Bright, clear, and very, very ‘crisp’ (that’s typically circumspect New England-ese shorthand for ‘marrow-freezing cold‘) – yesterday was a remarkable difference of about 35 degrees from Friday’s highs in the 40s. But with full sunshine and little wind, it was also the best weather I’ve experienced so far in my four Burlington Mardi Gras celebrations. That must have helped to encourage the huge crowd that packed Church Street for the parade. Biggest crowd I’ve seen yet. After a hot (both picante AND caliente), delicious, oversized bowl of Tom Yum at the Asian Noodle House, we took our place streetside and had a great time taking in the parade and the street scene. Caught some beads!
But the whole time I was watching the parade my imagination was still churning on the drum circle that got the party underway, playing for about a half hour on the street near the Firehouse Gallery. And then they picked up and went mobile, leading the procession up Church Street in an infectious cadence once the parade started.
I love drum circles. Yesterday’s group brought back the memory of being in NYC last year, mid-April. Still mud season here, so I was enchanted to arrive in the city and find magnolia trees blooming in the NYU Law School courtyard, and Washington Square’s cherry trees in full-on pink blossom. I had gone there for a one-day conference at the beautiful new WNYC facilities. Around 4pm, conference over, I left the station and the walk to Broadway to catch a cab took me by Wash Square Park.
I came around a corner to find overturned plastic paint buckets, hubcaps, glass bottle mallets thumping on stretched skins, along with the usual assortment of more traditional djembe, congas, and timbales, all working with – and against – each other in a complicated network of joyous rhythms that filled the whole Park and the Village. The players were as diverse as the percussion array – black, white, Asian, old and very young. With a little time to spare before catching my flight, I sat on a sunny stone step and soaked it all in.
Yesterday’s experience in Burlington may have been missing the cherry blossoms and some of the instrumental ingenuity of the NYC drum circle (and, around 60 balmy degrees of mercury…), but the same unmistakable driving spirit was very much there. And, you know? – it’s ALWAYS there, no matter the particulars of the place or instruments involved – where there are people, there is music. It’s as natural a means of expression to us as talking, and touching. We make music because we can’t help it. I’m glad we don’t try.