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Music as a Communal Experience

22nd March 2010

On February 11, 1930, in the midst of a dire American economic crisis, St. Patrick’s Cathedral dedicated its brand-new organ to an impressive amount of fanfare and ceremony. Salvatore Basile describes the historic event in Fifth Avenue Famous: The Extraordinary Story of Music at St. Patrick’s Cathedral thus:

The obstacles were forgotten as the evening went off with its expected solemnity and musical polish; but in addition, there was the kind of crackling excitement that New York usually experienced at a Broadway opening night. More than an hour before the doors opened, a long line of ticket holders stretched down 50th Street, and Fifth Avenue itself was packed with a mass of people hoping to get in. …An astonishing crowd of 7,000 (reported the Sun) pushed inside to hear the event; another 5,000 people were turned away.

This was an impressive crowd of concert-goers, even by today’s standards. The past 80 years has done nothing to dim the enthusiasm of music lovers; in fact, their zeal has only grown since the early days of radio. This past week the South by Southwest Music Festival took place in Austin, Texas. Now in its 23rd year, the festival has swelled from several hundred registrants to 12,000, with fans descending on the Texas capitol every March to hear thousands of acts spread out over 80 venues over 4 days. Its an epic event, bringing together passionate music lovers, industry professionals, and up and coming musicians from around the world. The result is a pulsing community of innovators, each seeking out the most creative, most groundbreaking, and most energetic music the scene has to offer.

This is the link that bonds the music of St. Patrick’s Cathedral to the secular music of today–the passionate community of those who make music and those who love music, who are always searching for something new and beautiful to inspire them.