Monday, December 12, 2011

Plan B?

Last night, I was to play piano with an 18 piece swing band for a local Christian radio shows remote broadcast at a local attraction, The Christmas farm. Every year this farm displays over one million lights depicting the life of Christ. The venue is truly spectacular.

The show was started at 4 pm. We were recording two broadcasts, one at 5 and one at 7 (with a short rehearsal for bumper music in between).

The first show started off great. Then, the clock struck 5:30, the time when the light displays are to be illuminated. That is when everything got very dark!

Needless to say, one million Christmas lights, a 32 channel PA, and 1000 watt radio transmitter tend to draw more than it's share of electrical power. I think I actually heard the transformer "POP" over the sound of all our horns.

So there we were, the live audience, a swing band, the radio show hosts all sitting in total darkness.

Then, a small Christmas moment occurred.

From the crowd, a tiny flame from a cigarette lighter startd to flicker. It was immediately followed by another lighting one of the hundreds of Christmas candles that were for sale in the Christmas store.

From the dim glow, I saw a very old church piano near the stage. I grabbed the music and winked at the band leader. He knew in an instant what I was scheming.

"The show must go on!" he said.

One by one, audience members entered the stage bearing candles. The church piano was so old that it had candle holders mounted on either side of the music tray. I couldn't help but wonder how many carols were played by candle light by church musicians before electricity became the norm.

Since the show was no longer broadcasting, the pressure was off as we were pretty much free to do whatever we felt like.

I started playing "Silent Night" as one by one, the horns entered improvising luscious harmonies. The crowd sang rather well and the moment was truly inspiring.

After about 20 minutes of traditional carols shared by audience and band alike, the power was restored. Personally, I was a little disappointed as this signaled we had to re-enter the 21st century and get back to work.

The shows continued, uninterrupted.

Afterwords, everyone was musing about how the carol sing was the best part of the evening.

My mind hearkened back to a time long ago in Bethlehem where the first Christmas miracle lay in a lowly manger lit by candles an ancient torches.

After forty plus years of performing, one thing I have learned is that there is always a "Plan B".

Luckily, last nights Plan B was the best part of all!

good gigging!

Larry Marra

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