Nearly 80,000 missed a great show

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 3, 2006

If population estimates are correct, 80,000 people would have been turned away from the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts Thursday because 500 first-nighters got there in time to get a seat. It was full house again, but this time there was no hefty Carmen and lover; it was the Tidewater Winds, a group of professional musicians who really laid it on us. It was reminiscent of Willet Hall, when the Air Force band came around for its free concerts.

I call us first-nighters because it was the first &uot;free&uot; concert and the type that did not call for a tux, black tie, or a gown for the lady. I happen to know that most men attend operas only when forced to do so. Here everyone looked comfortable and applauded like they meant it … this was foot stomping band music and mostly rousers you just had to applaud. You might not have remembered the name of the number being hammered out, but you surely knew that tune.

The acoustics are good in the SCCA auditorium, but it was not necessary this evening, the Sousa-like sounds bounced off the walls and it was all I could do to keep from tapping the floor with my cane. Several did not resist.


Email newsletter signup

These were almost entirely wind instruments, but there was one musician sawing on a bass and a cluster of percussionists who provided the sounds necessary to the music that can’t be provided by blowing in a hole. They needed two conductors, and they took turns wearing themselves out to the delight of the audience, who loved band music.

There have been many great changes made in that building … it has come a long way in five years since we talked with Betsy Brothers on that once dilapidated stage. She has stuck to her guns, and hopefully the upper floors of the old school will look as good as that part completed … I’m sure the answer is dollars that come her way.

Suffolk, despite its size and exploding growth, is still &uot;small town,&uot; and I love it that way. If Betsy and her assistants can find a way to utilize all that available space to broaden the minds of younger citizens through arts and crafts, she will perform a miracle.

I would be remiss if I passed up an opportunity to comment in the event there are more &uot;free&uot; concerts to come. I could see no sense in keeping the auditorium doors closed until half an hour before concert time. Folks who get there early, as opposed to those who came in five minutes after the opening curtain, would be more comfortable seated. When I looked around at the audience, I could see that the majority of attendees were white haired men and women, or men without hair. And several like myself were with canes, and just standing around can be a problem.

And I must admit we were nearly lost in all the halls surrounding the auditorium. Seems like there were endless doors lacking directions. There are ample parking spaces; they nearly surround the building. But if you leave the theatre by a different door than the one you entered, and you are 81 years old, you can get turned around. If my wife hadn’t remembered which way to turn, all women have fabulous memories, I’d still be there.

But my greatest pleasure that evening was peeking across the aisle where Betsy Brothers sat, beaming. She obviously is delighted that things are coming together the way she hoped they would. She has been very patient, worked very hard, put up with a lot of negatives, and lost a lot of sleep. We can’t let her quit now.

I’m sure 20 big ones (millions) were not spent just to create an auditorium,. There remains a lot of empty space in that old school, and we hope to see it bustling with uplifting activity and energy.