Updated Feb 2, 2024
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 occasion 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 splashing 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