Sound + Hearing

Time to go live


What: Sound + Hearing celebration/Sky Colony album release

When: 7 pm Fri., Aug. 30

Where: Lincoln Theatre, Mount Vernon

Cost: Free


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

It used to be that when I thought about accessibility—when I thought of it at all—physical accommodations like ramps, rails and lifts were what came to mind. Then I was hired as a projectionist at the Pickford Film Center and took note of a consistently occurring phenomenon: Every time we showed a subtitled film, folks from the deaf and hearing-impaired community came to see it.

It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the reason for this had less to do with their collective love for foreign cinema and far more to do with the fact that these were the films they could watch in a movie theater and have an enjoyable experience. I very quickly realized that there’s more to accessibility than just what meets the eye.

We’ve come some distance since then, and these days the theater is equipped with a variety of captioning and other assistive options so that as many people as possible can have the benefit of a night at the movies.

The Pickford’s progression to a more inclusive place is a path being followed by theaters large and small across the world—and closer to home, at Mount Vernon’s Lincoln Theatre. Back in 2016, the multipurpose performance space launched its Sound + Hearing campaign in order to upgrade its antiquated and outdated sound system, install a hearing loop (more on that in a minute) and buy wireless microphones.

It all seems straightforward enough, but in reality, it was a multiphase project that took two-and-a-half years and $150,000 to complete. The final stage was the aforementioned hearing loop, which is an actual wire encircling the theater that transmits the sound from both films and live performances directly to a person’s hearing aid or cochlear implant. It sounds like a mix of magic and science-fiction, which I have discovered is the norm for high-tech accessibility devices.

From start to finish, the Sound + Hearing campaign was no small effort, requiring ongoing fundraising, coupled with technical changes to the physical space—the Lincoln is 90-plus-years old and alterations, even those that are for the theater’s own good, are a serious matter indeed. But a couple of years and many thousands of dollars later, the work is done, the project is finished and the only thing left to do is throw a party, invite the public and show off all that is new and improved at this old-fashioned theater.

I suppose the Lincoln could’ve rented Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and cranked the volume to 11, as that has been the traditional means by which to test a snazzy new sound system for some decades now. However, around these parts, there’s only one way to properly inaugurate a sound-focused achievement: with live music.

And so it shall be on Fri., Aug. 30, when the Sky Colony will play a free concert for one and all to show the community exactly what its $150,000 in donations and support sounds like.

Rest assured that Sky Colony will not be showing up empty-handed to this affair. In fact, they’ve got something to debut to the public as well—their recently recorded album All of Us. It’s the Skagit Valley band’s first full-length in a very protracted minute—it’s been four years since their previous effort In a Dream was released—so much like the Sound + Hearing campaign, All of Us was a long time coming.

I’ve got to say, playing an album-release show that is free and open to all in a fancy historic theater to celebrate its equally fancy new sound system is about as ideal a way to introduce All of Us as it gets. Most bands just get to play for their friends in a bar and call it a job well done. Speaking of, should you happen to miss Sky Colony at the Lincoln, they can be found the following night at the Firefly Lounge, where they will reprise the concert of the night before, albeit in a slightly more intimate setting.

Even though many of the changes the Lincoln Theatre made as part of the Sound + Hearing project were geared toward making the space sound better, some of the campaign’s most important changes centered squarely on ensuring that more people can come and fully enjoy what the theater has to offer. Foreign films are great and all, but they should never be the only item on the entertainment menu.

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