Listen for Mr. Ding-a-Ling

Mr. Ding-a-Ling was out for the first time today. You could feel the neighborhood smile as folks rustled through enough spare change to buy ice cream, a rainbow pop, a wrapped sundae.

Music summons us. Will bands play outdoors this summer for Music on the Green, impromptu singing in the parks?

I showed movies outdoors for several summers, prior to VCRs and streaming entertainment. You could get 16-mm projectors from the library, and learn how to get the jumpover from one reel to the other smooth enough not to rattle those used to theaters and television.


One time we unspooled a thousand feet of extension cord and dragged a piano up onto a small mountain in the Catskills, where The Wind was shown among aeolian harps; star Lillian Gish sent a message to be read to those who assembled. When we showed Huckleberry Finn, half the kids, all boys, knew Mickey Rooney’s lines by heart.

We passed on big summer trips in recent years to focus on the region’s culture, catching Beethoven’s Ninth at Tanglewood, the new opera Blue at Glimmerglass, the offerings at Maverick, Music Mountain, and Phoenicia’s Festival for the Voice, great pop and world music (for free!) in Schenectady, Poughkeepsie, Hudson and Albany. Dance at Saratoga and Jacob’s Pillow.

Many years ago, we used to carry speakers outside, sometimes with extension cords and a record player. Then came boomboxes. Now we have smartphones and wireless speakers that hold a charge for hours.

Why not create your own concerts outdoors, in marvelous spots with views but no crowds? I’m not talking about playing Beastie Boys or Metallica at top volume at a beach, but an entire symphony on the long front lawns of the Hudson River Valley Belle-Epoque mansions with the Catskills in the background. Digging into opera, or some sultry jazz as the night descends and fireflies rise? Entire albums in new settings?

It’s easier to concentrate for an hour when you’ve shilled out big bucks to do so. Or the music is live and the surrounding audience is ready to shush any rustle you make. But you can’t really dance in such situations, Mark Morris-style, or stand up and move your arms, your entire body, like some entranced conductor.

Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.