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Wicked Divas

So I walked, as apparently hundreds do, across the skywalk over I35 from Downtown Duluth to see the DSSO tonight. The “Wicked Divas” program featured Julie Reiber and Laura Woyasz, two vocalists who have performed in “Wicked” on Broadway, along with selections from Carmen and from Gloria Estefan, for example, by the Orchestra sans vocalists.

The program included music from “Gypsy,” “My Fair Lady,” “Titanic,” “The Wizard of Oz” and more. I hate to say it, but selections like these do bring out the impatient in me — but then I recall that I only spent $12 on the ticket. And I did love the Wizard of Oz piece. (Thanks to whomever runs the DSSO social media page, reminding me of this great deal.)

I do know something I can’t stand about pops concerts. These are typically shows where there are two sounds pumped through the speaker system: the voice of the vocalist and a bass guitar. As a result, listening to a pops concert is a little like listening to an early stereo record, one of the records that announces its stereoness on the cover. That is, the sound of the orchestra rushes toward you from the stage, but the bass line and the voice come from speakers, come from everywhere. It’s the job of the listener to make these two sources of sound into one performance, like those early records ask the listener to make one song out of two tracks, left and right.

For me, though, it’s both a cognitive problem (trying to understand, for a moment, why the bass is so resonant caught me off guard tonight) and almost a philosophical one. The tension is kind of the tension between the local and the transcendent, you know? The sound through the speakers fill the space as if from everywhere.

If God were trying to reach me, the way my grandparents envisioned it, it would be the way that the vocalist and the bassline reach me, all at once, from every direction. But I never believed that. I think, at best, in life, there are only several dozen beautiful sounds coming together from the stage, and if I’m seated just right, a little bit further back from the stage, they come together in an amazing beauty all their own. No transcendance required.

At tonight’s performance, there were several dozen beautiful sounds coming at me from the stage. At intermission, there were dozens of beautiful faces in the crowd: faculty-friends from UMD & WITC, wildlife education friends, friends in the arts. So many of them knew each other, like the DSSO is part of their plans to get together as friends. Maybe, at these rush prices, it should be part of my plans for entertainment, for moments of critical reflection, too. It was a good night out, even if I did have to listen to a rendition (really, any rendition would be problematic) of Celine Dion.

Thanks, DSSO.

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