Making Music in the Dark


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Clarinet player, with the help of a cell phone buddy, gets ready to play.

The Boss sang about dancing in the dark, but he ever said anything about ringing in the dark.

Friday, May 6—the MMU Handbell Ensemble begins it’s “M&M Scholars” concert at Meth Wick retirement home in Cedar Rapids.

I felt lucky to be there—I only go to Meth Wick once a year, which means I don’t have much of a memory of where it is. I printed off a Google map before leaving campus, but sadly, the map only really shows the shape of the route—since I didn’t print it large enough to show street names, that left a lot of guesswork up to me.

Still, I rode my bike across the Five-in-One Bridge (not a place I would usually ride, but fortunately in early afternoon traffic was very light), turned right, and guessed about what street to turn left on.

It was a lucky guess. I ended up at an unfamiliar school, with a hill looming behind it. There were buildings on the hill, and I thought to myself “that looks like to could be Meth Wick.” It was.

And so I thought the big adventure of the concert was over.

We didn’t have a warm-up time, so when 2 p.m. came, we just rang. And I did ring on most songs, although the arrangement we have of “Ode to Joy” gives me fits of panic, and I haven’t made it through that song yet.

Anyway, the first four or so songs went by, and then it was solo time. First our flute player played a nice tune, accompanied by our director on piano—Carolyn accompanied all of our solos, which makes me rethink the meaning of the word “solo,” but there you have it.

Anyway, David stood up and began to ring “It’s a Small World.” It’s a very familiar tune that some consider an earworm, and maybe the universe was sending us a message.

Because right in the middle of the song, the lights suddenly went out.

Though plunged into instant darkness, David proved he knew his part well because he just kept right on playing.

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Remember “That Think You Do?” “Darkness falls ….” Playing like Mr. Downtown.

The darkness was not total-there were no windows in the meeting room we were in, but the doors had panes of glass and opened onto a foyer with many windows.

We waited a bit after David was done, wondering if the show would go on. Then, although the light was dim, the next soloist opined that she could probably see well enough to play.

Cell phones were pulled out for the soloists and Carolyn, and clarinet and piano made pretty music.

By the end of that final solo, nursing home staff were bringing in rather bright camping lanterns. The bell ensemble spent a few minutes arranging, and then we were ready, too.

We were ringing, not exactly in the dark, but closer to it than we usually ring.

And we ended up with a much better story than the “I thought I was lost but I was mistaken” biker story.

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