Last night an extraordinary event occurred. Over 300 people, of all ages, gathered at 7:30 pm to watch a 1927 black and white silent film while listening to live classical organ music. For close to 90 minutes Shawn Whynot, Bethany United’s Minister of Music played a medley of hymns, movie soundtrack classics, TV game show riffs, popular music, and every type of music known to western culture while the film progressed on the large screen. The audience clearly enjoyed the film, in part because the acting was a little cheesy and in part because of the way the actor’s hammed it up on screen. Each time Shawn played something familiar that really fit the scene; like the reading of the will to the tune of Jeopardy, the fight scene to the tune of the Rocky soundtrack, and the ending marriage proposal to “Here Comes the Bride” the audience howled in delight.
There was fresh tasty popcorn for sale ($1 a bag), tickets sold at the door by persons in costume (it is the Halloween weekend) and many of the younger families in the crowd were dressed as witches, vampires and trolls. This is the fifth year Shawn has done this. The people walking out of the film, having given him a standing ovation, weren’t sure what was more impressive; the playing for 90 minutes straight, the selection of the music, or the way the music and the movie fit so perfectly. Maybe it was all three!
As my daughter and I walked to our car it struck me that community events that bring different demographics and different age groups together need fun nights like this. The collective joy of the audience was palpable. You could feel the energy and the excitement as people settled in for an evening of entertainment. It’s one thing to go to a movie and sit in the theatre, it’s one thing to watch a sports event, but it is another to witness a live community event featuring the talents and creativity of someone you know, in a familiar place. The annual nature of the event also revs up anticipation. People were waiting for this evening throughout the fall.
I kept asking myself if other communities in this city, in this province, just need someone, a catalyst, to utilize her/his talent to make something like this come to life. How many communities are just waiting for events like this to come out and support something, someone? While it is true that it is rare to see the various income groups of this city in one place at one time it is not true to say that it is impossible to bring them together. It’s more accurate to say we don’t try often enough.
The fact is the media is just waiting on an event like this to cover the experience, the artist, the audience, and profile something unique and life giving. Halifax, indeed Nova Scotia, is brimming with talent and creativity, all that is needed is an event, something a little unexpected, like art at night (Nocturne), to generate the community presence and spirit we all crave.
In the community of Armdale Shawn Whynot has hit the sweet spot, he has found something to bring people together for a common experience that everyone can relate to. What a blessing he is to this area.