Eric Ball and the belly-dance lightening strike . . .
A true Getz/Ball experience
The exact date escapes me, but it was perhaps the late 1970's - certainly not much later than that. Barbara and I had planned a very, very long driving vacation which encompassed driving from Detroit to Chicago for a brief stop, then to Wisconsin to visit Eric and Olive Ball who were guests at The Salvation Army Central Music Institute at Camp Lake. From there it was off to Rhinelander, Wisconsin to visit Carl and Ula Lindstrom (dear friends both, and Carl was my bandmaster in the Chicago Staff Band). From there we drove around the Great Lakes all the way to St. James Bay at the bottom of Hudson's Bay in far northern Canada, then over to Maine and back across the country to Detroit!
When we arrived at the CMI music camp the evening program was already under way. It was some kind of stunt night and the featured entertainment consisted of male faculty members stripped to the waist with faces painted on their chests and corpulent bellies! In this elegant state they were doing some sort of hoochie-coochie dance to canned music of a sort. The kids seemed to be amused, but it made me want to throw up! The way we spotted Eric and Olive was that they were in the process of discretely trying to extricate themselves from the assemblage. It was offensive in the extreme to them as well. It remains a mystery to me that people feel the need for such ludicrous antics at all, but especially when in the presence of one of the most profound musical/spiritual gifts humanity has ever been given, Eric Ball.
We joined up with the Balls to their happy surprise and we walked a little way down the road to get away from the racket of the program. As we were catching up on things and just enjoying each other's presence, with no warning whatever, the most horrendous lightening and thunder I have ever experienced struck instantly within perhaps a hundred feet of where we stood. The entire camp was plunged into darkness like the inside of a cow! No ambient light out there in the country . . . just velvet blackness and ozone. We literally could not see each other. However the whereabouts of each was plain. Our arms were tightly entwined about each other like Boa Constrictors! We were a knot of flesh tangled instinctively from the unbelievable shock of it all. How long this lasted I cannot say. It seemed hours in a way, but I suspect it was mere moments. Then, as instantly as the lightening struck, the lights came back on!
As we unwrapped ourselves from one another, there stood Eric in the center of us all, profoundly serene. He looked up with a wonderful smile and simply said with good enthusiasm: "Mahvahlous!, isn't it?!"
As we continued our happy reunion, the cacophonous clangor in the pavilion continued as though there had been no lightening . . . as though there were no Eric Ball . . .
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