Somewhere past the turtle pond and behind the castle, the thundering rhythms of the Puerto Rican Day Parade - it's deep bass rumble soaked in the sound of yelling and cheering so steady and strong that it seems like a recording. You feel the sound emotionally whether you acknowledge it or not - a whole people are gathered close by, shaking their skin from their bones. Puerto Rico has gone for a walk today and Puerto Rico is very excited. I decide that for this year, imagining the parade through the sound it makes will be better than seeing it. Next year I will seek out Boricua weekend first hand. This year I'm sitting on the edge of stage of the Delacorte Theater rehearsing.
Onstage the ensemble members involved in the finale dance are storming through their new and improved choreography. They cook in wet sunlight and keep time with the recorded portion of Hem's song, "The Rain it Raineth", the title of which I imagine Hem might have thought twice about in a band meeting: Steve pipes up from behind his coffee “Uh, guys, what can we do with this? I just wonder if ‘raineth’ really our best option here? Anyone have a Thesaurus?” Then Gary drops his fist on the top of the piano making the meteronome fall in Dan’s lap. “Dude, these are Shakespeare’s words you’re talking about. You don’t fuck with the Shakespeare!”
The band is called onstage to add our parts. I grab my bodhran, my tipper, and my shaker and meet Steve, Leslie, Andrew and Chris at the top of the fantastic stage-crafted hill. Chris and I have monitors that we wear in one ear to make sure that the live band stays in time with Hem’s orchestrations. Except for a technical glitch on the first night where the volume of my earpiece was compromised and the audience, dancers and band played the whole finale a half beat off, we've had no problems. From our present position onstage the thunder of the parade through the trees is actually giving the recorded track a run for it's audible money.
"The Puerto Rican Day Parade is the best parade in the city," Christopher says. "Much better than the St. Patricks Day Parade." These are serious words coming from a man with bagpipes. "So boring," he continues. I tell him that by comparison to what we are hearing, I can easily imagine St.Pats Day as far less fun. No pulse to dance to, boring colors. "Plus, they don't let in gays," Chris adds. Well, there you go.