with her most valued advice: “It’s all good.”
I finalized the schedule. Susan asked if she could have more time. I tweaked the schedule. Kai was immersed in his college semester and didn’t confirm until I put his mother onto him. Jessi wanted me to accompany her solo “Hymn à l’amour.” OK, find me the music. Tim decided he wouldn’t sing after all but he did some work on the publicity flyer. The Weavils patiently reminded me several times to correct my spelling of Weevils and tactfully blamed it on Spell-Check. Susan worried there wouldn’t be enough time for the Family Band to set up and she needed another ten minutes. I tweaked again. Terry had a family emergency and had to pull out. There was a flurry of suggestions before we found John who plays mandolin and banjo. I slid him into Terry’s time. Meantime Kay was nailing down what we decided to call concessions: corned beef sandwiches, Irish soda bread, PB&J sandwiches, cookies, pop and water.
The show got more complicated. We share the church facilities with other congregations and we were spilling out of the church sanctuary. We needed a green room for the performers. We needed the wheelchair accessible rest rooms. We needed the food to be removed from the performance area. Over my dead body was this going to turn into an evening at Zoo Tunes where I want to walk around and say to every single picnicking, card-playing family whose children are shrieking while Joan Baez is 30 feet away, “Why did you even bother to come? Go home!” In short we needed the whole church.
I don’t know who paid off who but we got the whole church. That freed up the wheel-chair accessible bathrooms and a venue for the concessions. Then I started looking at the bare walls of the foyer like I used to look at my mother’s house except that with my mother’s house, it was the clutter. But I thought the same thing: I’m embarrassed to have people see this. We’ve got to tart this place up. Fortunately we have a flamboyant window dresser-artist in the church who works with a full spectrum.
I woke up one night: signs, SIGNS! Someone has to make signs to direct people to the church and once inside the church we need signs to the wheelchair accessible rest rooms, and the green room. I had some sandwich boards already primed with white paint. But if I had to make signs, by god I would do it with so much resentment that I would never organize one of these events again. Ever.
I asked four different people if they would take on the signs. I waited. I reached a new level of freak-out-dom. When I didn’t get a response within an hour, I was on the phone. I contacted spouses and asked them to relay messages to the dilatory. I became a stalker. I e-mailed Chris to find out if it was still “all good.” I took Xanax.
I became one of those self-important people who think everything depends on her. It got to where people would see me coming and instead of saying hello, they said things like, “I haven’t had a chance to update the Facebook page yet.” Am I a monster? I’d think. It made me want to grab them by their procrastinating lapels and breathe hot and sour into their faces, “What do you think I am? Some kind of monster?”
In these final two weeks before the festival, the non-monsters are responding.
“We’ll do the signs. Take that off your list.” (“Take that off your list.” What a lovely thing to say to an organizer.)
“Yes I am planning to bake the bread in the church kitchen that day so there’ll be an aroma.”
“Bup bup bup, who do you think you’re talking to? I’ve already been to the Dollar Store and bought everything that’s green.”
I e-mailed my friend Mary-Ellis who organizes much bigger events than ours all the time.
“Do you have any advice for me in this final week before the festival?” I asked.
“I advise you to think about something else,” she said.
And that was when I started writing this post.