I had been to the old location a few times and was curious to see the new place. The old mansion was quite an institution, with its prominent hilltop situation, elegant facade--including a tower and a widow's walk--and steps leading up to a wide porch. My first impression of Southgate House Revival, from the outside, was that it exuded a much humbler aura. The exterior is somewhat dilapidated and lacks signage to tell you where to go; you enter by an inconspicuous side door off a small, claustrophobic parking lot between the church and an adjacent brick building. The surrounding block is plain and unassuming, almost austere.
When I was growing up, Newport had a reputation for being "Sin City," but it has traded its past for more family-oriented entertainments these days. It retains some of the feeling of a ramshackle riverside district, even with all the new restaurants, spiffy bars, and entertainment options in the immediate area. The mix of old and new, wholesome and edgy, combined with spectacular views of the Cincinnati skyline across the river, makes for an interesting, slightly unsettled energy. So it's probably appropriate that Southgate House Revival seems to represent in itself the coniunctio of the entire neighborhood. It is very much a marriage of opposites.
The show I saw was in the Sanctuary, which has been refitted with a concert stage and a bar. The Sanctuary is beautiful, with splendid pointed arches, Gothic corbels, vivid stained glass windows, and hanging ecclesiastical light fixtures. There's a spectacular pipe organ (Cincinnati-made) behind the bar, which is opposite the stage. I was so struck by the sight of that beautiful organ serving as backdrop to all those bottles of spirits that I had to stare at it for several minutes. Talk about the sacred and the profane (or secular) mingling and mixing and creating a complicated third thing! Talk about an axis mundi. There it is, in concrete, architectural terms.
I was stirred by the extraordinary energy in the room, as I think most anyone would be, consciously or not. The union of worldly and spiritual planes rarely occurs so dramatically. I read an article about the owners of the business that made it clear they're alive to the sacred dimensions of the space and feel it's entirely suited to the business of connecting audiences with music (I agree with them). It would be difficult for any performance not to be shaped by the energy--part mystical and part streetwise--of this liminal interior. You definitely feel you're on the threshold of something. It's a little like C.S. Lewis's Wood Between the Worlds in Narnia: jump in, and there's no telling where you'll end up.
In Jungian terms, the coniunctio represents the meeting of the conscious and the unconscious, a process that brings the individual closer not only to his or her innermost self but also to the larger concerns of the world soul. According to Jung, it's a messy process and one that's often resisted. Just a guess: I'm tempted to think that any artistic performance, regardless of style or intent, would affect the listener more profoundly in Southgate House Revival because the room itself amplifies the content and carries it past the conscious mind's defenses. It's rare to be any place where the architecture is so symbolic of what goes on within.