Studio 60 made me cry this week. I don’t generally get so invested in television shows that I’m moved to tears by anything that occurs, though I’m perfectly capable of willfully suspending disbelief when I choose to, but this was special. It was, in fact, a magical moment in a medium that has largely forsaken magic in favor of money.
I’m writing, of course, of the four minutes at the end of the show, where musicians from Tipitina’s played an instrumental version of “O Holy Night” on an empty stage, with b roll footage of New Orleans playing behind them, and faux snow falling only at the end. Was it part of the story? Yes. It wasn’t the a-plot or even the b-plot, but there was an on-going thread about studio musicians all over the city calling in sick and letting musical visitors from New Orleans sub for them, thus earning union cards and Christmas paychecks. Was it hokey? Maybe a little. Was it effective? Absolutely.
We’ve long known that music can heal, that music can unite, that music can educate, but seeing it in action is vastly different from the purely intellectual “knowing.” I’m reminded by something that either Peter Yarrow or Noel Paul Stookey said during one of Peter, Paul and Mary’s concerts, years ago, that we are all adept at lying when we speak, but that it’s impossible to lie when we sing.
I’m not the most knowledgable person about jazz and blues. I know I like the genre, I have artists toward whom I gravitate, and favorite cd’s, but I learned Monday night, that just as you cannot lie when singing, you cannot hide your heart behind a trumpet, a sousaphone, a saxophone. The men on that stage played from the heart, and invoked the kind of magic that is found in the best performances, the kind that makes you cry real tears even though you’re not sitting in a concert hall, but curled up with your dogs on a plush red sofa, watching network television.
It was holiday magic, in the best form.
And I feel changed, improved, and more whole because of it.
(NBC is offering free downloads of the mp3 here.)