Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Windy City Quartet at Mammoth Cave –Sold Out Show- Part 3

The Grand Ave Tour had been an impressive few hours of sights, spectacles and sounds, but the closer we drew to the main event the emptier my stomach felt.

My three friends, Ben, Bocheng, and Mikey, and I were scheduled to perform an underground performance as a quartet in front of the 80 others in our tour group. The only reason this was considered underground by any measure was that we were, in fact, a couple of hundred feet under the ground in Mammoth Caves. The forthcoming show had all the elements of being a wondrous one. The setting was perfect, the audience was large and excited, the promoter, our tour guide, was setting the stage. The sole problem lay in the small fact that not one of the four of the performers knew how to sing a note.

As a result of that and the fact that no two of us knew the lyrics to the same song, we figured that the performance couldn't be pretty. Yet, we were continually reminded of how pretty it should be every 15 of the following minutes as the tour guide would promote the upcoming show.

"I know this part of the cave is difficult to climb, folks, but we have quite a surprise for you later in the tour," he winked in our direction. We didn't wink, we just cleared our throats.

Our discomfort was tangible. I could see it exude from the others and I'm positive they could see it from me. To describe the looming performance as fear-inducing would be to fall just short. We were ascending a giant roller coaster as we climbed up through the cave. Ahead lie what promised to be a steep and very fast drop.

Our fear of follow-through was only amplified by our tour guide's continual reminder of the upcoming surprise as to be the consolation or even the purpose of the lengthy battle against these miles of caverns. Never in my life, even when it was due to me, had my actions ever been promoted this frequently and enthusiastically. 'Why should it now?' I asked apostrophically.

"What did we get ourselves into?" Mike asked the rest of us, "Are we going to sing?" Each of us individually had great hesitation, but together, as a whole, we just couldn't decide NOT to do it. So, forward we went as the last hour of the journey melted into a prolonged amalgam of angst and impatience. Here we were in the most carefully carved cavern system with both backbone and epochs of persistence and we trembled with restless steps. Upon walking into the next room it was clear to see why; our feelings had been given measurable weight.

"Here we have what is called the New York Hippodrome" the tour guide bellowed to the lot of us, "This is one of the largest rooms in all the caverns. It is 250 feet in width, 300 feet in length and 85 feet high. The sound here is wonderful enough, with natural acoustics, that cave owner George Morrison would have opera performances in this room for visitors from the east coast. Thousands would come from afar to watch performances in this room by some of the greatest voices of the day. You, my guests, have the same delight."

He looked over toward us, "Are you gentlemen ready?"

To see the response of us and our audience follow this blog or catch up a couple of days when I post the last part of this steamy memoir.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Windy city Quartet at Mammoth Cave -Sold Out Show- Part 2

We descended Mammoth Caves with eighty others in the tour group and despite the presence of all the humanity it was an awesome sight. We were dwarfed by the massive creation 10 million years in the making. Together we learned of this lengthy history, the patience of its formation and the odd fact that there were, indeed, no actual mammoths roaming the depths of the cave.

The strange and various rock formations did yield a good tour and a number of interesting facts. It was when we arrived to a section of the cave noted for its acoustic sharpness that this story, itself, becomes as intriguing as the cave.

"Here," the young tour guide spoke in fitting drawl, "is a beautiful point in the cave which highlights wonderful acoustics. Does anyone care to sing and demonstrate?" Of all the people listening, not one dared to volunteer to sing in front of the rest. "Well, I'm not going to sing either. I sound like a hound dog," the tour guide spoke as we laughed.

Of course though none had volunteered to sing in front of the rest, no shortage of the group hesitated to sing aloud as they walked by this point. This included the four of us as we walked. Each of us stopped and sang a short diddy. I danced too, but acoustics couldn't help me there. We heard the echos ring.

"La La Laaaaa," Ben (I don't know if I can use the word) sang in baritone.

"Oh! Do you gentlemen sing?" the park ranger tailing the group asked us from the rear.

"Uhhhh...." Mike hesitated as I interjected,

"Yes. Yes, we're actually a barbershop quartet!" we laughed.

"Why, that's great news. Nice to meet you," she excitedly said, "I'll be sure to let the guide know on our next stop."

We undulated, all of us afloat upon this little bit of fiction. Wavering, but without words, we collectively decided to tread ahead and go with the flow.

At lunch we ate sandwiches that had been carted down in the only elevator shaft constructed in the the cave system. We were enjoying our ham and cheese when the tour guide approached us,"I've been told that you gentlemen are musicians?"

Because it couldn't be farther from the truth, I spoke up to correct him, "Well, we're just a quartet."

"Golly! And where are you from?" he inquired.

"We're from Chicago," Ben answered and from there we just let the guide do his job lead us ahead into a false story.

"And when you perform in Chicago, do you go by any name?"

"Yes, we're called the Windy City Quartet."

"It would be a great honor if we could have the Windy City Quartet perform for us in the caves, wouldn't it?" He asked.

Going with the flow? I thought. "Right, It would be our honor, we'd love to."

"Wonderful, I'll let you know when we're ready."

Again, Ben looked at Mike and Mike looked at me and I looked at Bocheng and Bocheng looked at Ben. Collectively we gulped, pulled our collar from our neck, shrugged, and moved on with the tour not knowing what to expect.

And neither do you know what to expect! Keep posted, or follow this blog to find what happens in part 3 of this mammoth tale.