Reflections from the Lantern Society, Hastings’ Candlelit Acoustic Club,
by Trevor Moss

The Lantern Society opened its doors once again this month to some familiar favourites and welcome newcomers. Over the years our humble stage has provided the platform for everyone from fledgling performers to platinum-selling recording artists, each being greeted by an often intimidatingly silent audience.

This is a rare atmosphere and one which draws performers and eager listeners alike. I have played some of the largest auditoriums in the world, yet the Lantern inspires a peculiar anxiety. This week I’ve had the cathartic pleasure of playing in both the corner of a deafeningly noisy bar to the odd drunken heckle of ‘play something by The Monkees’, and in the walkway of a gastro-pub to utter indifference. So why, when presented with the attentive audience we so desire, do so many players report such reticence? And why do we repeatedly put ourselves through such emotional turmoil when we could be sipping a cool beer and soaking up the last rays of the setting sun on the pier?

Bev Lee Harling performs to a silent audience
PICTURE: Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou

It is easy to hide in the blinding spotlight, staring blankly into the infinite void of a grand concert hall. It is also easy to plead the unappreciated genius in a noisy bar. It is much harder to acknowledge that on this stage I should excel. We are unarmed and exposed.    

I don’t hear applause. After shows I often ask Hannah-Lou if she thinks it went well, so it’s not the adulation that drives me. I would profess to not enjoying being on stage, yet have actively pursued it for nearly 15 years.

The Lantern society was created as an antidote to the open-mic showcase circuit, where musicians turn up mid-afternoon to sign the first-come-first-play-and-leave list. We like to say the Lantern is a place to be, rather than to be seen, and although many are aspiring professionals, longing for a life of freedom from drudgery, and a dash of the accompanying money and fame, I don’t think players repeatedly wander down our darkened alleyway hoping to meet a record executive, and if they were to meet one down there I’d recommend not signing anything.    

For me it is a catharsis, purging oneself of pent-up emotion by enduring a self-inflicted hardship. Watching the weekly Parkrun on the promenade would suggest it’s not just musicians seeking this fix.

In this world of incessant noise, when silence falls and we have a moment to be truly heard we must learn to savour it.


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