Paul Berry (stereotype441) wrote,
Paul Berry

Tangofest update #2, kinda

Let's see. Friday evening, when we last spoke, I had just attended the first two days of Portland Tangofest, which for me consisted of having a great time at classes, mixed luck at practicas, and sitting on the sidelines being intimidated at a milonga. The weekend was quite different.

Friday night a bunch of y'all came over to watch 24 hour party people, which was a very nice change of pace from tango. Saturday morning, acting on a suggestion that I must credit jointly to empty_fork and keystricken, I decided to miss tango for about an hour so I could check out the Portland Sacred Harp Singing Convention at the Mississippi ballroom*.

How can I describe it? I was hooked practically before I went in the door, by the raw, majestic sound of some 250 voices singing SATB harmony at the top of their lungs with no vibrato. It oozed through the building's thin windows and filled the street for a block around. I sang tenor with jes5199. You can find a sampling of what it sounded like to us here.

empty_fork was there, flitting between the tenor and treble sections**. j3h and Linus joined us in the tenor section for a while, but Linus was understandably restless and eventually wanted to go. I, on the other hand, couldn't be dragged away, in spite of repeated Google Calendar reminders from my cell phone telling me exactly what kind of tango I was missing. The one song I recognized during the day, Amazing Grace***, tugged at my heart strongly enough to bring tears to my eyes, and I was shuddering with suppressed sobs for about the next 20 minutes.

I stayed until the music stopped at 3:30. My mind at that point could not contain the harmonies, and I was compelled to ride home and play the piano and viola for about 45 minutes each. Then a nice dinner, and I headed over to akatchoom's, where we went for a walk, watched Roman Holiday, and stayed up talking until 2am. Overall score: wonderful Saturday: 1. Tango: 0.

Sunday morning, I found it difficult to decide between tango and singing, especially since I had paid good money for tangofest, and the singing was on a donation basis. Finally, recalling the fallacy of sunk costs, I went with my heart and returned to singing. This time I sang treble with empty_fork, Mari, and a friend of Mari's whose name I forget. Sunday had another tear-jerker in store for me, more intense than Saturday's. It was a song called Consecration. First timers had been encouraged throughout the convention to come up and stand in the center of the room for at least one song, and before this one, we were told "if you're going to come listen to the music from the center of the room, this is the song to do it on." So I did. It was otherworldly. I don't know how to describe it, other than achingly powerful and F# minor.

Needless to say, I stayed until 3:30 again. I made tentative plans with empty_fork and Mari to do tango later in the evening, and then headed to the short house to help with the aftermath of moving. And by "help", I mostly mean hanging out with the cats and playing the uke. We eventually headed to Soup and Story. It was perhaps a trifle more chaotic than most soup and story events, but not too far from the norm. It included a reading of a particularly gory section of the Iliad, dramatized by nearly everyone in the room. My arm got chopped off.

Soon it was about 10:45 pm, a very respectable time to bicycle home and get a good night's sleep for the coming week. Which I almost did. But empty_fork, Mari, and akatchoom all wanted to head back to tango, and despite a fair amount of unexplained nervousness on my part, there was basically no way I was going to let myself get away with bowing out.

I guess we probably arrived at the closing milonga at 11:15 or so, and my nervousness melted away into a delightful relaxation. The dance floor was crowded, but nowhere near as crowded as it had been Thursday night. None of the people I knew from Thursday and Friday's beginning classes were anywhere in sight, so I didn't ask any strangers to dance. But I did dance with the three delightful ladies I had arrived with. And I even got a chance to do a little following.

Somewhere in there was a very pleasant conversation with empty_fork. We should talk more. At 2am, when the party moved from Norse Hall to Tango Berretín, she unfortunately had to go, citing tiredness and the weight of responsibility. The rest of us, either lacking or ignoring our responsibilities, continued on to Berretín. As the night wore on, my loss of coherence was perfectly offset by the dance floor thinning and the remaining dancers being amazing. At some point I commented to akatchoom that whereas watching Thursday night's dancing was amazing because it was so difficult and intricate, watching the dancing at the post-closing milonga was amazing because it was so relaxed and comfortable. By around 6am some of it was getting silly, with three-person couples and people chasing each other around the dance floor. And at the same time, it was still beautiful. I spent about the last hour just watching Alex Krebs and his dance partners execute perfect tango amid the dissipating chaos.

At about 6:30 there were waffles, and I left around 7:15. I've managed to sleep about 2.5 hours since then.

Would I do it again? Oh, yes.

*empty_fork was responsible for literally suggesting that I go, in the form of a Narnia announcement. Thank you. keystricken provided me with the tool for deciding between tango and Sacred Harp, by giving me a question to ask myself in such situations: "If I happen to talk with somebody later, and I mention 'yeah, I nearly did xyz...' would I meanwhile be thinking to myself, what a waste of incredible potential?" Thank you.

**The natural vocal range of tenor and treble being roughly an octave apart, it was common for these sections to intermingle. (Note to the confused: "treble" refers to the vocal range that classical musicians call "soprano". Apparently Sacred Harp singing shares almost all of its musical vocabulary with classical music).

***Known in the Sacred Harp book as New Britain. C.M., for some reason.
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