One of the basic teachings of Confucius, who lived more than 26 centuries ago, was that "personal cultivation begins with poetry, is established by rites, and is perfected by music." (Waley, 1938)
I thought of Confucius on a recent Sunday when we attended the Friends concert at Greenwich Point. No, the music was not Beethoven nor was it played by the Greenwich Symphony.
The Al Demarco quintet played "jazz and standard melodies" that were popular during the 30s and 40s and have remained in the much-loved American repertory.
The familiarity of the songs and lyrics activated the audience and we were invited to sing and dance along with the guitar, xylophone, tenor sax, drums, and bass.
As I watched some young children dance, three little girls, I was struck by the freedom of their movement, the uninhibited, and unembarrassed enjoyment of the moment.
One child looked about 2 years old, and to much of the audience, she was the star of the show. Actors often lament about being on the same stage with a child and perhaps the musicians, and certainly the adult audience members who danced that night, realized the truth of that lament.
Although the music drew the audience to the Point, I think the setting captivated them.
Confucius could have added that "personal cultivation" could also be enhanced by environment. He may even have called that Sunday evening event a "ritual" because to sit in the seaside garden at the Point, listen to music, and watch the sky glow with the beauty of the sunset has to awaken the senses and cultivate an appreciation of the earth.
Thanks to the Friends of Greenwich Point for arranging the concerts. Indeed, the evening could have been part of an ancient ritual.
When a recent Friends reggae and Caribbean concert featuring the band, Kroni, had to be moved inside the Old Greenwich Civic Center because of weather, the organizer, Jay Louden (who seems to know all the musicians in the area) took it in stride. Crowded into a tiny room, the band's enthusiasm coincided with the volleyball tournament of Portugese high school students in the gym next door.
When the band asked if anyone knew a certain tune, our teenage granddaughter raised her hand and they invited her to take the microphone and sing, which she did beautifully. Later all of the small audience that was jammed into the tiny room danced to the upbeat reggae music. We had a rocking good time as the rain pelted the roof.
What a great town, I thought to myself during these concerts. I also am in awe, when taking our three year old grandson to swim at the Point, to hear the number of languages being spoken. We have heard many, many languages and, when we engage the families in conversation, which one can do with a three-year-old, they all seem to live in Greenwich.
They love the Point and perhaps that is why they have moved here. Many long-time mid- and backcountry residents are not as knowledgeable about the beauties of Eastern Greenwich as our new residents.
As my husband and I pack a picnic dinner tonight to bring to Greenwich Point this beautiful evening, to meet friends, and watch the sun set, I will thank Confucius for acknowledging this need for harmony in our lives and wish that everyone on this planet could have the opportunities that we have in Greenwich.
Ann Caron is an author of books on adolescence and a parent-educator. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.