Monday, April 28, 2014

Keys Chorale On Life Support

I make no apology, I like opera but I also  like the lighter side of the outdoor concerts put on by the Keys Chorale. I remember the Christmas concerts at Fort Zachary put on by their diminutive dynamo of a leader, the now sainted Emily Boyd Lowe and the concerts outdoors at the back of the college put on by her worthy replacement Dean Walters, whose future as leader is now in question:
Florida Keys Chorale was created in 1990 as a no-credit course offering at the Florida Keys Community college. This was at a time when the college offered music courses and classes in theater...Nowadays that's all gone and replaced by the high ideals of business and finance, and yet somehow the Chorale soldiers on. All this was brought to mind Sunday night when we were offered dinner by our boss who left us a note and some funds to buy dinner to close National Telecommunicators' Week. We were supposed to get pizza reputed to be dispatchers' favorite food but really the people who answer 911 are foodies you will find, always rooting around for interesting new menu items to pass the time between phone calls. I like weird Uzbek food from Kennedy CafĂ© which is good for night shift as they are open till midnight and deliver. We've had burritos from the Yebo food truck recently and they went down well. This time Shannon said "honey chicken from Tong's Garden" so we agreed Nick and I, as disagreeing with Shannon takes nerve. We got a  huge piece of chicken breast breaded with a sticky sauce on the side that I managed to get everywhere like Winnie-The-Pooh with a hunny pot. It was delicious.
There is a collection of free magazines and papers in the police station lobby where I was waiting for the driver who called ahead to tell us he was one minute out, and while I waited I picked up a weekly I haven't paid much attention to lately, called Konk Life. Its published by a Conch Bubba who started a community radio station a while back but the community support was lagging so the radio which was grossly underpowered such that by Stock Island the signal was fading, went completely off the air and faded to the Internet which is not what I listen to in my car. But the flimsy ad-filled paper seems to have blossomed while I had my back turned and all the journalistic talent that has recently been fired by Cooke Communications of the Key West Citizen seems to have a found a home in the burgeoning empire of the deBoer publishing franchise. What a pleasant surprise! I waited for the Chinese food to appear and flipped the pages. Well, well, now we have something to look forward to each week to fill the hole left by Solares Hill. 
The editor is an old newspaperman from the Citizen, a sports writer of some local repute and  the writers are familiar to the community as the publisher himself Guy deBoer is pleased to point out. I took my copy of Konk Life upstairs with our dinner and took a  tour between 911 calls. There was lots of stuff to read. The big story that I found captured my interest was the extensive coverage and opinion of a recent meeting of members of the Keys Chorale. It seems they have to choose between dropping their affiliation with the college if they want to keep Dean Walters who is not qualified to "teach a course" though he is eminently qualified to direct the Chorale... However the obvious question is whether or not the musical group can raise tens of thousands of dollars and manage all the minutiae of maintaining a musical volunteer organization...But that is what they will have to do to keep Walters. 
The next issue facing the Chorale is that of diminishing membership. Their website quotes numbers of between 70 and 100 but the articles quote 33 to 37 actual members nowadays, which is apparently a critical quorum that has been reached, and it must not shrink further if the Chorale is to stay alive; fewer members and it dies which gives everything a certain sense of urgency. It has been lost on no one that the Key West Symphony died a rather public and acrimonious death thanks to low funding and bills that could only get paid after unconscionable delays. The economic climate continues to be healthy only in the eyes of the delusional and those removed from the reality of earning a living. For the rest of us money is tight. 
We are entering a new era, one that the city has trodden before certainly, but one that those of us who remember the days of plenty before 2008 can only view with collective sadness. Its the arts that make life interesting and on some days bearable even, a fact not well understood by the troglodytes who measure the value of life by Return  On Investment, yet they are the masters of our shrinking universe more so than previously.  Those that have made a fortune out of Key West aren't stepping up and business and financial leaders who can help with advice and experience as much as with cash could help helm the Arts into a safer future, but I guess that open season on politicians is more interesting and more lucrative. Key West is a funny place and on has to hope that oddness will win out in the end and perhaps the trend toward mercantilism at the expense of all else can be bucked in this small town.
Certainly the dense prose on the pages of Konk Life holds out hope that print in this town isn't dead, far from it, and whatever happens to music someone will likely be around to report on what does happen. I am now looking forward to seeing how often and how much I disagree with whatever I get to enjoy reading in this paper. Just having a paper with a letters page will be a refreshing change from the new and not improved leadership at the daily Citizen.

For other local news the online Blue Paper is also available for hard hitting opinions.