Things to Do

Texas Hill Country’s Underground Music Scene

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One hundred and fifty people gathered around a campfire 11 miles north of Boerne as the light of day faded into darkness, true darkness. They chatted nervously with each other until a gate was opened, and then slowly descended a staircase into the bowels of the earth.

The Stairs

Cave Staircase

Photo: Robert C. Deming

There are 126 steps, most wet, which took us 80 feet below the surface. The air was humid but still, and the temperature 68 degrees. Some people moved slowly, others quickly, but all held firmly to the railing along the steep staircase.

Apparitions Awaited

Cave Features

Photo: Robert C. Deming

Fantastic shapes awaited at the bottom of the stairs. This cave is alive; first carved out of limestone by the rain percolating through the rock, then lined with fantastic shapes of stalactites and stalagmites. The river flowing inside the cave extends two miles further, but we stopped in an elegant, if unusual, concert hall. Here we found 200 chairs, a wooden stage an electric piano, and six somewhat nervous and excited musicians.

The Show Began

Cave Performers

Photo: Robert C. Deming

The opening number was “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factoryin memory of Gene Wilder. I couldn’t see all the eyes in the room, but I was sure many were filled with tears. The program continued with popular show tunes from years of musical history.

What Kind of Acoustics Could a Cave Have?

Cave Acoustics?

Photo: Robert C. Deming

With dripping wet limestone flowstones like this, what kind of acoustic properties could a cave possibly have? According to the performers, excellent. They do not need amplification (except for the electric piano, no one being willing to carry a piano down that flight of stairs) and are able to sing directly to the audience. There are no echoes, and their voices were clear and powerful.

What is This Place, and Who are These People?

memory-ensemble

Photo: Kerry Goff/Memory Ensemble

These talented musicians are the Memory Ensemble, and their stage was in the Cave Without A Name, which presents such shows frequently. Shows sell out more often than not but advance reservations are available. Apple Maps misplaces the cave by a half mile, pay more attention to the signs than your phone. For this writer, the experience was thoroughly enjoyable, unique, interesting, surprising, and well worth the price of admission. I will return to this cave, and I will seek opportunities to hear Memory Ensemble again.

After we left, the cave returned to its life of darkness, breathing in and breathing out, silent but for the tinkling sounds of water dripping into pools.