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It all began with this little snippet in the Vineyard Gazette in September of 1990. My daughter Deb likes Harry Connick Jr and I’m a huge fan of Carly Simon, I have been even before I knew of her Vineyard connection. This seemed like a perfect weekend getaway for us but how could I manage to get tickets when I live in NJ and they were only on sale on the Vineyard !
I did it. I was determined and when it involves the Vineyard my determination is un-stoppable. So off we went. There were a few glitches along the way concerning MV accommodations and ferry reservations so we decided to stay in Falmouth on the mainland and just go to the Vineyard for the day of the concert.
It was a spectacular September Sunday afternoon on the Vineyard, the Campground was filled with happy concertgoers bustling around.
Before the concert began we were talking with a woman sitting next to us who was going on and on about how excited she was to be seeing Carly Simon. She said she had chatted about it with her seat mate on the small plane she had flown over to MV on that afternoon. She told him she had no idea who Harry Connick, Jr was, but that she was mainly there to see Carly.
When Harry stepped onto the stage she gasped and said “oh my god, that’s the young man I was talking to on the plane.” Just a tad embarrassing.
At 3pm Harry stepped on stage and the concert began. His band was fantastic and Harry’s voice velvety smooth. After about an hour or so of great music the lights were turned off. The only illumination was the sun shining through the stained glass windows around the perimeter of the Tabernacle !! And out stepped…..
CARLY. I was beside myself. In actuality though the person beside me was Carly’s mother!! I have seen Carly in concert several times since then but seeing her on the Vineyard and at the Tabernacle was something really special for me. Harry and Carly sang a few songs together, their voices meshed beautifully.
Carly did a few songs alone and then way too soon it was over. What a fantastic day, one we’ll never forget.
The reviews of the concert were glowing, much like the talents of Carly Simon and Harry Connick Jr. as they stood side by side on the stage of the Tabernacle.
After the concert we had ‘drinks’ with the band at the Oyster Bar in Oak Bluffs… us and about 100 other people… then we headed to Edgartown for dinner.
Too quickly our lovely day on the Vineyard was coming to an end. We drove back to Oak Bluffs for one last look at the now darkened Tabernacle. We had booked a late ferry and it’s one of the few times I’ve sailed at night. The sky was star filled, a cool breeze was blowing and a young man on board was strumming his guitar and singing softly. Perfect day.
I”ve seen Carly 6 or 7 times but this was the first time and there couldn’t have been a more perfect place.
Upcoming Illumination Night is Wed, Aug 15, 2012. It has always been my favorite event of the summer
Going to Illumination Night is a thrill for me no matter my age.
I think I was 2 and 1/2 the first time I went, I’m embarrassed to say that even with my annoyingly good memory, I don’t remember it. My first memory of Illumination Night involves wearing a particularly pretty dress so I’m thinking I was around three or four, which would have been around 1946.
My dad, mom, god-mother and I would have an early supper and then walk to the Campground. My dad and I would stroll around looking at all the beautifully decorated gingerbread houses while my mother and god-mother would chat with friends and relatives.
At 8 o’clock the Vineyard Haven Band would begin playing and the always fun community sing would start. Patriotic songs like, America The Beautiful, Yankee Doodle, Battle Hymn of the Republic are always stirring and emotional. It took me a couple of years to learn the words to all the songs and I still get messed up on a couple of the rounds like John Brown’s Baby. The band playing the Star Spangled Banner and the rousing Stars and Stripes Forever are always crowd pleasers.
But as much fun as that was it was only a precursor to the main event. The Tabernacle and Campground go dark… the crowd cheers. The lighting of the first lantern and then all the gingerbread houses are simoutaneously aglow with Japanese lanterns. Everyone oohs and ahhs and stream out of the Tabernacle to walk through the magical fairyland the Campground has become. My dad would carry me on his shoulders so I could see everything… I felt like I could touch the stars.
After seeing all there was to see we’d head out onto Circuit Ave to either the Frosty Cottage for ice cream or Darling’s for popcorn. Always a tasty ending to a perfectly enchanting night.
Like I said, no matter your age, Illumination Night is fun for everyone. Just look at these faces from 1998…
(Click on pictures to enlarge)
These are just a few of the bazillion pictures I’ve taken of the Tabernacle. Seriously, a bazillion of them.
I live in NJ but my heart and soul live on MV… and on MV they like to live here at the Tabernacle in the Campground . It is my favorite spot on the Island… an oasis of serenity and calmness in the middle of the Vineyard’s most bustling and lively town, Oak Bluffs. This magnificent iron structure was built in 1879… in 1979 was listed in the Natl Register of Historic Places… in 1999 a major restoration began, and in 2000 it became a project of Save America’s Treasures. Those are some of the facts of the building but not necessarily what constitutes the heart and soul of it.
Inside the Tabernacle is a banner that says “truly God resides in this place” and so he does. I am profoundly attached to the Tabernacle and visit it several times every time I’m on MV whether it’s in the heat of the summer, or the cold of the winter… I just magnetically gravitate there, I have no choice.
Many events take place at the Tabernacle. There are of course religious services held during the summer months. The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School holds its graduation there. There are concerts also and what a magnificent setting for a concert. Three that I particularly enjoyed were… Harry Connick Jr and his special guest Carly Simon in Sep 1990 and two Boston Pops concerts.
One of the best events of the summer is Illumination Night in the Camp Ground… it’s a magical fairy land and for me it’s hard not to become 8 years old again. The evening starts with a rousing community sing… the band plays… the whole Campground is alive with the sounds of happiness and joy. All the gingerbread houses are decorated with Japanese lanterns… many of them handed down from generation to generation and some still being lit by candles. Suddenly all lights are extinguished and the ceremonial first lantern is lit…. it’s walked up the aisle of the Tabernacle and illuminates it… as that happens all the gingerbread houses come alive with lanterns… it takes my breath away every time.
So there it is… a little bit about my favorite place on MV. I shall end this post by simply saying… amen.