Every summer before camp begins, we let our neighbors on Moore Road know our opening date so they will be aware that there is about to be a very different presence here in their neighborhood. It’s a polite, but unnecessary, formality. Even without advance notice, they would know that camp has begun – they would know from the singing. I can only imagine what it must be like for two months out of the year to have 400 people move in next door and sing loudly in unison 5-7 times a day.
But to be fair, we also give our neighbors the closing dates for camp, so they will know that all the “noise” will come to an end. But it doesn’t really. The music doesn’t end; it just spreads out. Campers carry it on the car-ride home, spilling out from CD players, iPods, and vocal cords. It spreads to the homes and to the synagogues. And a little bit of it always stays here in Zionsville. After all, the music is the spirit of the place. It can never go away.
Today we are preparing to turn up the off-season volume a bit. In just a few hours camp will be buzzing with activity preparing for tonight’s Dan Nichols and E18hteen concert. Dan and the band have spent the past eight days of Sukkot in an RV touring the South. They have brought their music to small Jewish communities that otherwise would not have the opportunity to see them play. Perhaps when the tour is over Dan will write a blog for us discussing his adventure, including the symmetry he discovered between the festival of Sukkot and the plight of those he saw in the South preparing to flee the immigration laws that threaten them.
Tonight the tour ends here at GUCI. A small group of camp alumni will come home this evening to welcome Dan home. We will also be welcoming home a former camper and staff member, Doug Passon, now an award-winning film-maker who has been documenting the tour. The excitement is building for an outstanding concert, beginning with a camp-style Shabbat Walk and service. We plan to have the concert outdoors at the Teatron (our outdoor amphitheatre), celebrating the end of Sukkot amongst the falling leaves. And while, for a few moments this morning, we all considered moving the show indoors due to the dipping temperatures, the band has chosen to be hardy and resilient like our ancestors and weather the elements. It promises to be “cool” show in every way.
And in just a few weeks, the music once more returns. On November 12th, at the request of Gordon Kaye (Avodah 2011) we will open the Performing Arts Center to a group of young people hosting a benefit concert for Invisible Children, an international organization that seeks to use film, music, and social action to end the exploitation of children as rebel soldiers in central Africa. We are proud to be able to open our doors to young people who want to use music to change the world. Nothing could be more in the spirit of camp.
And so the music is back. It will stir us to move our bodies. But with messages of perseverance, freedom, and human dignity, it will also stir us to move our souls and our collective conscience.