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BARE showcases a cappella music to benefit Cook Arts Center

Musicians and spectators came together this past Saturday for a night of simple music.
Underwriting support from:
The Wallace Collective performing during BARE

The Wallace Collective performing during BARE /Eric Kehoe

BARE showcased a cappella musicians using only voices and hands to make organized collections of sound. While many expected a typical evening of music, BARE took on a different tone. Co-host Peter Fox started off the night at Stone House Recording Studios by explaining the event.

"Think about what is happening in Lansing," says Fox. "The arts in schools are being stripped of funding. This is what we wanted to visualize and experience tonight."

BARE fundraised for the Cook Arts Center, a Southwest Grand Rapids organization that transforms lives through reading and the arts. Without funding, children who need music in their lives will be left only with their small voices, insufficient instruments for an ever-loudening world. BARE stood for the voices of the underprivileged kids whose right to pursue happiness through the arts has been taken.

But why do children need music in their lives, really?

The news says music is secondary to science and math. America's test scores in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects are falling behind other countries. Politicians lead us to believe that, without focusing on the hard sciences, America is doomed. So music must be irrelevant, a self-indulgence. Difficult, real work must be done first. Right?

The crowd patiently sipped drinks and politely remained hushed while we sat and waited for BARE to begin. A particular feeling began to envelop the room: the feeling of being there. As my friend Brent Shirey pointed out, the act and art of being there can be lost in a culture gone digital.

Facebook friends appear in real life as strangers: "Well, I know you had a kid on Facebook, but it feels so real to actually see her now!"

But deliberately choosing to be in a location, voluntarily going somewhere, not just trudging to work or school, brings with it a unique sense of vulnerability and connection with the friends and strangers around you, particularly the musicians themselves.

On this night, terms such as indie, country and hip-hop were temporarily meaningless. Musicians from various musical backgrounds displayed only a tune, making the songs cross no boundaries at all. Each song was simply "music," and no further classification was necessary or possible. The centralizing of the artists from niche individualists to simply musicians further brought the room together.

No sound check, no tuning, no auxiliary noise. The musicians came to stage, introduced themselves and their songs, and then paused, looked down, and changed from strangers to leaders. Every musician did this during the concert: an introduction, a look downward, a realigning of their minds, and a beautiful song. They led the crowd in the art of being there, and the song was their medium. The crowd sat, rapt in steady attention. No sounds from the audience were heard. We were being there together, strangers collectively feeling a familiar emotion. 

Musicians sometimes struggle for meaning in a world full of standardized tests, science and STEM subjects, but during BARE, not one person discounted the value of music. For if we never come together, if we can't just be there for a while, what good is anything else?

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