Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

"One brief shining moment"

The sounds of the Celtic Fiddle filled the Lorain Palace theatre built in1924. Bruce Erwin, after pursuing an orchestral career became fascinated with traditional music, especially that of Scotland. He is the author of "The Fiddlers Wrist". March 2004 will find Bruce presenting "Incorporating Scottish Fiddle into Basic Instruction" at the American String Teachers Association's national convention in Dallas, Texas. Erwin performs with three groups "Forward and Back", Forsyth Special and "Erwynne's Marsh". Bruce was the lone Celtic Fiddler beneath graceful domed ceiling of the Palace decorated in the Italian Renaissance style, elegantly painted in soft shades of turquoise, rose and gold leaf with it's exquisite three quarter ton crystal chandelier. Bruce played a Scottish aire whilst his daughter, Emily, a dancer of Highland waited in the wings. Emily was not in Highland mode this evening though but was one of the 25 young people of the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra patiently waiting to entertain the over 750 people gathered in the auditorium on one of the coldest nights of the year. What made this evening so different from the hundreds of others that take place throughout the country annually? This beautiful theatre was saved from decay by a dedicated group of people who realized that in a deteriorating downtown " the arts" and the need for performance space may just save a city's core. Their foresight was remarkable.


In recent years this city on the shores of Lake Erie, Ohio has experienced the traumas of manufacturing decline and loss of blue-collar jobs. The downtown specialty shops have been replaced by drinking establishments that in recent months have attracted less than desirable clientele. Within two months there have been 2 shooting incidents and a domestic murder in the library parking lot. Headlines proclaimed the death of the area, stores shuttered and closed; but " for one brief shining moment" when the "people of the arts" took back the street.

The cold January night found 10 groups of performers on the 28 x 100 stage, Japanese Icho Deiko drummers rocked the house, the children of the Christian dance group MOG and their young men who performed innovative and colorful routines.Ohio Dance Theatre mingled with the dramatists, the Raqs Sharki (Egyptian Belly dance), Swing time 1994 and poets.The performers shared the spotlight with the 13 visual artists who displayed their sculpture, paintings, and stained glass in and around the lobbies.All these "artists" performing and visual gave voluntarily of their time and talent to showcase the creative side to life rather than the destructive side we had been used to of late.

Unable to afford rehearsal time the performers were given a time slot within the two hours, no technical rehearsal.The tech crew had to decide lighting and sound needs in their imaginations and fingers crossed for the night of the performance that they were accurate.Highland dancers are used to such things but was it going to work for the dramatists who were taking a cutting of "Arms and the Man" from an arena stage and mounting the cutting on a proscenium stage before the main curtain? How were they going to lay the dance floor needed for the dancers of Ohio Dance Theatre and remove it before the Icho Drums needed the space?

The answer was that maybe it was time to "educate" the audience as to just how much work goes into putting on that ballet recital or performance.Whilst the tech crew laid the floor Denise Gula, Artistic Director of Ohio Dance Theatre took the microphone and explained to the gathered audience the why, what, wherefores and the importance of dance flooring to the dancer. Denise then segwayed into the use of the barre, the necessity of proper warm-up technique as the dancers warmed up on the main stage accompanied by Denise's explanations, this culminated in the beauty of the performance itself.

Children in the audience, eyes shining at the wonder of the dance were no less enthralled by the culmination of the classical orchestrations of the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra two hours later. They had been given a taste of the many facets of performing arts and visual arts that evening and I believe they went home wanting more.

The old city once more had laughter and life on its thoroughfare.Grace and beauty from the dancers defied the ugliness of recent weeks to raise its head.The sounds of the Japanese drums drove out the memory of sirens; woodwind, fiddle and song replaced the wailing and tears.The children of the arts renewed belief in the future.

Yes, it will take more than the "one brief shining moment" but as I stood in the back of the auditorium listening to the fiddler, I thought not of how Nero fiddled whilst Rome burned (although some say he actually played the pipes) but how the creativity of those involved in the all art forms make such a difference in our lives and may help extinguish the flames of decay and despair. The next time your child puts on their ghillies or toe shoes, picks up and instrument or opens their mouth to sing or recite remember how they make our lives so much richer; without them there would be no shining moments, however brief.

For further information on the Lorain Palace Theatre see www.lorainpalace.org and for information on the performance and performers please contact Loraine Ritchey through this column.

As always for Questions and Comments, I can be reached at

Loraine Ritchey, 1127.W. 4th Street, Lorain, Ohio, 44052.