Rohan Spong’s documentary All the Way Through Evening starts as a profile of now-elderly pianist Mimi Stern-Wolfe. A fixture in New York City’s East Village, Mimi is prepping for her annual Benson AIDS Series concert on National AIDS Day; a concert comprised of works by composers, many of whom were close friends of Mimi’s, who were lost to HIV/AIDS in the epidemic wave that swept the world in the early 1980s-1990s.
Alongside Mimi’s rehearsals and preparations for the show, she recounts stories of the various composers and pianists she lost to HIV/AIDS. Additionally, we are introduced to the different musicians and friends involved with the annual show, as they also prepare and talk about their passed friends.
Mixed in with the talking head recollections and history, we do get some performances of material from the composers, which is a wonderful touch. Obviously, when you’re hearing about music or people talk glowingly about a musician, you’d like a reference point to the conversation beyond just what you’re being told. Being able to experience the music first-hand gives a powerful touchpoint, and it is easily what elevates this from simply a document of a lesser-known history. Had it just been talking heads telling me about the lives of Kevin Oldham, Robert Chesley, Eric Benson and Chris DeBlasio, while it still could’ve been interesting, it wouldn’t have had the impact that it has when the stories are perfectly complemented by the music.
But beyond the specific focus on the composers and the music, this film is a document of a time in history when HIV/AIDS suddenly erupted. Brightly, the music brings you in, and then you’re caught up in the world with these talented artists, only to lose them too when the tragic nature of that history finally arrives. In that way, the audience is immersed in the tragedy too, leaving a more lasting impact by credits roll.
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