Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pubbing with Pavo


Norbert Blei forwarded this the other day:

On Saturday, April 24th, 2010 , over thirty members of the Opera Company of Philadelphia Chorus and principal cast members from the upcoming production of LaTraviata converged on the Reading Terminal Market Italian Festival. Wearing street clothes and blending in with the crowd, the artists swung into action as the first orchestral strains of the famed " Brindisi " were piped through the market, giving a rousing, surprise performance for hundreds of delighted onlookers who were there to enjoy the Italian delicacies and the everyday treats that the Reading Terminal Market has to offer.
The four-minute piece drew an overwhelming crowd, and won a thunderous ovation that included both laughter and tears from the audience.

to which I shot back:

A beautiful thing, Norb. Thanks for sending it. Oddly, it was enhanced by my poor reception, which would stop the video every few seconds, giving me an opportunity to study the still frames; wonderful to see the looks of amazement, amusement, and sheer jubilation on the faces of the standers-by.
It all reminds me of a time, years back, when a Menominee or Marinette lumberman used to come across the bay and into the C & C Club, and in the middle of the night's revelry, from his barstool amid all the others, he would break into famous opera passages unannounced, with tremendous volume and gusto. He was, as it turned out, a very accomplished amateur or semi-pro, and he had exactly the same effect on a crowd of drunken sailors as this company did on patrons of the Reading Market. Sadly, I never knew his name, but I was privileged to hear him on several occasions.

Then, “There was an Irish pub in Chicago where the writers used to hang out. And the thing I loved about the place, every so often a piper would come in (dressed in full outfit) playing bag pipes...sending shivers of joy through everyone...He'd walk along the long bar, around the floor, past every table and booth playing his heart out--then disappear out the door back into the Chicago night.
Little miracles like that.” replied Norb, in part.

I’m thinking now, about Johnny, or more likely Gianni, the Flower Man, in 1960's Milwaukee; last of his street-corner roses sold for the evening, coming into Barney’s Wayside Inn, great moustache drooping, and spreading just a little more joy, bending low and rattling off a few tunes, with spoons, played across his weary knees.

. . .

sadder world

so much less music

in old men

~ Ralph Murre

As you can see from the almost totally unretouched photo above (in which Norb Blei appears courtesy of C.L. Peterson) Norb and Luciano did most of the drinking when we used to hang out, but I seem to recall buying every round.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Joan Comes Over Again

That unknowing object of my affection, Joan Baez, came over again last night. Oh, just for the appearance of propriety, we had in approximately 749 of my neighbors, which filled our little hall in Fish Creek to the rafters, but clearly, she had come to see me. (Backstory at And , as always, she won my heart again. Is her voice just as good as ever? No, the voice, too, is a thing of the flesh . . . but, is she still damn good? You betcha.

Highlight of the night? For me, Woody Guthrie's Deportee, poignant as ever, and maybe more so in light of the current immigrant struggles. Surprises? I thought she tread VERY lightly on the topic of our several wars. Also, something of a surprise to me, was the choice of an opening song which avowed a belief, if not an absolute faith, in God, and a couple songs later, she wove Take It To The Lord In Prayer into a medley. Now, anyone with so little to do that they follow this blog, will probably have gathered that I am not personally a great believer; but I must say I find it reassuring to learn that The Big G God is not yet actually the franchise property of the Right Wing.

While Ms. B sang many pieces without backup, much to my delight, she was ably assisted on quite a few numbers by a very good quartet, among whom was her son, Gabriel Harris, doing a smashing job on percussion. (You don't really have to fancy yourself a poet to use "smashing" and "percussion" in the same sentence, but it helps.) What a delight it must be for mother and son to be touring together, making music. She's been at it for a half-century, so if you haven't seen her in person, you might want to think about it soon. You will not be disappointed.

~ Ralph Murre

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Soul Train

What is this thing about the soul -- and I don't mean anything to do with chicken or any kind of soup -- I mean what is it? What is this supernatural bit of us that we have or not and believe in or not like fairies or Canada? I used to think it was an internal organ around the size of a chestnut with wings, but Mr. LaMarche, the biology teacher, said no, and I have to take his word and I know people who think we have no souls at all, and they may not, but speak for yourself, because I'm pretty sure there is a supernatural part of me, or at least I don't understand it and I really don't believe it will go to heaven or anything like that, but maybe a Greek island would be nice, or it could even just hang out around here and freak people out, that would be OK.

~ Ralph Murre