Monday, January 9, 2012
Nearly ten minutes of thunderous applause brought the reclusive Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel back to the stage for one more encore. He finally re-emerged and quietly began to sing and play his guitar un-amplified on the edge of the stage. As all 1,166 of us slowly joined in, it seemed as though you could pick out each individual voice in the crowd, Mangum’s above all. Each voice bounced gently off Sanders Theatre’s vast vaulted ceiling, falling together in an eerie and beautiful chorus that sounded more like a prayer than a song. To see a musician like Mangum in a place like Sanders Theatre feels sacred – simultaneously solemn and joyful. Sanders’ long pew-style benches contribute to the religious experience, as do the tremendous stained glass windows throughout the hall.
While the theatre’s amazing acoustics make it an ideal setting for serious choral and orchestral performances, Mangum is only one example of the numerous less traditional acts that are booked there as well. In late September, for example, the theatre provided a home for the 2011 Nobel Prize Ceremony, honoring improbable research (“research that makes people laugh and then think.”) The ceremony included the world premiere of a mini-opera called “Chemist in a Coffee Shop,” an appearance by a 2007 winner who co-authored a study on the side effects of sword swallowing, and many other curiosities.
Read the rest of my article over on CBS Boston.