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The Second Concert of Ace Marcellin

(Excerpt from Evangeline R. Jacobs’s thesis, “The Devil’s Chord: Tracking Musical Catastrophe from the 12th Century to Present and Exploring its Potential Sources”)


            “Ask any elder in the city and they’ll tell you that they, too, were at Ace’s show, and yes, it remains the best party they were ever at,” Mabel Melerine, born 1941, told Loyola researchers in 2010 . But others reported something deeper simmering within the crowd that day, an ethereal presence both transcendent and dangerous. Some, like Calliope Russell ⁵, even refer to a voice resonating under the music, though even the most detailed and deranged accounts fail to specify its message.

            Better remembered is the destruction caused across the city. The musical phenomenon did not motivate violent thoughts—quite the opposite, as many as 20,000 babies were conceived that night . But the clarinet’s call reached every corner of the city, and pedestrians, streetcar operators, and high rise workers alike stopped what they were doing and took the quickest route toward the music. “Cars crashed, power lines fell, and amidst the tragedy, the crowd only danced more forcefully, as if the music was all they knew.”⁷

            Accounts vary on Marcellin’s own demeanor, whether he appeared in control of the crowd or as rapt as the rest. He certainly didn’t stop playing even as the chaos reached the theater itself. A blaze broke out, quickly growing unabated, as the music and dancing rolled on. The stage burned to the ground before Ace stopped playing his entrancing tunes.

            Despite the thousands of oral accounts, there is no formal record that any of the Marcellin concerts actually occurred. The most definitive evidence is an absence. Le Chat Blanc Theater, named by many as the venue of Ace’s second concert, was destroyed by a fire that same month, the cause of which was never specified.

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