Arrive early: the cast of Once performs an informal concert before act one begins.
  • Arrive early: the cast of Once performs an informal concert before act one begins.
  • Image by Ken Jacques
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Drink a few pints in a Dublin pub, and there’s a better than even chance you’ll be asked to sing. Drink a fourth and you’ll probably comply. As if there weren’t enough of a musical flourish to Gaelic-inflected English, the people of Ireland hold music so dear that a jukebox will not do when a singalong can be had instead.

When it happens, hearts will open up to one another, and with greater ease than can be managed by ale alone. It’s as though singing together (really, playing music of any kind together) creates a bonding vulnerability between people. Even a straggling American, nary familiar with the concept of good craic, might feel as though it’s a night out with old friends rather than an encounter with a group of Irish strangers, brought together by chance, alcohol, fair weather, and a smoking patio.

Lovers, like artists, are engaged in the act of creation when they build a relationship. And bandmates often bond in similar ways. Making music together can accelerate an emotional connection comparable to the early stages of fledgling romance. In either case, you try to find a shared history, and a shared vision of the future, to agree upon. You find a mutual understanding how to get there, even though it sometimes takes an argument, a staking of boundaries, a hashing out of differences. In either case, you need to find that balance between losing yourself in the relationship, and maintaining your individuality.

With music, it’s not sexual, but it is personal. And when it’s not, the audience can tell. Whether in the creation or performance of music, a player must fully commit for it to be it any good. And so it goes with a relationship. If rock music is a collaborative medium, then so is love.

Of course the comparison ends at the number of people each activity can include. Love peaks when there are only two people involved. A third and fourth serve only to complicate things, and hundreds of plays have been written to illustrate the point. But not so with music. The more musicians, the more sublime the music may become. And when the audience feels those musicians’ souls channeled through a piece of music, claps to the rhythm or sings along to the words, that’s all the proof I personally need that there’s still magic on this Earth.

I suppose what I’m saying, is I’d like to buy the world a stout, and teach the world to sing. Or, send you to Once, the musical stage version of the 2006 Irish indie film, which plays at Lamb’s Players Theatre until August 12th.

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