Fear Turns into Needed Hope

By Mark Leisure   |   August 5, 2021

I’m going to reveal something right here you may not know about me: I’m a 6 on the Enneagram, the ancient personality typing system that dates back before Christianity, which is at the heart of the fear-based triad of types. So as scary as the idea of catching COVID was, the lockdown worked for me, because it took any question of gauging safety out of my hands, for the most part. Sure, I walked on streets and trails, but often even wore a mask and kept some distance, and mostly my partner in isolation and I chose to have food delivered for several months. On those rare times I went into a grocery store, I wore one of those industrial respirators, so I was pretty convinced I was safe. 

Now with reopening, I must balance FOMO (the famous acronym meaning “Fear of Missing Out”) with FFMOS, my own term for Fear for My Own Safety. Usually, I’ve come down on the side of the latter, eschewing opportunities to catch live events if they’re not outdoors in the open air. In other words, the Man About Town these days is More About Trepidation.

I’m sharing all this by way of explaining why I didn’t catch the Brian Wilson tribute at the Lobero, or SBCC Theatre Group’s much-heralded musical revue that celebrated a return to live performances at the Garvin, or Opera Santa Barbara’s truncated first foray into Wagner at the Lobero, or anything at the Music Academy of the West on campus or at the Granada until late July.

What I did see, however, was an absolutely stirring show called Come Together, a Beatles tribute performed by six young singers— Daniel Brackett, Cassidy Broderick, Ben Catch, Hunter Hawkins, McKenna Gemberling, and Emerson Steady — who are mostly associated with Ensemble Theatre’s education programs or other local theater groups that connect them to ETC’s Director of Education and Outreach Brian McDonald, who put together the event. That’s because it took place at Godric Grove, the intimate natural amphitheater high atop Elings Park, where the singers and a crack local band fronted by keyboardist Brian Mann delivered one of the more inspiring trips through the Beatles’ catalog I’d ever witnessed. 

The generous 20-song set was hosted by Ivor Davis, the local journalist who had covered every concert of the Beatles’ first tour of America in 1964 (and wrote a book about it seven years ago for the 50th anniversary).

But it was the concert itself that was a riveting reminder of the power of both live music and community, as each young singer had at least one chance to solo, many songs were performed as an ensemble and all were delivered with the kind of dedication — not to mention vocal chops — that makes one’s heart soar.

Having the three young ladies sing “Can’t Buy Me Love” proved a great twist on the classic song, the theme of which prompted Davis to quip: “You live in Santa Barbara — did you really think money can’t buy you love?” Hawkins’ lead vocals and dance moves on “I Want to Hold Your Hand” earned a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd. Brackett’s vocal acrobatics paired with the guitarist solo during the coda of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” elicited much-deserved whoops and hollers. 

By the time 15-year-old Broderick offered a sweet, powerful-yet-vulnerable take on an acoustic version of “Across the Universe,” my heart was filled with a sense of hope — for the world, for all of us, for the magic of music — that was almost brought tears to my eyes. I’m getting chills just recalling the precious moments of the precocious singer. 

Or maybe it was the setting as well as the songs that created the stirring feeling at Godric Grove on a beautiful Santa Barbara summer’s day, where you can look beyond the stage to see downtown, the harbor, the ocean, and mountains. Gratitude just flooded my heart in a way it hadn’t during all those days, weeks, and months at home. And knowing the money raised by the benefit aids ETC in keeping such programs going, providing talented youngsters with a place to channel and follow their dreams in pursuing musical theater. Not too bad a way to emerge from isolation.


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