by Benjamin Stevens
Looking north from the penthouse of the Logan Arts Center, over the long, green line of the Midway Plaisance–its mile of grass shining dusky emerald with the last of the sun–and past the luminous grey of the University’s stately, neo-Gothic façade, you can see downtown Chicago. The buildings are beginning to glow, a brilliant grid of towers and true skyscrapers against the darkening lake whose waters stretch limitlessly towards the horizon. It is autumn, and you know that, outside, the air is crisp and cool, an evening quiet with the promise of falling leaves.
In the penthouse, a great glassy room, you are warm with giddy memories of the day, with the company of friends old and new, and with music. Above all else, there is music: voices only, but voices of power, clarity, and beauty you hardly let yourself imagine. It is Saturday, and you are chatting with the singers whose outstanding energy and poise started the weekend Friday night, with the workshop leaders and instructors whose mind-bending classes you are processing still, with the headliners whose concert tonight will defy any earthly description.
It seems impossible! But after little more than a day, you’ve come to see that impossible, unbelievable, amazing: these are what we do. There’s nothing else anyone would rather be doing, and there’s quite literally no place else anyone would rather be. If everyone seems to be in love with each other, it’s because they actually are!
Is there any question, really, why you’d want to be there?
For this first post on the Acappellafest 2012 blog, I was asked to write about why I want to be there: why I’m helping to run an a cappella festival at the University of Chicago this October. In part it’s to enjoy a city justly famous for neighborly generosity and a tradition of big-shouldered debate. I was a student at the University, so in part, too, it’s to share old stomping-grounds with friends … as well as to occupy old classrooms with innovative approaches to a cappella music.
But mainly I’ll be there for the moment I described above: that moment when you and I and all our fellow attendees know, whether or not we can say how, just know that a cappella music, that most human music we love so much, has changed our lives for the better.
At that moment, we’ll be flush with emotion, fairly loopy with exhaustion, and yet, if I may, sustained: like a perfect chord.
And then I get to ask you a question. Not why you came, but how you could have imagined not coming.