One of the many things that used to be ordinary (before Covid, that is) was going out on a Friday or Saturday night. Sixty years ago, it would have been on a date and would have been exciting, anticipatory. Then, over the next two decades, during my first marriage, it still would have felt special and usually involved friends and dinner. During the past three decades, in my current marriage, it almost always includes live music, either classical or folk — until 2020, that is, when everything changed.
This story is about going out last Friday night. Warning: it contains no surprises, no secrets shared, no punch line, so you may want to avoid being bored and stop reading right now. I am attempting to describe what made going out last Friday night so extraordinary, despite its describable characteristics being mostly ordinary.
Perhaps the most important fact about the evening is that — for anyone reading this in the future who did not personally experience Covid 19 — is that few live musical performances have taken place for about two years. Another equally important fact is that, again because of Covid 19, it is no longer routine to go out or meet with friends for dinner.
The focus of last Friday night was a live concert at the Cabot Theater, a half mile from our house, presented by four folk singers whose music we love and who we’ve seen many times, though in smaller venues. They are Patty Larkin, John Gorka, Cliff Eberhardt, and Lucy Kaplansky. Usually I’m the one who suggests that we get tickets for particular concerts, but this time, it was Paul, a month ago when the performance was advertised in a local newspaper. I looked up the information and didn’t act on it, didn’t order tickets.
Last Wednesday, I met a friend, ScottIe, for lunch. We hadn’t seen each other for quite a while, again, courtesy of Covid, and we delighted in each other’s company. She mentioned that she and her husband were coming to the Cabot on Friday, inviting us to attend, as well. The next day, I got tickets for the performance, which was to begin at 8 pm.
On Friday, at about 7:00, already beginning to feel sleepy, I said to Paul, I hope I don’t fall asleep. We’d been going to bed at 9:00 or 9:30 each night. I was feeling like I didn’t even want to go, didn’t want to go out into the bitter cold for this concert, aptly named, “On a Winter’s Night.” But, of course we did, arriving ten minutes early, to allow time to have our vaccination records checked.
As soon as we were seated, I noticed two couples in front of us, friends from my Quaker Meeting. We hadn’t seen any of them in person in months. The excitement in me began to rise.
Patty Larkin introduced the singers and John Gorka began the performance. From the first note of his first song, my heart was pulled, resuscitated. Each performer reminisced about how they had first sung together, going back forty or fifty years to Greenwich Village. At one point, Cliff Eberhardt commented with emotion that they hadn’t known whether they would ever have the opportunity to sing together on stage again, like this. That was one of the many times that tears pushed themselves out of my eyes.
They sang for nearly two and a half hours, in this gorgeous, 102 year-old theater. Thirty years ago, when we were looking for a house, on my list of requirements was that it be located within walking distance of the Cabot. Last Friday, it was too cold to walk, so, even though it was only a half mile, we drove.
During the mid-performance break, we walked around the theater to say hello to the ten people we knew. In addition to our Quaker friends, four were neighbors, sitting behind us at the cafe-like area, right next to ScottIe, who had mentioned this concert to me only two days ago! I introduced them to each other, and my heart swelled. One of my neighbors, Melissa, pulled me aside to tell me that, though we hadn’t seen each other for months, the week before something had reminded her of me. She wondered if I had felt her sending me a hug filled with love.
During the second half of the performance, each song sounded better than the last and further nourished my feeling of being in community. It was only a Friday night, but the night was full and my heart was even fuller.
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