Listening Room: An Origin Story
One of the first things we mention, when people come to Wild Rose Moon, is that we are a listening room. Even some of our performers are new to that term. The idea for a listening room comes from a set of seminal experiences I had many years ago in a small room that unknowingly transformed the way I thought about performance.
I first came across Amazing Grace Coffee house, as a student, in 1972, when it had moved to a quonset hut on Northwestern University grounds. Because it purveyed some of the best food on campus, Amazing Grace Coffee house soon became my home away from home. The tickets were inexpensive too, and that made attending the performances even more inviting. The de rigueur for the evening was basic: one bought a ticket, walked inside, ordered a muffin, a bowl of lentil soup and some tea, found a place on the floor (for me, usually directly in front of the stage) and settled in for the performance. After a time an emcee appeared, introduced the act, and the show began.
Although informal, the shows in that room were extraordinary. They featured acoustic roots musicians like David Bromberg, Vassar Clements, John Hartford, Bonnie Koloc, and the amazing gospel singer, Odetta. Equally incredible were the audiences, which sat enraptured by the quality of the performances and the amazing sound engineering that made it all so blessedly natural. These were intimate performances that were filled with virtuosity and conveyed an enormous amount of emotional content. One could experience the best of human emotions in just one evening. Joy, sadness, despair, and love emanated from the songs and the stories that introduced them. And all through the performances the audience sat spellbound, knowing they were somehow part of something wonderful.
This was my first experience of a listening room. Many years later, when we had the chance to open Wild Rose Moon, I realized I very much wanted to translate that experience here.
As you sit in Wild Rose Moon's Perfomance Hall, or sit in The Little Moon Theater, I hope you will be experiencing much of this same feeling. Both are places that allow for an experience of intimacy with the performer and full attention to the performance.
Since opening the Wild Rose Moon, I have come to realize that listening itself is a difficult art. In a hectic, noise-filled world, true listening is a premium difficult to experience. Yet, each time I hear new performers at Open Mic, or young touring performers on stage, I’m reminded of what an essential gift the art of listening is to creating a caring and beautiful world.
It was only years later, after my experience of Amazing Grace Coffee House, that I realized those evenings of sitting, deeply listening to the beautiful hearts of all those fine and different performers, had transformed and enriched me with a deep sense of what it meant to be a growing and compassionate human. It makes me smile thinking of it. And I treasure those fine souls who thought to provide me with that experience. In that sense, Wild Rose Moon is a tribute to the listening opportunity they provided to so many.
It’s worth repeating, the art of listening isn’t easy, but it’s crucial, both to the performer and to oneself, as it is the listening that allows the performance to lift and soar . . . to move us deeply…toward community. The laughter, the tears, the swells of emotion, our pulses beating together; the art of performance brings us all a rich taste of what it means to be a growing, compassionate human.