Friday, April 07, 2006

Friday Five: Arts Alive!

Five performing arts experiences that transformed me:

1) recording the complete Bach Motets as a member of the Washington Bach Consort in the Bethlehem Chapel at Washington National Cathedral. It was at night, some 25 years ago. The echoes were beautiful. How something could be soft and crisp and sensual and spiritual at the same time, I don't know. All I know is that it was sublime.

2) my baccalaureate piano recital. An hour of difficult music, memorized. A surprisingly good performance, given my limited gifts. The Holy Spirit gets us through.

3) a performance of Chopin by my teacher's teacher, pianist Ruth Slenczynska. The first time a musical performance made me weep. I was 19. I think I wept because I knew I'd never be that good. I know I wept because I had never heard anything quite that transcendent.

4) my #1 stepson playing saxophone with a jazz combo in a nightclub that he was technically too young to be in. Playing amazingly, soulfully, in the style of Charlie Parker.

5) German baritone Thomas Quasthoff singing at the Kennedy Center. "Winterreise" beyond even the incomparable Dietrich Fischer-Diskau. An encore of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" that spanned four octaves. All from a man who, as a victim of thalidomide taken by his mother when he was in utero, stands not four feet tall. And we all forgot his physical limitations in the transcendence of the music.

Two bonus picks:

- singing the Brahms "German Requiem" and the Hindemith "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed" under the baton of Robert Shaw at the National Cathedral. That man got sounds out of us that no one else could, and we were pretty danged good to begin with. He was near the end of his life, and was in deep communion with his Lord. It showed every time he raised his baton.

- sitting in on a private rehearsal of "Elisir D'Amore" at the Met - fourth row seats - with Pavarotti (while the instrument was still an amazement and before he started dying his hair and eyebrows) and Judith Blegen. Even when he was marking, the sound was ....words fail me.

Yes, my picks were all musical, many personal musical experiences. Sorry. That's where my soul lives.

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