Summer, 1994. “……..and the people bowed and prayed”………
Well. Not exactly.
But, religious ardour was definitely in the air. And, devotion. And, this time, everybody stayed fully clothed. The blanket which, according to recent review, had been “the price of admission” twenty five years earlier on a flatter (if muckier) patch of land came all dressed, too. Be-decked with wondrous fare, from the simple to the lavish, from fresh fruit and elegant drink to full buffet replete with everything short of the proverbial ice-sculpted swan…..”Woodstock”? Schmoodstock. This was the Tanglewood Festival.
There was grass all around – on the ground, this time – a sheltering tree or two and, at the center, a covered amphitheater instead of the riskier if rustic open-air stage whence the music was sure to come.
But, whence had the people come? This cross-generational throng of celebrants and worshippers, lovers and friends, wearing no ideology on their sleeves (though perhaps a tattoo or two beneath) had left political persuasion at home. They, like Christians gathering to remember the Last Supper, had made their pilgrimage from Everywhere to Lenox, Massachusetts again this summer and I, for the first time, had joined them.
Filtered conversations diffused the atmosphere like sounds in nature. A bit of food, a little drink….
Settled on the ground surrounded at arms’ length and on all sides, our interaction was discreet: a polite smile, an admiring glance. We hadn’t come, after all, to act out. Gone was the urgent need to romp noisily; we weren’t puppies who had to play. Electronic distortion would obliterate neither our consciousness nor our auditory nerves tonight. We needed no illusion, no hallucination. We had brought our collective imagination, now almost fully recovered; we would partake together, and commune without saying a word.
In tempo with the setting sun each flame was lit, from citronella to candelabra. Soon, there were innumerable points of light on this horizon. Don’t get me wrong. Symphony orchestras have been performing breathtakingly live for centuries now, but hardly for or in the company of ten thousand people maybe more, sitting on the lawn. And, maybe ten thousand against two hundred of same isn’t a valid statistical comparison but, from the moment the Maestro turned toward the orchestra, a phenomenal hush blanketed the grass as ten thousand people at once fell absolutely silent.
Now, this was distinguishing. Silence?!
Many lay back to gaze at the sky or close their eyes; others sat casually, clasping their knees, and still others, reminiscent of that by-gone event cocooned themselves in pairs as the music suffused them. And, n.o.b.o.d.y. made a sound. A mystical mass-meditation had descended upon that valley. We had all become part of something greater than ourselves – most of us, this time, with our senses intact.
For those who had taken that other trip in 1969 and now found themselves here, there might be no need to pencil in “Woodstock ’94” and wonder, biting nails, who else and if anyone would show. Since having re-structured their lives, acknowledging the passage of time, the birth of the “re-establishment” and the re-enfranchisement of themselves by having, like, grown up? There might be no rhyme or reason to reconstructing the past just for the record (or, the CD). Enough, perhaps, to – like the man said – just “let it be.”
I’ve been to Altamont, New York. It’s a quiet place. One gets the impression that Altamont likes itself the way it is and would rather have preserved its piece of the earth, or place in the sun, or whatever, from, well, never mind. No; I’ve never been to Woodstock. I wasn’t there in 1969 and, unlike many, I’m sure of it; I was twelve years old. But, like Judy Collins said, in one sense many were there who weren’t counted at all.
There were fourteen counted at the Last Supper. Millions attend the retrospective. That event, considered holy by many, will never happen again. Other, less-than-holy occasions may evolve. Let’s learn to know the difference, and move on.
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 1994 all rights reserved. Thank you.