Last night I was lucky enough to get a very privileged glimpse of the truly exclusive side of Manhattan. My friends were shooting an event for Music Unites, an organisation dedicated to supporting both established and emerging musical talent, and using the power of music to break down barriers and bring its uniting force to deprived communities. Not my usual subject, I know, but please indulge me while I bask in the glow of being grown up and child-free for an evening.
Even if it hadn’t been such a treat for me, even it hadn’t been for a fantastic cause, and even if the music had been dreadful, I would have been happy to be there. I have seen few things more striking than the skyline of Manhattan under a full moon from the top of the Cooper Square Hotel last night.
Conversely I would have been happy listening to John FortÃ©, the artist taking the stage last night, in a grubby basement without the luxury of an open bar. After spending seven years in prison, FortÃ© was released earlier this year when his 14-year sentence was personally commuted by George Bush. He used to work with Lauren Hill and the Fugees, and I had heard a little of his music before, but it couldn’t have prepared me for the show last night. Just a man with a guitar and a microphone, the view from the roof could have been of the aurora borealis and my attention would still have been on the tiny stage. FortÃ©’s voice and demeanor were, for want of a better word, breathtaking. He engaged so completely with the audience that I’m sure we could all have believed he was singing to each one of us individually. You couldn’t doubt, listening to this beautiful man making such beautiful music, that what he had to say mattered, and that his music would be touching the world before too long.
Look out for this one. I’m not generally one to admit to things like auras, but even I could tell there was something special about this guy. If we’re being really honest, I quite fancied him too….
Photo by Peter Ruprecht