Last night we had a beautiful show at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse with the Sarah Charles Quartet. It was part of the Somewhere Project, and we premiered five new songs, three from our songwriters' workshop at Carnegie Hall and two from musicians at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, NY.
One thing that struck me was the audience. As an artist, you had to say to yourself, "I wish they could all be like this." So what was it that made this audience so wonderful to play for?
There were several factors. First, the concert was in Harlem. It is still, even with all the change and gentrification, a great and thriving community. The neighborhood is cheering for young people and the arts - that was palpable in the room. Second, the concert was free. You had to RSVP for a seat, but the price was right. It means that folks who might not otherwise come find their way to the event, and it creates an enviable mix - the diverse audience that truly represents. Sarah Charles invited everyone to treat the event like church - she asked for sounds and feedback and dialogue, and she got it. Third, as in a lot of concerts that involve young people and fledgling artists, there were parents and friends and brothers and wives who had been specially invited to cheer on their nearest and dearest, and they were vocal (especially in the row behind me). Which all leads to the equation and its result. Sarah Charles noted it from the stage. She said, "I don't know if this is a concert or a lovefest." What a lucky confusion to have!