MFA: F is for free

by Beacon Staff • October 4, 2006

Students filed in, plopped down on the dewy grass and sat with their legs crossed, all in anticipation of the storyteller. There was no reading of Dr. Seuss' Hop on Pop, but the masterful Joanna Newsom had a harp and her stories came in the form of majestic tunes.,College Night at the Museum of Fine Arts was like preschool story time.

Students filed in, plopped down on the dewy grass and sat with their legs crossed, all in anticipation of the storyteller. There was no reading of Dr. Seuss' Hop on Pop, but the masterful Joanna Newsom had a harp and her stories came in the form of majestic tunes.

Newsom seemed completely in her element in the courtyard of the museum. Her free-spirited feel, long flowing hair and linen dress matched the natural scenery.

Towering, yet not daunting, trees lined the outskirts of the venue and skimmed just above the rooftops of the museum that fenced in the intimate setting.

The classic architecture and the greenery, with impeccable lighting that highlighted both, made for incredible ambiance. Newsom appeared on a modest stage just a foot or two off the grass on which her audience sat. When she sat behind her harp, she appeared timid and small. She opened her mouth and her voice was just as small as she looked.

When she started playing her ancient instrument, though, her songs reached a pinnacle; she was larger than life with a voice like a nighttime lullaby, both relaxing and entrancing. Her words painted detailed pictures of relationships, nautical adventures and nature. This is why her surroundings complemented her so beautifully. It felt as if this is the only way Newsom should ever play a concert. Her sounds echoed off the nature she spoke of, which could not be replicated in an indoor setting.

Her opening act, Boston's own Chris Brokaw, started the night in the same calm manner. Brokaw had an Art Garfunkel appearance about him: he was slightly aged and had the unruly hair to match. Brokaw played his acoustic guitar and tambourine, which he managed by foot. He sang simple folk tunes that broke up some of the monotony of pure acoustic guitar solos.

The more upbeat songs with an emphasis on the tambourine were the easiest to listen to. Like Newsom, his trouble-free songs took the audience out of the bustling city and into the museum's secluded oasis, where at times it was quiet enough to hear insects chirping as if they were background vocals.

"It was nice to hear crickets," Brokaw said.

There was amazing art to glance at as well. From two prints of Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe to a wide variety of African textiles, there was something for all interests. The new exhibit "Domains of Wonder: Masterworks of Indian Painting" which opened Sept. 20, was a look at an art that tends to go unrecognized. The collection filled with small paintings of Indian culture was a look at the society and the religions with a Far Eastern charm.

There was also the comfortable and romantic lounge area on the Garden Terrace. Candlelit tables with bright green table clothes made this aged room seem hip and new. Leather couches took the space over the top in complete classiness.

Not many people were sitting around because they were too busy strutting on the dance floor. It was a full-fledged dance party with the unique sounds of local disc jockey DJ Yamin. His sound was a danceable combination of Middle Eastern and reggae tunes. If the marvelous beats were not enough, there were even delicious cookies and mint brownies for the audience to munch on.

Along with the free food, there was an opportunity to win such prizes as a year's supply of Vitamin Water and an iPod Nano. Kate Sitarz, a freshman writing, literature and publishing major, was lucky enough to win an MFA CD collection.

Although the potential prizes, snacks, the terrace and the art exhibits were very vital to the College Night experience, it would have been bland if not for the concert from Brokaw and Newsom. Tickets were limited so those who did not attend missed out on an incredible performance in a stunning venue.

The Museum of Fine Arts' courtyard was a beautiful place to retreat to a childhood story time and the stories Joanna Newsom sang had just the comfort and cleverness of a Dr. Seuss book. Plus, nothing can bring back the days of story time like snack time.