It’s winter. The summer people are gone. But I still go around town expecting to recognize faces in the crowd. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way anymore.
Let me give you an example.
Figuratively speaking, Guild Hall’s simulcasts of classical music — world-class operas and symphony-orchestra performances beamed into the John Drew Theater, live in HD — are right up my alley. But they are also, quite literally, right up my alley: The hall is a very short stroll down my lane, which runs next to the Star office, and across Main Street. I love classical music, and it would make sense for me to know quite a few people in attendance at these programs, but I recognize very few.
It’s always more than a bit dismaying when you realize — as we constantly keep doing, around here — that the familiar community you knew and loved is gone, has slipped into the past.
Still, Guild Hall should be congratulated for drawing new audiences.
Like other South Fork institutions, the Parrish Art Museum and Southampton Cultural Center, for example, it is broadening its reach. (Guild Hall’s HD series has been so popular that the programmers even considered — but eventually decided against — showing the four operas in Wagner’s Ring when they are performed one after another at the Met in the spring.) I should add that, as might be expected, the new audiences for these classical-music events don’t include many young people; I don’t think I’d be exaggerating if I said that attendees under the age of 50 are few and far between.
Many of you reading this — who remember the small-town mood that lingered even into the 1990s — have certainly experienced something similar: There you are at Rowdy Hall, say, or on line at the Sag Harbor Cinema, craning your neck to say hello to old acquaintances, but . . . they’re just not there.
When I was The Star’s editor, I was often called by city journalists to comment on trends or anything intriguing in the local news. Once upon a time, Bonackers were able to divide the world into two categories — “from aways” and locals — but I remember sharing with some magazine reporter or other the familiar bit of humor that there were three categories of residents here: year-round people, summer people, and year-round summer people. Back then, I thought I knew or could make educated guesses about how most everyone fit into these categories (as did we all). But in the new East Hampton, it would take an in-depth demographic study to identify who’s who.
The next time anyone from away asks me what my town is like, I am going to beg off (unless they are interested in hearing about the geography, the flora, or the fauna, which, I’m happy to say, haven’t changed all that much).
The idea that the John Drew would attract a big audience for an opera on a snowy afternoon in midwinter would have been incredible even just a few years ago. This change is really to my benefit, if I can only come to think of it that way. Perhaps I’ll meet a few friendly opera lovers at intermission.