Sunday, January 18, 2009

BISTRO CLOVIS before the Symphony

Last night Everett and I had dinner at Bistro Clovis before going to the San Francisco Symphony. We shared wonderful, funny memories of Dennis. Everett had had a French partner for five years and lived in France for most of that time. I wondered why I hadn't seen him for a few years. Of course, for most of that time I was singing with the Schola Cantorum at the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi in North Beach even though I was still a pledging member of Grace Cathedral...thanks to Dennis' insistence that I be more than a 'music mercenary' and contribute to the cathedral.

I was a strange little kid. When I was ten or eleven, I remember accompanying my Dad to Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He was guest preacher at the women's college chapel that Sunday. After the service, Mother, Dad, Cynthia and I were invited to dinner at the college president's house. (Julie and Sherry were already away at school.) At the bottom of the impressive wooden staircase was a small bronze statue on the newel post. It was labeled 'Clovis.' I said matter of factly: "Oh..that's a statue of the first Christian Frankish king. He was an ancestor of Charlemagne's." I was a bit of a smug smart ass. I knew all kinds of obscure historical tid bits. I guess I still do. The question remains: am I able to incorporate this into any coherent observation of life, or does it remain an obscure, unrelated tangential aside? Actually, I was not quite accurate then. Clovis did convert... but to Roman Catholicism from Arianism. Now it's true that Catholics didn't then, and don't now, consider followers of Arius, Christians. Check out how they treated the Cathars in the Albigensian Crusade. That's when Dominic founded the Inquisition. Today, I consider Arius one of my heros. I think his view of Jesus was closer to the truth than that proclaimed by traditional theology.(Refer to my second post on "Constantine" 11/1/08, including "Heretic's Song" played at Dennis' funeral.)

Everett and I very much enjoyed the San Francsico Symphony last night. The program started with a delightfully rhythmic Street Song for Symphonic Brass by Michael Tilson Thomas, himself, followed by a powerful performance of Prokofiev's 5th Piano Concerto with soloist Garrick Ohlsson. It was all the more impressive when considering how Mr. Ohlsson had injured his right hand in the late 1960's and was unable to use it for several decades. [I stand corrected. Yesterday, January 20th, amazingly enough, I received an email from Garrick Ohlsson. He had gotten a Google prompt and read my blog. I must have been thinking of Leon Fleisher. Mr. Ohlsson's right hand is perfectly fine. I'm so sorry for the mixup. But I'm very happy for him! His performance of the Prokofiev was still outstanding!!]

After intermission was Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony. It certainly drew in the audience. I didn't see more than a handfull of empty seats in the entire hall. Perhaps some people should have stayed home...because there was an inordinate amount of coughing throughout the concert.

When I was in junior high school, I adored the music of Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. As a 'cellist I was very fond of his soaring melodicism. But then in college it was fashionable to question the structure of his music with its episodic character -- appropriate for ballet, perhaps, but less so in a symphony. The pendulum has swung back. Tchaikovsky is fortunate, indeed, to have such a vibant interpreter as Michael Tilson Thomas. Yes, he wears his heart on his sleeve, but that was Tchaikovsky.

As I listened to the serene French horn solo in the second movement's Andante cantabile.. I suddenly recalled a conversation I had with my Father more than forty years ago. He said he wanted that music played at his funeral. I clearly remember his asking. But I don't recall if that actually happened at his memorial service just over twenty-six years ago. It probably did...I'm pretty good with things like that. I may have asked the organist to improvise on the theme, or he had an organ transcription of the movement, which he played before the service. In any case no doubt I shared Dad's wishes with Mother, who would have made all the arrangements. I do remember that Mother asked if I wanted to sing at Dad's memorial service. I told her I couldn't. But she insisted I sing at her's.

Titian in the Frari (Venezia)