By Ryan Thomson
In the late 70's the Last Chance String Band, an old timey group for which I played fiddle,
often played for theme dinners put on at the University of New Hampshire through the
hotel administration department. If they wanted "international" music we'd play Irish jigs,
Scottish reels, Mexican waltzes, Italian Tarantella, and whatever else we could come up
with. For "country western," we'd do an old time square dance, etc. If they could come up
with a theme, we could could come up with a band.
On this particular occassion we were in country western mode and playing "back ground"
music on stage while dinner was being served to a large crowd of well dressed attendees.
The hotel administration students would go all out with fancy meals and this multi-course
meal included Cherries Jubilee as the grand finale.
As I stood on stage with my fiddle under my chin, playing Leather Britches or some such
fiddle tune, I watched an interesting drama unfold. The "chefs" in their starched white
uniforms and caps, wheeled a shiny cart laden with a huge bowl of cherries into the center
of the room. All eyes were on them. With a dramatic flourish they poured alcohol over the
cherries and lit them aflame.....A stray elbow suddenly bumped the alcohol flask. It fell to
the floor spashing alcohol in a long stream... directly toward the seated diners, and
disappearing under a table.
There was a collective gasp in the room but the band played on. In seemingly slow motion
everyone watched the flames jump from the cherries, down to the floor, working their way
toward the seated diners. No one moved until the flames ran under the table and up an
unfortunate gentleman's pant leg. As the band played on, this poor soul leaped into the
air. He momentarily froze in place, and glanced wildly around the room. His glance finally
settled upon the fiddler and he made a mad dash with arms flailing, straight towards the
stage. The band played on, but the fiddler backed away from the front of the stage.
He didn't make it all the way to the stage as the other attendees reflexes finally kicked in
and he was followed by other guests who quickly put out the flames with table clothes,
coats, and other available materials.Fortunately he received no serious injury.....and the
band played on.
Written by Ryan Thomson, 1997